The sound and the Furey

Posted by The Skibbereen Eagle | January 21, 2017 0

Finbar Furey and Christy Dignam have received a great deal of praise, following their stunning duet of the song Green Fields of France on the Late Late Show last night.

The pair were on the show to celebrate Furey’s 70th birthday, and were joined by Ireland manager Martin O’Neill, musician Sharon Shannon and actor Patrick Bergin to celebrate Furey’s career. Dignam described how Furey had helped him when he was suffering from cancer and had become wheelchair-bound. Furey had picked him up by coming over to his house with a banjo and they played songs together. The father-of-one has been bravely battling Amyloidosis — a rare blood cancer — since 2013. However, he concedes that there is no cure and that all he can do is enjoy the time he has left.

“No Man’s Land” (also known as “The Green Fields of France” or “Willie McBride”) is a song written in 1976 by Scottish Australian folk singer-songwriter Eric Bogle, reflecting on the grave of a young man who died in World War I. Its chorus refers to two famous pieces of military music, “The Last Post” and “The Flowers of the Forest”. Its melody, its refrain (“did they beat the drum slowly, did they play the fife lowly”), and elements of its subject matter (a young man cut down in his prime) are similar to those of “Streets of Laredo”, a North American cowboy ballad whose origins can be traced back to an 18th-century English ballad called “The Unfortunate Rake” and the Irish Ballad “Lock Hospital”.

It wasn’t long before a banjo was then produced on the show and they launched into the song Green Fields of France, with the audience giving them a rousing reception afterwards. I had the great pleasure of meeting Finbar and Eddie Furey again recently when they played Cork Opera House and reminiscing about the smoky Sunday morning sessions in Dublin’s Tailors Hall MC’ed by their buddy and family friend from Ballyfermot Liam Weldon in the 80’s. Finbar has worn the intervening years well no doubt helped by a healthy lifestyle (none so fanatical as a convert!) and living most of the year on the Canary Island of Lanzarote.

The Skibbereen Eagle

In 1898, to widespread bemusement, a small Provincial Newspaper in an equally small town in the South West corner of Ireland sonorously warned the Czar of Russia that it knew what he was up to and he should be careful how he proceeded for “The Skibbereen Eagle” was wise to his game and in future would be keeping its eye on him! It is doubtful that Nicholas II, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias, even noticed the Eagle’s admonitions but as history soon proved he should have paid closer attention to the Eagle’s insightful opinions!

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