The Galway Races

There’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next batch of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. And everything that is not that bloody virus is a plus. At the moment we can’t meet as a group, as we are in lockdown, so I have set out a version of songs that are in our repertoire but which have not yet been recorded. With any luck (and, as three of us are north of 70, we’ll need it!) we will be able to resume our normal practice of meeting weekly and playing tunes, singing songs and generally enjoying the crack.

The Galway Races” is a traditional Irish song. The song’s narrator is attending the eponymous annual event in Galway, a city in the west of Ireland. The song was made famous in the UK in 1967 by The Dubliners. It has been recorded by many artists since that time. This Irish horse-racing starts on the last Monday of July every year. Held at Ballybrit Racecourse in Galway, Ireland over seven days, it is one of the longest of all the race meets that occur in Ireland. The busiest days of the festival are Wednesday, when the Galway Plate is held, and Thursday, when the Galway Hurdle and Ladies’ Day take place. The summer festival is the highlight of the business year for most local businesses as crowds and horses flock from all over the world to attend one of the world’s biggest race meetings.

The pub underneath the Corrib Stand, built in 1955, was for many years the longest bar in the world. It was replaced by the Millennium Stand which opened in 1999. Thursday is traditionally the busiest and most stylish day of the week-long Galway Racing Festival. Ladies compete for the coveted title of Best Dressed Lady or Most Elegant Hat. (notes above adapted from Wikipedia- great resource-donate)

Throughout Ireland people of all ages and occupations prepare for the Galway Races with a fervour that is almost religious in its intensity ‘The apparel oft proclaims the man’, wrote the Bard of Avon. Shakespeare would surely have loved the Galway Races where ‘all the men and women are truly players’.

Galway is about voices past and present; those of the late Michael O’Hehir, and the late Luke Kelly singing “As I roved out through Galway to seek for recreation…”  Galway is about horses. Horses with nodding heads and swishing tails, contentedly circling the crowded parade ring before the shrewdly appraising eyes of gamblers and horse-lovers alike.

It is about men with caps pushed back off their foreheads to betoken astonishment at the peculiarities of racing form. Imperturbable men who, minutes after losing heavily on an odds-on certainty, will endeavour once more to prise reluctant secrets from the same specious form book that deceived them in the first place.

Galway race-goers will queue good-naturedly for smoked salmon, hamburgers or baked potatoes. Aromas of freshly mown grass, leather saddles and pipe tobacco will commingle agreeably with the bouquets of brandy and fine wines. Irish dancers will jig to a lone banjo player or the combined strains of fiddle, flute and accordion.  (notes above taken from

The Galway Races are the subject of At Galway Races, a poem by W. B. YeatsThere where the racecourse is/Delight makes all of the one mind/The riders upon the swift horses/The field that closes in behind./We too had good attendance once,/Hearers, hearteners of the work,/Aye, horsemen for companions/Before the merchant and the clerk/Breathed on the world with timid breath;/But some day and at some new moon/We’ll learn that sleeping is not death/Hearing the whole earth change its tune,/Flesh being wild again, and it again/Crying aloud as the racecourse is;/And find hearteners among men/That ride upon horses. Yeats, with his aristocratic bent, loved the ideal of “the horse”

 Notice from the organisers: The 2020 Galway Races will no longer go ahead as originally planned due to government intervention. Michael Moloney described the Galway Race Committee’s decision as ‘unavoidable’. It read: ‘In light of the evolving situation regarding Covid-19, for public health and safety reasons Galway Race Committee has reached the difficult but unavoidable decision that the 2020 Galway Races Summer Festival, due to be held from Monday 27th July to Sunday 2nd August will not be able to take place.

That bloody virus gets in everywhere and stuffs everything! Is nothing sacred? In our group, Sam the Man usually sings this but, as I have said before, “Lockdown Rules!” So, I have put together this Band-in-a-Box version featuring guitar, drums, bass, mandolin, bouzouki and accordion. ( I couldn’t find a fiddle that sounded right, sorry Mark.) I supply a lone vocal (but I do double the chorus) over the 127- bpm swung instrumentation.

The Galway Races

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