Northern Proddies at sessions

Northern Proddies at sessions

Please don’t delete this thread, Big J. It’s not intended as inflammatory, merely as an inquiry. For those who don’t know the lingo (hence the question can’t be aimed at you, but you may be interested anyway) my query is:
Do many people of Protestant origin play out at Irish traditional sessions, in Northern Ireland…or the Republic..or Britain, for that matter.

Me? born Glasgow, Scotland of non-Catholic parents and was actually Christened in some Free Church sect … but that was because my parents wanted me and siblings to be free thinking (They were committed atheist Marxists CPGB people, so they meant free of Marxism…oh yeah, some chance, son of a trade union organiser.) Anyway, I went through Protestant schooling ("non denominational"..but in Drumchapel Weegieland that means Prod….at 14, an overbearing karate expert classmate made sure we all knew the words of The Sash by writing it out on the blackboard: "Sure it’s old but it is beautiful"…and my attempts, during the "Discussion" period, to try and enlighten my peers as to the truth of dialectical materialism did not produce the same good old gut feeling as The Sash.)
There were many people who kept catholics at arms length, and I imagine many other people who kept proddies at a similar distance, but for most ordinary folk, the big issues were the usual ones of poverty, youth crime, unemployment, lack of amenities. In retrospect, there were a mountain of other issues which should have been tackled, but the "class" issue, once that was resolved, it was perceived, would ‘panacea out’ all the niggling little quibbles such as sense of isolation, destruction of community, and so on.

My "true" meeting with the Other Side was when I decided to become a club runner. The club I joined had an equal amount of catholics and protestants. As a club, you all run like a pack and socialise like a pack. (I’d recommend it to anyone.)
Some of those guys were Irish or of Irish descent. They showed me some bits about the music.
It was a revelation.
A country right next to all-conquering Britain had kept the ancient Celtic music alive. And rediscovered and reinvented it. We’re talking Planxty, De Danann, Boys of the Lough. (well… in our naivety, we thought that)Heady days indeed. And remember, maybe in retrospect we view things differently, but in many quarters, the pIRA were genuinely thought of as something akin to Celtic Socialist freedom fighters against the last vestiges of the crumbling British Empire, exemplified of course by Mag the Bag.
And so on. A load of nonsense, but that was a real perception, not unique to me.
As usual, I digress. At least a rough picture has been sketched.


I’ve been reading this phenomenal book called "Northern Protestants An Unsettled People" by Susan Mckay (no relation)… it’s not the type of book you (or I ) can read cover to cover in the one sitting…there’s too much violence and torture, much of it senseless gangland tit for tat, but by grown men who should know better.
The picture which emerges is that of two societies existing coevaly, within this artificial construct which is Northern Ireland, almost occupying the same territory , but boundaries in flux. The general Protestant perspective is one of Custer’s Last Stand. An embattled, but unrepentant and stubborn people. Now, *Theirs* are the estates which have the soaring crime and unemployment and drug use rates, the working class prods, the bridgehead of the Brutish Empire in Ireland. And now Tony Bliar has sold these stalwart defenders out to "Gerry" as they deliberately confuse Sinn Fein with the Bosch.
(BTW, my previous reading had been by Tim Pat Coogan, and others, so please heed my attempt to redress the balance.)

So. Do sessions in the North have the pleasure of many lads/lassies of my persuasion these days?
And what is the zeitgheist among yer normal person (P or C) , knowing the fact that the Republic is now the per capita wealthiest in Europe (apart from them stoopit mini-countries like Luxembourg and San Marino) who wants to be able to afford

Re: Northern Proddies at sessions

I worked in Donegal in the `60s & I would go to Derry once a week to the Pictures in the bogside then in `66 I emigrated to Aust. I did not return till 2001 & was amazed to hear that I had to be careful not to say" Derry" to my schoolmate as he would correct me . I attend a session in Sydney & I have no idea what foot others dig with nor do I care but I realise that as a prod I was not taught Irish history & I see that as a negative - we have so much in common that we only realise it from a distance.

Posted by .

Re: Northern Proddies at sessions

Yes Danny,many people of protestant persuasions play Irish music in Counties Antrim ,Derry and Down particularly .We have also had protestants winning all-Ireland competitions! The favourite protestant instruments would be would be fiddles followed by flutes!No one gives a damn what religion you have lapsed from in music circles over here! Hope that answers your question.

Posted by .

Re: Northern Proddies at sessions

Black - I don’t care what foot anyone kicks the ball with either. I didn’t get taught any Irish history either, and I’ll tell ye what - there’s a great wealth of stuff hardly anyone knows of except Gaelic speakers (Irish and Scots), about the commonality of Gaeldom in Ireland and North West Scotland up until around the 17th Century. Both were basically the one cultural unit, and had been so for over 1000 years. Possibly a lot longer if you take the Brithonnic-speaking Celts of Galloway and the Picts whose enigmatic speech contains many elements of p-celtic. Anyway, I shake your (not so Red) hand wishing you the best, and agreeing that there is more that unites us than divides us.

Re: Northern Proddies at sessions

Cheers cos. Fiddle player BM and flute player Revt. Gary Hastings are great examples…oh, and GH on flute doesn’t imply you have to lapse from your religion.

:~}

Re: Northern Proddies at sessions

I’m not going to name names as this is not what it is about, some of my folks neighbours in Co. Leitrim are protestant and are attenders at the local sessions the prods in the R.O.I. are the forgotten ones however go 15km up the road thru Dowra and Blacklion into Eniskillen and it’s a different story. In London there are plenty of protestant trad musicians, an old old player who is still around remembers before the conflicts in the north folks from the north used to freely attend eacothers sessions with the upmost respect for eachother with one thing in mind "TIM" so here we go,


Q. How do you solve the problems of Ireland ?
A. Make "TIM" part of the national curriculum !

Re: Northern Proddies at sessions

Thanks Brian - I think I get the jist! That’s a wierd part of the world altogether. I don’t know if it’s the same, but there’s one Spike-Milligan-esque-Puckoon bit of the Border where you drive from the North, go into the South for a few miles, come out in the North again, the go finally back into the south…near Clones, Monaghan, I believe. Maybe it’s the other way round. Totally stoopid.

Re: Northern Proddies at sessions

Well,

To add my twopence, there’s many a musician from East Donegal who’d be more interested in events at Ibrox than Celtic Park and the same would apply to certain parts of Inishowen.

In other words, you’ll find mixed sessions in Letterkenny and in places like the Harbour Bar in Downings on the Rosguill Peninsula which is swamped by caravans owned by Northerners.

Geoff

Re: Northern Proddies at sessions

A certain famous Irish musician on tour in Oz confided in me late at night that he comes from a beautiful little town with 23 pubs "and the protestants are only allowed in four of them"
Another expert confirmed the story and reckoned one should go to the toilet and check out the graffiti so you know you’rte in the right pub. True!

Re: Northern Proddies at sessions

hi. wouldn’t dispute anything what you said Geoff. infact, with the amount of tyrone musicians that come in and play here, i suppose it’s only logical that a few of them may be protestant.

in ballybofey, east donegal where i’m typing from now, i just wonder how a protestant could sit through a session here because of the amount of anti protestant songs that end up in them. also east donegal has a huge, i mean massive market for the republican songs. when i was younger i used to play with one (for money only, i was against what i was playing but only 15 and broke!) but i was always amazed by the huge following who seemed to represent nearly all the pub going of donegal in generall!

i saw a programme a few years back which said that the orange and irish trad music actually had many of the same tunes. maybe some of you out there could point a few out to me? that really fascinates me. nobody ever talks about religion in sessions in east donegal so i couldn’t answer the question.

to conclude, as the east donegal comedian conel gallen says, "too many prodestants, too many catholics, and not enough christians!"

all d best,

máirtin t.

Posted by .

Re: Northern Proddies at sessions

oranges and lemons

Re: Northern Proddies at sessions

Anti-protestant songs? No bother to me. Some are very funny actually.

Re: Northern Proddies at sessions

I told you before that when those who participated in "Pan-Nationalist" music were deemed to be "legitimate targets" back around 1994, the loyalist paramilitaries attacked a pub in Newtownards where nearly all the musicians would be off a protestant persuasion. Obviously like any sane people you all thought I was joking, but this is a recorded historical fact.

They came to shoot us the following week but we knew the assassins, again true, so the world was not denied the musings of Bliss.

The North Down coast has a strong traditional heritage, and mid and north Antrim. The musicians are too numerous to mention, but some of them contribute to this site.

Susan McKays book is "unputdownable", and an easy read rather than overly academic. I suggest Danny you should try to get hold of Fionnuala O’Connor’s book about the catholics of N.Ireland, as this is excellent as well, and compliments the other book.

As someone who has just finished writing a play, and played in a group, both called "Not that that matters" I can tell you that if I had a pound for every time someone at a session or booking said "I am a prod/taig, and the respondent answered "not that that matters", I would be even more wealthy.

Being a trade union organiser by the way is a noble profession.

Re: Northern Proddies at sessions

We had a mixture of people at our session in the north of England in the 70s, including some fairly prominent musos of both persuasions, as well as people with no Irish connections. Mind you, politics and religion were never discussed in the pub. And it was a fairly complicated situation, as we faced the Parachute Regiment’s barracks right across the street.

Re: Northern Proddies at sessions

It never occurred to me to compartmentalise players by religion or race,

but,

I do recall visiting a singing session with a catholic friend in the ROI a few years ago, and after we left she apologised for all the anti-English songs. I hadn’t thought of them as being in any way related to me, or the world as it is today. I’ve never visited Northern Ireland so I can’t comment on that.

Re: Northern Proddies at sessions

Here in America, in my experience at least, folks of all nationalities and religions show up at the sessions, and get along pretty well. My wife and I are Methodists, mostly Scot, but a mix of backgrounds. Her Irish roots are in Northerners who moved on to America — the Scots-Irish they are called over here.
The group I play in has us two Methodists, a Catholic, a Jehovah’s Witness, and the dancer who sometimes dances with us seems to be some sort of neo-paganish type. Sounds more like the setup of a joke (Into a bar walk a…..), but we like the music, and that pulls us together.
I have only encountered any hesitation regarding religion once, when my Protestant background was commented on. But I pointed out that if my ancestors had been loyal to King, Crown and the Church of England, they wouldn’t have left. Anti-English songs are part of the tradition here in America, regardless of the religion.
In the end though, it would be nice if we could move past the old hatred and predudice. One problem with monotheists, is that we sometimes forget that Our God is Everyone’s God, and that there are many paths that lead in the same direction.

Re: Northern Proddies at sessions

Really interesting question Danny and one too often shied away from.

Simple answer is that there are loads of musicians all over the north who come from every tradition and background. We have Sikh boyos singing sean nós songs, Portuguese at the sets and so on.

In the big towns like Belfast and Derry there was vey much a ‘them and us’ mentality among many of the working class but I remember musicians and singers coming into real republican heartland pubs for the diddley dee even at the height of the troubles in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Everyone knew the score and there was a bit of friendly banter but no hassle at all.

The Ards and Bangor areas are coming down with musicians from the Protestant/Unionist tradition. One funny incident included a pipe bomb being placed on the window sill of the Jolly Judge pub in Newtownards a lot of years ago and the UVF proudly announced that this was a blow to stop the ‘Fenian’ music in the town. The irony being, of course, was that ALL the musicians in that session happened to be of protestant extraction.

Another anecdote to illustrate - I was once in a wee band and had been playing tunes off and on for about three years with the guys when I was invited to bring the band to the Ardoyne Fleadh. Good money, free beer and digs were on offer. So i let the boys know and the fiddle player says ‘sure I cant make that one’ and when I asked the reason why he says ‘sure you know what I do for a lliving’. Which of course I didn’t - turned out he worked for the Police Authority in a high position and clearly Republican Ardoyne might not have been the safest place in the world for him. Point being I neither knew nor cared and me the son of an IRA man!!

The music is open to one and all - no barriers on race, creed, sex, orientation, how you hang your wallpaper.

It’s also worth noting that there is an Irish dancing organisation that is predominantly protestant - Festival Dance - and they have ceilis and dance classes in Orange Halls all over the North and organsiations such as the Derry and Donegal Fiddlers Association were historicaly linked with the protestant tradition going way back. None of this is new to rural areas but perhaps still a bit of a problem in the cities.

Hopefully one day no-one will ascribe political connotations to the music and it will become an all inclusive ‘OUR music’.

Re: Northern Proddies at sessions

I thought your da was a postman, Breandan, but maybe he was multi-skilled.

That attack on the Jolly Judge is the one I referred to earlier, probably Trevor the piper, the Binghams and so forth.

And on a personal note, I can remember "Twinkle" starting at school, so don’t feel bad about having a hang up over her.

Re: Northern Proddies at sessions

Postman for 40 odd years, Gaelgeoir, Esperantist, teacher of Irish at the Workers Educational and Cumann Cluain Ard, melodeon and mouth organ player, story teller and writer, poet, singer, had a story about every street in belfast, ecumenical - we called into a protestant church for a wee prayer when out for the Sunday walk, could make swords, boats and hats out of newspapers, AND IRA man in his youth.

So I guess multi skilled covers it !! LOL :-)

Re: Northern Proddies at sessions

John Bull - I don’t particularly like "compartmentalising" anyone, never mind players, but the fact is many of the orange boyos compartmentalise themselves. Maybe the ones who play out have shrugged off some the baggage.
Brendan, thanks, I think so too (an interesting q, and has a taboo attached to it.) Maybe it’s easier for me to bring up at the safe distance of London. Interesting stuff, guys.

Re: Northern Proddies at sessions

Joe Cooley said something to the effect that "music brings everyone to their senses" and I’d have to agree strongly with him. What a pity someone didn’t buy George Bush a fiddle and a copy of O’Neill’s 1001 Tunes as an early Christmas present or Osama’s dad didn’t have a local branch of Comhaltas where he could take the young lad for lessons! If people enjoy playing music together, the last thing they want to do is blow each other to Kingdom come.

Re: Northern Proddies at sessions

Not sure about that argument at all Bannerman…Orange band marches, the Wolfe Tones, not even to mention the whole history of martial music such as pipe bands as a way of psyching soldiers up to battle frenzy, it all seems a long way from music bringing everyone to their senses. Listen to the crowd singing at the next Old Firm footie match in Glasgow and see you think the old Cooley addage still holds true. Music can be as divisive as it can be unifying.

Re: Northern Proddies at sessions

some of my closest friends are bluenoses…

Re: Northern Proddies at sessions

Don’t shun the Hun, Conan!

Re: Northern Proddies at sessions

Well, when it’s cold here in Colorado, my nose is kind of blue…and I have a bluetooth headset…does that count?

Re: Northern Proddies at sessions

I see you didn’t comment on "Twinkle", Breandan.

And Osama’s dad spends most of his time in George Bush’s house, and we already know there are no musical fiddles there, so poor Bin never had a chance.

Many protestants do play traditional music, people like the "Wolfe Tones" make sure that a lot of others don’t.

Re: Northern Proddies at sessions

Apparently the joke going around Glasgow now is that the Pope is a Hun.
But Celtic must be having the last laugh as the league positions right now are Celtic, then Hearts, Hibs, THEN Rangers.

Re: Northern Proddies at sessions

Paul, I think Joe had session type situations in mind when he made this statement and this is also the music I was thinking of. As far as martial music, Drumcree marching bands, football anthems and Wolfe Tones concerts go, then we’re into a totally different scenario which, in my opinion, is a million miles away from ITM.

Re: Northern Proddies at sessions

It is, but not to many Northern Protestants.

Re: Northern Proddies at sessions

Fair enough Bannerman, sorry if I came across all pedantic.

Re: Northern Proddies at sessions

What about the Jews in Ireland? What music do they play? In London, most of my co-credents play Irish Traditional Music - or maybe that’s just the ones I associate with.

Re: Northern Proddies at sessions

I’m a protestant from Co.Down (Ards Peninsula) but I now live in Limerick during uni term time and Derbyshire, England, during holidays (when I’m not away playing!). I’ve never had any problems with playing, neither have my family, even my VERY protestant grandparents.

Posted by .

Re: Northern Proddies at sessions

My workmate’s dad, a sash-wearing (on occasion, not all the time of course :-) ) Orangeman from Co. Antrim, upon hearing fiddles at a pub session in Aberdeen, remarked "They play that Catholic music here" and then blanked it out as if it had not existed.

However my pal is non-denominational and has both Irish and UK passports, something his dad would never have contemplated. Times have changed, though the level of prejudice remaining in pockets of Scotland would still be a shock to a visitor who thought it was all over and done with.

Posted by .

Re: Northern Proddies at sessions

Bren - I’d say more than just "in pockets", but maybe not as entrenched as in NI, at least that’s the impression I get reading Susan Mckay’s book.

Re: Northern Proddies at sessions

Hopefully times are a-changing. Probably not so much in the ghettos of Belfast, Derry and Glasgow. Before I offend anyone, I don’t mean "ghetto" in a pejorative sense, just those areas where the political/religious extremes are concentrated.
Anyway, to give an example I have a good friend who does the same job as me in London. we worked together for a while. he’s the son of a Protestant minister, who is also a prominent member of his local Orange Lodge. "Billy" (not his real name - he’s actually called Peter) has been over to hear us play in Camden quite a few times. Loves the music but is not averse to giving us a rendition of The Sash when he’s had a few. Like it or not, we all have the same heritage.

Re: Northern Proddies at sessions

No offence taken, Conan, let’s be honest, there are bluenose ghettos and tim ghettos still pumping out wee bigots from dysfunctional families faster than we can say F@ck The Pope/F@ck King Billy. Not that I ever would say either, esp. here :-|

Re: A possibly Jewish ITM player, recorded in or before the ‘70’s

Spoon - In the ‘70’s a friend of mine had a record of a traditional Irish
player whose surname was Coen. I think he was a flute player and lived somewhere in the west of Ireland; he may have played with one or more brothers. I may have got these details wrong, but ITM Coen certainly existed, and the name might have come down from Cohen.

Coen brothers

There are, or were, at least two Coen brothers who sang and played flute and concertina on an album called "The Branch Line".

Coen brothers

These lived in New York. Coen does crop up as a Jewish surname in the USA.