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Script for audio journal

It’s Heaven Around Galway Bay

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.

This song I came upon by accident a couple of years ago. I was on You Tube listening to music of various kinds and came upon a Dublin City Ramblers take on it. I have since, listened to several versions but reckon that the DCRs is the gun version. A couple of us in the band were going through songs one night and I pulled out this song thinking that it might suit Sam the Man. He did sing it once or twice in practice but nothing eventuated.

Still in Lockdown (though with restrictions easing here in NSW) I decided to give it a go as the first song on Banter’s ninth collection. I am still so stuck in the 20th Century that I think in terms of LPs or CDs with 12 songs per disc. Actually, Banter, as a group has only featured on the first five collections.

And this only happened because several years ago we were putting together a set of songs and tunes for a good friend and former member of the group who was returning to Ireland for a last look before Parkinson’s claimed him. He wanted to share with friends and relations the music scene he had been involved in out here in western Sydney. Since then I have put down demos thinking that I’ll get the group to record the songs. But, as they say, it’s like herding cats or folding smoke. And, don’t get me wrong, I’m one of the cats, too!

I don’t know much about this song. It was written by Eamon O’Shea (who, I found out, was a man called Herman Weight who lived in the west of Ireland) He adopted the name because it sounded more Irish! Apart from that, I found out that he is better known as the composer of the song, Come Down the Mountain, Katy Daly. This was after a lengthy and fruitless search for the history of the “Galway” song. In no time at all I came up with oodles of stuff on “Katy Daley” but very little authoritative stuff about Herman Weight himself and the provenance of this song.

However, on Mudcat.org there are threads that may interest those who might want to carry on where, clearly, I have given up- see references to herding cats etc, above. Some were surprised that the song was not an American home-grown product and questioned its Irish origins. Below I include some text that may clear this up.

Last year, Richard Hawkins of bluegrassireland.blogspot.com wrote, after nearly sixty years ‘Come down the mountain Katie Daly’ continues to be widely known and sung here; and at “Bluegrass Omagh” this coming weekend, audiences will be able to see a living link with the song’s continuing endurance as a bluegrass classic, when Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers come on stage.

The song, with that title, was written and recorded by ‘Eamon O’Shea’ (real name Herman Weight) on Walton’s Dublin-based Glenside label and issued in November 1961.

In 1962 the first American recording of the song was made by the Bluegrass Playboys from Kentucky, with Joe Mullins’s father, Paul (Moon) Mullins on fiddle and vocals. It was later released on the Playboys’ album The world of bluegrass (Briar M-108). The song was a hit for them, became a bluegrass favourite, and was later recorded on the Rebel label (as ‘Katy Daley’) by Ralf Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys., adding the word ‘on’ (‘come on down the mountain’).

Unfortunately, I can shed very little light on It’s Heaven Around Galway Bay, which does not seem to attract the same amount of critical attention as its sibling. Not that it matters all that much. If I like a song, I’ll sing it. In this arrangement, I pay tribute to transatlantic musical cross-fertilisation by including, courtesy of PG Music’s Band-in-a-Box, bluegrass mandolin fills and the swinging American waltz guitars. Cead mile failte!

By Quentin Bega

I was born in the middle of the 20th Century and have, somewhat to my surprise, found myself in the next one with something more to say and do.

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