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Script for audio journal

The Old Bog Road

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.

Teresa Brayton was born in Kilbrook, County, Kildare, in 1868 and also died there in 1943 having returned from New York, Her father was Hugh Boylan and her republican family were associated with the rising of 1798. She knew most of the leaders of the 1916 rising and around her neck she wore a chain, a piece of the flagstaff which flew the flag of the Irish Republic from the G.P.O. in Dublin on Easter Monday 1916. The chain was given to her by Countess Markievicz. The air of the song is an original air by Madeline O’Farrelly. Thanks to Johnny McEvoy for keeping the song alive. (from irish-folk-songs.com)

Teresa Brayton was born on the 29th of June 1868 as Teresa Cora Boylan at Kilbrook, County Kildare. Teresa attended Newtown National School where, by all accounts, she excelled in her studies. 

In 1895 Teresa followed the emigrants trail across the broad Atlantic where she ended up becoming a vital cog in the workings of Irish nationalist organizations in New York and Boston. 

Teresa was renowned in Irish American circles for her organizations of fund raisers to aid the war effort against British rule in her native land. Nationalism ran through Teresa’s blood; her great grandfather had taken part in the Battle of Prosperous  in 1798 and she wrote a number of pieces to celebrate the centenary of the United Irishmen rebellion in 1898.

In 1932 Teresa returned to Ireland after the death of her husband and first lived in Bray with her sister before finally settling back in her beloved Kildare where she would live out the rest of her days. 

Among those who held Teresa in high regard were Arthur Griffith, Eammon de Valera and Michael Collins. Among the many fundraisers  Teresa organized in the United States was one to keep St Enda’s school open after the executions of Padraig and Willie Pearse in 1916. Teresa organized a big ceilidh in New York to aid Mrs Pearse who was trying to maintain the school after her sons’ deaths. 

Teresa died, where she was born, at Kilbrook on the 19th of August 1943. She was buried in Cloncurry cemetery and Enfield Muintir na Tire erected a fine stone Celtic cross over her resting place which was then officially unveiled by [Irish President] Eammon de Valera in 1959.  (source, irishcentral.com)

Many Irish people, of a certain age, identify with this song. Just about all of them, urban or rural, know of an old bog road from their own youth or that of their parents. Just a few yards up the road from where I lived in Cushendall was the start of The Old Road which led from the Barrack Brae across the foot of Lurigethan onto the Ballyeamon Road which connected the village to Ballymena. It was unpaved and passable only on foot or by tractor and I quite often used it as a short-cut to my cousin John’s farm. It made for an idyllic wandering in Spring or Summer.

Teresa Brayton 1913

The above extracts extol Teresa Brayton and her song. But there is another view; one that sees such compositions as sentimental sludge. The following extract from an Irish Times article will stand in for all the nay-sayers:

The Old Bog Road is still a very popular song in midland lounges, where three-piece bands, usually consisting of drums, keyboards and accordion, play genteel ballads discreetly, so as not to disturb elderly couples drinking lemonade…

When I got home I lit the fire and sat there all morning, dozing, as if I too was an elderly doddering man, like the ones that in my youth always sat in the corner of every kitchen. Back then old people wore black, and passed their days rolling up newspapers into firelighters, or dangling string in front of cats, or minding grandchildren from falling into the fire…

…Nor do I know what’s in store for anyone who gets the airport bus from Rochfortbridge. Maybe they too will make fortunes, or just end up carrying sandwich boards, on the sidewalks of the world, advertising exotic boutiques, with earplugs shielding them from some city’s din. And I don’t know what they’ll be listening to, on their iPods, but it certainly won’t be The Old Bog Road. (From The Irish Times article, God be with you Ireland and the Old Bog Road by Michael Harding,18th February, 2011)

And where do I stand in this minor skirmish in one of the battlefronts of the culture wars that engulf the planet in the 21st Century? Somewhere in between, initially. But, then, about a year ago, my wife suggested the song to me for our band, Banter, as it was the favourite song of her father’s and one he used to sing many years ago. Jim, her brother, sang it once or twice before the virus closed Banter’s performances  down.The song grew on me as I started to research its origins and as I worked on the music. So, I guess I’m now on the side of the song’s protagonists.

We are still in lockdown and I present my Band-in-a-Box version. It features the twin fingerpicking guitar wizardry of Brent Mason and Jason Rolling. With Nashville drums, acoustic bass, and piano, it provides a suitable accompaniment, IMHO, for this emigrant song of longing.

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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