The stage production of Tales From the Holywell, written and performed by Damien Dempsey, is currently running at the Abbey until the 18th – and possibly beyond. Once advertised it was booked out for three weeks (with possible access through cancellations).
It was through cancellations that I and a few others faithfully waiting got in to see the performance on the 7th (it was closed on the bank holiday of the 6th). I really enjoyed it and cried laughing at times.
The whole audience gave him a standing ovation at the end and joined in singing one of his songs during his encore.
The stage set was bare and without background, with stage lighting showing Dempsey alone at times and at others, revealing players of keyboard, violin, double bass and percussion. Dempsey accompanied himself, alternating between two guitars.
The production consisted of Dempsey talking about his upbringing, his difficulties with his father but with whom he went to live when his mother left home, childhood and adolescent battles, his struggles and desires as an artist – all interjected with humorous cracks and songs.
He comes across as a man committed to his art and with integrity.
Dempsey was raised in Holywell Crescent, a collection of local authority houses constructed on the site of an ancient holy freshwater well. This was one of probably thousands of wells across Ireland, each thought to be inhabited by a pagan spirit and then given a saint’s name by Christianity.
The well after which Dempsey’s street was named was St. Donagh’s Well (probably misnamed, see Links below) near Killbarrack and as the area became anglicised, called only “the Holy well”, then “Holywell” and the pool itself filled in and built over.
Whether he can speak it or not I have no idea but the Irish language made an appearance from time to time in Dempsey’s narrative, always with respect and, one might say, even reverence. And I was amazed to hear him sing a verse from An Cúlfhionn a capella, totally in Irish.
His song Colony – some might say masterpiece – gives a clear indication of what Dempsey feels about the long colonisation of Ireland and its parallels elsewhere in the world. I hoped he might take the opportunity to comment on the growing racist mobilisations in Ireland but was disappointed.
Conor McPherson directed the production which was written and performed by Damien Dempsey.
Apart from Dempsey’s, other music was provided by Lucia McPartlin (fiddle, vocals), Aura Stone (double bass) and Courtney Cullen (drums, percussion, vocals). I noted no name given in the theatre program for the keyboard and vocals performer.
I’m a great fan of Damo’s lyrics but less so of his singing; a question of musical and cultural taste, I suppose. But still I rose, wholeheartedly with the rest, to applaud his performance.
Whether its run will be extended I don’t know but currently it’s advertised to end on 18th February. If you haven’t booked, it’s well worth getting there early and hoping for a cancellation.
Whilst many of the Wokerati repeat uncritically any statement from the Western media or even NATO on Ukraine, wokeness itself was not to be found in Ukraine.
The rabid right wing homophobic sentiment expressed at gay rights marches before the war, was not a fertile ground for the Wokerati.
Homophobia abounds, as does racism, something we saw when black people were taken off or prevented from boarding trains leaving Ukraine at the start of the war.
Gay rights and racism are not woke issues per se, in fact the Wokerati in the West have abandoned gay rights, particularly Lesbian rights, in favour of male heterosexuals invading women’s spaces. But you get the general idea about Ukraine being a hostile terrain.
Not any more, wokeness and its methods have come to Ukraine. How it has done so, and on what issue, is illustrative of the reactionary nature of wokeness. When Russia invaded Ukraine, ridiculous calls were made to ban everything from Tchaikovsky to Tolstoy.
In doing so, they emulated woke calls for authors to be banned from the airwaves and also the rewriting of history with long dead authors being judged by current understandings of society on issues like race, but not class.
Class was still fair game, in fact it is the target of many woke comedians, whose middle-class audiences like to show their social sense of rightness by frowning on historical authors on issues, like race, women (to a degree only) and others.
So, we are only a few steps from Shakespeare, John Donne and others getting chopped, but they have no problem with working class people being the target of their jokes.
Now the Ukrainians have got in on the game with calls for the closure of a museum in Kiev dedicated to the writer Mikhail Bulgakov.1 Yes, I had to look him up too. I have to confess to the woke literati that he was never on my radar before this moment.
I mean, he is not Tolstoy, is he? And he is certainly not anything closer to home like Beckett, or even the English author Thomas Hardy, both of whom have survived the woke banning spree so far, but this might be because their stuff is a little dense and maybe they haven’t read them yet.
I know I haven’t, though as a child my Da would read them and sometimes out loud. So, I knew not to bother with them at an early age, unless you were going to get very serious.
Bulgakov’s crime was that he wasn’t enamoured with Ukrainian nationalism and so he must be expunged from the record.
Ukraine’s national writers’ union has called for the museum at number 13A Andriivskyi Descent – a historic cobbled street linking the upper town with the district of Podil, on the banks of the Dnipro River – to be closed down.2
Apparently, he even criticised some Ukrainian nationalists of his time and Stalin was fond of some of his plays, though he censored him at the same time. Bulgakov opposed the idea of an independent Ukraine.
And even The Guardian acknowledges that this was a common position at the time. He was not alone.
The museum’s director, Lyudmila Gubianuri, has also hit back against criticism, calling Bulgakov “a man of his time”.
“He was born and lived in the Russian empire. Bulgakov had an inherent imperial mindset, but neither he nor his family were ever Ukrainophobes,” she stressed. “Bulgakov did not believe in the reality of an independent Ukraine, like quite a lot of people at that time.”3
Were we to do this in Ireland, lots of people would come a cropper. Seán O’Casey would get it in the neck. Joyce would be frowned upon as well, not for the views that saw the Catholic Church come down upon him, but perhaps his general view of Ireland.
Brendan Behan was certainly in favour of Irish independence, but he joined the IRA and was arrested on bombing charges, so in the new climate of blessing the British government for taking up the White Man’s Burden in relation to us, he might also get it.
There is no end of writers who might be banned. Roddy Doyle, is no friend of Irish independence. His unpublished play My Granny Was A Hunger Striker, written shortly after the 1981 hunger strike which saw ten men die, gives you an idea of where he stands.
Maybe in the future someone might call for his works to be removed, no more The Van or Paddy Clarke Ha, Ha, Ha, or his work on violence against women in the home, The Woman Who Walked into Doors. I knew I should never have read him or even Behan, Joyce or Casey.
Yes, I actually read them, unlike Beckett.
The reactionary nature of wokeness can be seen in its arrival in Ukraine. It is about stifling dissent and debate and generally promoting reactionary ideas. It is something more at home in an authoritarian regime like the Ukrainian one.
Russia has been more straightforward in its censorship, though now a capitalist regime, its take on repression and censorship, has been borrowed straight out of the Soviet era book.
The Wokerati under the guise of liberalism also want to shape a view of society on the basis of authoritarian methods, such as social shaming and the banning of literature to the literary equivalent of Outer Mongolia and have had some success.
Liberals ban books and place authors in quarantine, Ukrainian nationalists adopt the same tactics. Tells you everything you need to know about both.
Though, that the Western Wokerati were streets ahead in the book burning club probably means they have the edge over the zealots of the East and this is also telling.
Kevin O’Higgins, Minister of the Free State, signed the execution order of his former close friend and the Best Man at his wedding, Rory O’Connor, who led Irish Republicans in the occupation of the Four Courts in 1922 in opposition to the Anglo-Irish Treaty.
The historical and ironical reality is the basis for Frank Allen’s play The Best Man, showing until the 10th in the theatre in the Teachers Club, Dublin.
BRENDAN AS BORSTAL BOY
Before the play begins the audience is treated to a short performance by Brendan O’Neill of his portrayal of Brendan Behan from Borstal Boy and the Republican’s return to Ireland after his release from jail. O’Neill has family connections to his subject and has researched him too.
It’s an enjoyable performance and an interesting peek into what is or will become a full play, set already to tour Canada. One wonders whether Canadian society, reputed to be somewhat staid, is ready for Behan on stage.
THE BEST MAN PLAY
Glen Gannon’s direction makes best use of the small stage, adapting it with minimal changes to serve different scenes, while a piano recording of two well-known airs are employed for the same purpose. Elaine sings verses of The Foggy Dew beautifully.
There are four characters who take to the stage: Rory O’Connor (Alan O’Brien), Kevin O’Higgins (Kevin Brennan), ‘Birdie’ (Elaine O’Dea) and Lady Lavery (Niamh Large).
All of the parts are well-written and acted. For dramatic impact however, it is those of Rory O’Connor and Lady Lavery which are the strongest and both O’Brien and Large make the most of them, each dominating their respective scenes.
Searching for information online about ‘Birdy’, O’Higgins’ wife, for this review has been frustrating, with numerous commentaries on O’Higgins not even mentioning her name.
From information supplied by Frank Allen, Birdie was called Brigid Cole and she was an English teacher who taught in Knockbeg College in Carlow. Gearóid O’Sullivan taught there too.
“Birdy”, is brought to life in this play and given expression in moments of humanitarian passion in conflict with her husband Kevin, whose own most powerful moments are expressed in anger and angst during the Civil War, though his interactions with Lavery display passion of a different kind.
In history, Lady Lavery has been associated with Irish cultural interests and romantically with Collins but letters to her from O’Higgins reveal that Michael was not the only Irish fish in her net. Her image, in an Irish shawl, was to grace the Irish Sterling pound note. Suspicions that she was an MI5 agent are unproven but remain..
There may be some legal argument about some of the execution orders of Republicans signed by O’Higgins, though all are regarded by Republicans today as judicial murder.
There can be no argument however about the criminal nature of the executions of O’Connor, McKelvey, Barrett and Mellowes, executed by cabinet executive order in reprisal for a killing that took place while they were in jail and in which they played no part.
It hardly seems possible to view the ideological conflict around the Anglo-Irish Treaty without thinking about another Agreement closer to us in time; as we come up to the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement we can reflect on the lack of closure of each.
I have no hesitation in recommending a viewing but haste – only three nights remain.
We see and often hear “viva la Quinta Brigada” but this is usually a mistake – the reference is not to the Fifth but to the 15th International Brigade. The word for fifteen in Spanish is “quince”1 whereas “quinta” means “fifth”. The brigade being referred to, the Fifteenth International Brigade, was one formed at the instigation of the Communist International (Comintern) in 1936 from volunteers from more than 55 countries2.
The estimates of numbers of participants in the International Brigades range from 40,000 to 59,000 with a death toll of around 10,0003 and of course many more injured.
Not all the Irish-born and Irish diaspora antifascists who fought4 in what is called the Spanish Antifascist (or Civil) War fought in the 15th Brigade5 but most of them did, whether in the British, Commonwealth or US Battalions (“Abraham Lincoln” and “Washington”, later combined), chiefly because these were the English-speaking battalions of the 15th International Brigade, which also included specific battalions for French, German, Italian, Spanish (from Mexico, Caribbean and Latin America) Czechoslovak, Hungarian and Polish languages6.
The familiar songs in English were always about the 15th International Brigade, no other. So why and how has this mistake arisen of referring to the 5th?
The chief transmission of this error in recent time has been through that song with the wonderful lyrics and air created by the Irish balladeer and most famous folk performer, Christy Moore.
And he called his song “Viva La Quinta Brigada”. Recorded and performed under that title, with numerous videos repeating the error, even though he has himself corrected the reference in later performances.7 And in fact there are a number of Quinta Brigada versions of the Ay Carmela song on Youtube. So we can hardly blame all those people who are now singing the incorrect version, can we?
But before we arraign Comrade Christy Moore before a People’s Tribunal, it’s worth looking at the longer process of the error’s transmission. In fact, the incorrect wording was around long before Christy composed his song and it almost certainly informed his lyrics.
TRACING THE ERROR: THE AY CARMELA SONG AND SPIN-OFF
I remember thinking one time, when I became aware of the error in the title and refrain, that Christy should have consulted some Spanish-speaking people in Ireland. But I and my siblings are all Spanish-speaking and I recall even some of us singing a different song with a repeated line: Viva la Quinta Brigada, rumba la rumba la rumba la.
We were Spanish-speaking, yes and very sympathetic to the Republican side in that war — but at that time clearly not clued enough historically to detect the error,
That Rumba la rumba etc was a song in Spanish from the Republican side in the Civil/ Antifascist War, itself a spin-off or readaptation of a Spanish folk song about the crossing of the Ebro against Napoleonic troops in the 1800s. In this case the adaptation was fashioned to record the Republican forces’ crossing of the same river in attack on the advancing military-fascist forces in 1938.
The Battle of the Ebro was the largest ever fought on Spanish soil and lasted from 25th July to 16th November. The International Brigade song to the same air is generally known as Ay Manuela! and clearly refers to the International Brigade, not only by the lyrics in the final verse but by its alternative title, Viva La Quince Brigada!
Somewhere along the line someone made the error of replacing the Quince with Quinta. And so when Christy came to write his wonderful tribute to the Irish who went to the Spanish territory to fight against the fascist-military coup, the mistaken name had already been current for decades.
CORRECTING IT NOW
So no-one to blame for repeating the error and whoever caused it originally is long in the past. But we are here now and we know – so we have a responsibility not to perpetuate the error. We can do this quite simply in three ways:
Call the song “Viva la Quince8 Brigada” on all occasions
If we sing it, replace Quinta with Quince in the lyrics
Inform others about the correct version
1Fifteenth is “decimoquinta” in Castillian (Spanish) but, that being five syllables and therefore three too long for the song, “quince” (fifteen) must be sung instead.
2One of the many sources gives the figure of “55 Countries” but that probably means “55 states” and a number of states such as the UK, France, Belgium and Russia in Europe contain other nations, as do China, states in the Middle East, etc. In addition, many Jews also fought, one estimate putting them at one-quarter of the total of the “Brigadistas”.
3The very high casualty rate had a number of contributory factors but chief among them was the superiority of war-machines on the fascist-military side, in particular of aircraft, most of which were supplied, with pilots, by fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, while Britain and France blockaded Spain.
5Some fought as part of the POUM, largely Trotskyist antifascist organisation or may have fought in anarchist militia and one that we know of fought alongside the Basques (and gave his life there).
6There were other language groups but their numbers did not usually rate a whole battalion and they were integrated into battalions primarily of some other language.
7And even later still, amended the historically incorrect “the bishops blessed the Blueshirts in Dun Laoghaire
8Pronunciation guide for Quince: keen-the or keen-se.
9I’ve translated Ay! as Oh! but it’s more like Alas!, only hard to see that in the song’s context perhaps.
10I’ve translated Ay as Oh but it’s more like Alas, only hard to see that in the song’s context perhaps.
11The “Moors” were native North African troops raised by Spain’s Foreign Legion. Franco had been sent there by the Republican Government probably to get him out of the way after his ferocious suppression of the Asturias miners’ revolt. From there Franco’s troops were airlifted to the Canary Islands and from there to Andalucia in southern Spain, carving their way in the blood of mostly unarmed civilians.
El Ejército del Ebro, Rumba la rumba la rumba la. El Ejército del Ebro, Rumba la rumba la rumba la Una noche el río pasó, ¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela! Una noche el río pasó, ¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela!
The Army of the Ebro, rumba la rumba la, rumba la etc One night crossed the river, Oh9 Carmela, Oh Carmela!
Y a las tropas invasoras, Rumba la rumba la rumba la. Y a las tropas invasoras, Rumba la rumba la rumba la Buena paliza les dio, ¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela! Buena paliza les dio, ¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela!
And to the invading troops rumba la rumba la, rumba la etc Gave a good beating, Oh Carmela, Oh Carmela!
El furor de los traidores, Rumba la rumba la rumba la. El furor de los traidores, Rumba la rumba la rumba la Lo descarga su aviaciónes, ¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela! Lo descarga su aviaciónes, ¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela!
The fury of the traitors, rumba la rumba la, rumba la etc Is dropped from their ‘planes, Oh Carmela, Oh Carmela!
Pero nada pueden bombas, Rumba la rumba la rumba la. Pero nada pueden bombas, Rumba la rumba la rumba la Donde sobra corazón, ¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela! Donde sobra corazón, ¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela!
But bombs have no power, rumba la rumba la, rumba la etc Where exists excess of heart, Oh Carmela, Oh Carmela!
Contraataques muy rabiosos, Rumba la rumba la rumba la. Contraataques muy rabiosos, Rumba la rumba la rumba la Deberemos resistir, ¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela! Deberemos resistir, ¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela!
Ferocious counterattacks, rumba la rumba la, rumba la etc We must resist, Oh Carmela, Oh Carmela!
Pero igual que combatimos, Rumba la rumba la rumba la. Pero igual que combatimos, Rumba la rumba la rumba la Prometemos resistir, ¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela! Prometemos resistir, ¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela!
But as we fight, rumba la rumba la, rumba la etc We promise to resist, Oh10 Carmela, Oh Carmela!
Ay Manuela!/ Viva La Quince Brigada – International Brigades version in Spanish
Viva la quince brigada, -Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la-, Viva la quince brigada, -Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la-, Que sea cubierta de gloria Ay Manuela, ay Manuela! Que sea cubierta de gloria Ay Manuela, ay Manuela!
Long live the fifteen(th) Brigade -Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la etc May it be covered in glory, -Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la etc.
Luchamos contra los moros -Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la-, Luchamos contra los moros -Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la-, Mercenarios y fascistas Ay Manuela, ay Manuela Mercenarios y fascistas Ay Manuela, ay Manuela
We fight against the Moors11 -Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la etc Mercenaries and fascists. -Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la etc,
En el frente de Jarama -Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la-, En el frente de Jarama -Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la-, No tenemos ni aviones Ni tanques ni camiones Ay Manuela! No tenemos ni aviones Ni tanques ni camiones Ay Manuela!
On the Jarama front -Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la etc We have neither planes, tanks or lorries, -Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la etc
Ya salimos de España -Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la-, Ya salimos de España -Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la-, Pa luchar en otros frentes Ay Manuela ay manuela Pa luchar en otros frentes Ay Manuela ay manuela.
Now we are leaving Spain -Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la etc To fight on other fronts -Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la etc
Viva la quince brigada, -Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la-, Viva la quince brigada, -Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la-, Que sea cubierta de gloria Ay Manuela, ay Manuela Que sea cubierta de gloria Ay Manuela, ay Manuela.
Long live the fifteen(th) Brigade -Rumba, la rumba, la rumba, la etc May it be covered in glory, Oh Manuela, Oh Manuela! etc
Viva La Quince Brigada! Lyrics and musical arrangement by Christy Moore.
Ten years before I saw the light of morning A comradeship of heroes was laid: From every corner of the world came sailing The Fifteenth International Brigade.
They came to stand beside the Spanish people To try and stem the rising fascist tide; Franco’s allies were the powerful and wealthy – Frank Ryan’s men came from the other side.
Even the olives were bleeding As the battle for Madrid it thundered on, Truth and love against the force of evil Brotherhood against the fascist clan.
(Chorus) Viva la Quince Brigada! “No Pasarán“, the pledge that made them fight “Adelante!” is the cry around the hillside Let us all remember them tonight.
Bob Hilliard was a Church of Ireland pastor, From Killarney across the Pyrenees he came; From Derry came a brave young Christian Brother, Side by side they fought and died in Spain. Tommy Woods, age seventeen died in Cordoba, With Na Fianna he learned to hold his gun, From Dublin to the Villa del Rio, Where he fought and died beneath the blazing sun.
(Chorus) Viva la Quince Brigada! “No Pasarán“, the pledge that made them fight “Adelante!” is the cry around the hillside Let us all remember them tonight.
Many Irishmen heard the call of Franco, Joined Hitler and Mussolini too; Propaganda from the pulpit and newspapers Helped O’Duffy to enlist his crew. The word came from Maynooth, “support the Nazis” – The men of cloth failed again, When the Bishops blessed the Blueshirts down in Galway As they sailed beneath the swastika to Spain.
(Chorus) Viva la Quince Brigada! “No Pasarán“, the pledge that made them fight “Adelante!” is the cry around the hillside Let us all remember them tonight.
This song is a tribute to Frank Ryan Kit Conway and Dinny Coady too Peter Daly, Charlie Regan and Hugh Bonar, Though many died I can but name a few: Danny Boyle, Blaser-Brown and Charlie Donnelly, Liam Tumilson and Jim Straney from the Falls, Jack Nalty, Tommy Patton and Frank Conroy, Jim Foley, Tony Fox and Dick O’Neill.
(Chorus) Viva la Quince Brigada! “No Pasarán“, the pledge that made them fight “Adelante!” is the cry around the hillside Let us all remember them tonight.
Delighted to repost with thanks another contribution to recent discussion of the British monarchy — delayed by technological difficulties.
Gearóid Ó Loingsigh
11 September 2022
The British monarch Elizabeth Windsor, formerly Saxe Coburg Gotha, has died at the grand old age of 96, thanks in no small part to the subsidised lifestyle and medical care she enjoyed throughout her long life. Her death has produced the usual outpouring of manufactured grief from the media and also “genuine” grief from a sector of that population groomed by that same media.
But what is to be said of her passing? There has been some reaction to her death that concentrated on her being a mother and grandmother. But we were not invited to mourn the passing of mothers or grandmothers, but the death of a monarch and all that monarchy represented. So, before we look at the legacy of Elizabeth Windsor we should ask ourselves what is monarchy. The Irish revolutionary James Connolly, executed by the British state under the reign of George V, stated in relation to that same king’s visit to Ireland.
What is monarchy? From whence does it derive its sanction? What has been its gift to humanity? Monarchy is a survival of the tyranny imposed by the hand of greed and treachery upon the human race in the darkest and most ignorant days of our history. It derives its only sanction from the sword of the marauder, and the helplessness of the producer, and its gifts to humanity are unknown, save as they can be measured in the pernicious examples of triumphant and shameless iniquities.(1)
In this, Connolly only described monarchies in general as the most ignorant and backward manifestations of humanity. It is a point that bourgeois revolutionaries such as Rousseau and Voltaire would not have disagreed with. In fact, it was a standard capitalist argument for much of history. However, various capitalist nations hung on to their royal households, either as symbolic figures or as propaganda figures for their campaigns and conquests.
Much is now made of the contribution of Mrs Windsor to society, the arts, and even peace through her now celebrated handshake with Martin McGuinness, though who gave more in that handshake is not questioned. Connolly was very clear about the contribution of monarchies to the progress of society.
Every class in society save royalty, and especially British royalty, has through some of its members contributed something to the elevation of the species. But neither in science, nor in art, nor in literature, nor in exploration, nor in mechanical invention, nor in humanizing of laws, nor in any sphere of human activity has a representative of British royalty helped forward the moral, intellectual or material improvement of mankind. But that royal family has opposed every forward move, fought every reform, persecuted every patriot, and intrigued against every good cause. Slandering every friend of the people, it has befriended every oppressor. Eulogized today by misguided clerics, it has been notorious in history for the revolting nature of its crimes.(2)
Connolly had no truck with royalty. No time for tales of cute old grannies who shook the hands of erstwhile enemies. Any evaluation of the queen of the British state has to go beyond her supposed personal qualities. Criticisms of royals are not well received. When the then British diplomat and future Irish revolutionary, Roger Casement, exposed the atrocities of the Belgium king Leopold II in Congo and his mass murder of over ten million Congolese, the report was not well received initially and the descendants of the man who murdered more than Hitler are the actual monarchs in Belgium and are apparently a lovely couple and third cousins of Mrs. Windsor. Discussions about royalty are not about the individual qualities of the monarchs but the system as such. Though even on this point Mrs. Windsor comes a cropper.
In 1972 the British army murdered 14 civilians in Derry on what was to be the last Civil Rights march in the country. The British quickly engaged in a cover up which basically blamed those murdered as having been armed members of the IRA. Everyone now accepts that this was not true. Even the Saville Inquiry which stopped short of blaming the British state directly for the murders accepted they were all unarmed civilians. But Elizabeth Windsor nonetheless decorated Lt Colonel Derek Wilford, the man in charge on the day and has never apologised for that. Her role in this is often forgotten.
So, any question of looking at the death of Elizabeth Windsor cannot be ahistorical. Though Sinn Féin have issued statements that are breath taking in their servility. The Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald tweeted.
To the Royal Family and all who mourn the death of Queen Elizabeth, especially Irish Unionists, I extend sincere sympathy. She lived a long, full life. In her lifetime relationships between our countries were changed and changing. I salute her contribution to this transformation.(3)
She is of course, referring to the Peace Process and her handshake with Martin McGuinness. This says more about Sinn Féin than it does about Elizabeth Windsor. As a monarch she never had a problem dealing with people she saw as her inferiors, or those bowed in deference to her. Michele O’ Neill was equally effusive about the queen acknowledging the apparently profound sorrow of Unionists. And added that.
Having met Queen Elizabeth on a number of occasions alongside my colleague, the late Martin McGuinness, I appreciated both her warmth and courtesy.(4)
Her courtesy is a diplomatic ploy, as for her warmth that is not the image given in any of her public engagements, not even when greeting her son Charles after a long trip. The poor kid did not get a hug, he was made genuflect. But we can take O’Neill’s word for it. It is not important. Neither her courtesy or alleged warmth are political evaluations. Whether we should mourn a monarch does not depend on such personal qualities. Henry Kissinger the Butcher of Cambodia and Chile comes across as an affable, even charming old man, and he may well be in real life, but that is not how we judge him. Likewise, George Bush the Lesser (as Arundhati Roy dubbed him) also comes across as likeable, though it would be hard to convince the dead of Iraq that this mattered one jot: it doesn’t.
The press coverage of her death and much of the commentaries indicate that there is clear obfuscation on the part of the press and ignorance on the part of the population about the nature of the English royal family and the role of Elizabeth Windsor as queen. One of the myths is that she is just a mere figurehead, with little or no power. It is true that most power rests with Parliament and the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. But she has powers that she has exercised from time to time. She has instructed governors of overseas territories not to sign laws. In 1975, through John Kerr, her governor general in Australia, she dismissed the then prime minister Gough Whitlam.(5) It was a rarely used power, but it exists as do other powers she never had to invoke, like her control over the military. She has invoked the Queen’s Consent more frequently to prevent parliament discussing Bills she was not happy with. She also was the last port of call for those sentenced to death, when capital punishment was still on the statute book.
In the 1950s three Greek Cypriots were sentenced to death, Michalaki Karaolis, Andreas Dimitriou and Evagora Pallikaridis. The last of these was a particularly notable case. Pallikardis confessed under torture to carrying weapons. His lawyers pleaded to Elizabeth Windsor for clemency. She refused. The warmth that Sinn Féin leader O’ Neill felt was not on display for the 18-year-old, nor was she the loveable old grandmother that others have referred to. Likewise, the other two were also hanged. On the rare occasions that she has had to exercise power she has shown herself to be of the same pedigree as her blood thirsty forebears who raped and pillaged their way across the planet.
She never spoke out about the situation in Kenya and the Mau Mau rebellion, which kicked off early in her reign. The Pipeline, as it was known, that the British set up in Kenya was a camp system in which prisoners were moved up and down it according to the degree of torture that was required to break them. That matter was raised in Parliament at the time by some Labour MPs. The prisoners even managed to smuggle out letters to MPs and other officials, amongst them Elizabeth Windsor.(6) She knew what was happening. She was fully aware. She exercised no powers to bring an end to it. She just didn’t talk about it publicly, ever. It was not the only situation that she kept quiet about. Her relationship with the issue of race has never been a good one. She negotiated exemptions to racial and sexual discrimination laws and employs very few non-whites.
In 1990 the journalist Andrew Morton reported in the Sunday Times that “a black face has never graced the executive echelons of royal service – the household and officials” and “even among clerical and domestic staff, there is only a handful of recruits from ethnic minorities”.
The following year, the royal researcher Philip Hall published a book, Royal Fortune, in which he cited a source close to the Queen confirming that there were no non-white courtiers in the palace’s most senior ranks.(7)
In her Christmas speeches she tended to talk of banal matters and family. However, she did wade into politics some times and these speeches, unlike the speeches when she opens Parliament, are hers.
In her Christmas speech of 1972, she referred to various situations around the world and also the North of Ireland. Her take on it was simple.
We know only too well that a selfish insistence upon our rights and our own point of view leads to disaster. We all ought to know by now that a civilised and peaceful existence is only possible when people make the effort to understand each other.(8)
Exactly who was selfishly insisting on their rights was not explicitly spelt out, but it was obvious that she didn’t mean the British state, but uppity Paddies and others around the world. This was made clear when in 1973 she awarded an OBE to Lt Col Wilford, the officer in charge of the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry in 1972. The families of those murdered and injured on that day called upon her to apologise.(9) She did not do so. The nearest she came to it was a banal statement on history during a visit to Ireland in 2011 when she stated “It is a sad and regrettable reality that through history our islands have experienced more than their fair share of heartache, turbulence and loss… with the benefit of historical hindsight we can all see things which we wish had been done differently, or not at all.”(10) She did not accept Britain’s actual role in that and there was no specific reference to the Bloody Sunday massacre.
There is no shortage of sycophants and royalists who claim she had no powers, when in fact, she did as her son Charles now has. Others have preferred to go the route of she didn’t do it, it was others. Not quite true. She did preside over the dying days of Empire and gave succour to the troops busy murdering and torturing people in places she liked to visit on the Royal Yacht. But the many atrocities committed before she acceded to the throne are also hers. The Irish revolutionary James Connolly said of the visit to Ireland of one of her predecessors in the role.
We will not blame him for the crimes of his ancestors if he relinquishes the royal rights of his ancestors; but as long as he claims their rights, by virtue of descent, then, by virtue of descent, he must shoulder the responsibility for their crimes.(11)
And she did claim them. One of her other forays into matters of Empire was her Christmas speech of 1982.
Earlier this year in the South Atlantic the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy enabled our sailors, soldiers and airmen to go to the rescue of the Falkland Islanders 8,000 miles across the ocean; and to reveal the professional skills and courage that could be called on in defence of basic freedoms.(12)
It should be remembered that Britain gained control of the Malvinas in a colonial war, in 1833, against the newly independent Argentina. In 1982, what was at stake was mineral wealth in the sea. She, like Thatcher, rejoiced at the sinking of the General Belgrano ship, lest we forget that those who now joke about her death are not that far removed from her own sense of mourning people she sees as enemies of her dwindling Empire. She had no sense of shame. In 1990, following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iraq she stated without any sense of irony that
The invasion of Kuwait was an example on an international scale of an evil which has beset us at different levels in recent years – attempts by ruthless people to impose their will on the peaceable majority.(13)
This was the queen of a country that had imposed itself on more of humanity than any other previous empire had ever done. Of course, Hussein had been a friend of Britain. In 1953, the CIA and the British overthrew the democratically elected government of Iran, which had nationalised the oil industry dealing a blow to the Anglo Persian Oil Company, now known as B.P. This set in motion a chain of events that would see Britain install another royal, the Shah of Iran, Reza Pahlavi whose despotic rule would lead to the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Enter Saddam. He launched a brutal and bloody war against Iran, invading it in 1980. The war lasted 8 years and cost 500,000 lives. It was bankrolled by the west through the Saudis. There was no one claiming that he had imposed his will, nor were British troops sent to attack this important ally.
Part of her role is that of cheerleader for empire and war. British troops serve under her, not Parliament. They are called upon to serve Queen/King and country and a major part of her role is to encourage young men (and lately women) to throw their lives away in places like Iraq as part of imperial exercises in power and the theft of natural resources.
It is also laughable that the English monarch talks of the peaceable majority when Britain is one of the major arms manufacturers and exporters in the world, supplying despots around the world with the necessary wherewithal to keep local populations in line. Her own son Andrew was appointed Special Representative for International Trade and Investment for the UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) in 2001 and in that role he promoted arms sales. When he was forced by circumstances surrounding his role in the abuse of young girls alongside Jeffrey Epstein to step back from a public role, Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade commented that:
The news that Prince Andrew will step back from Royal duties is unlikely to provoke feelings of sorrow or regret for most British citizens – but for despots, dictatorships and arms dealers around the world it will be a sad day. They have lost one of their most high profile and influential supporters.(14)
During Mrs. Windsor’s reign Britain exported almost 135 billion (in current prices for each year) of arms and is the fourth largest exporter of arms in the world.(15) Some British companies with operations outside of Britain also export arms. These figures do not include what Britain manufactures for its own armed forces or what it buys from other countries.
Remarkably even feminists in Britain and Ireland have publicly lamented the death of Mrs. Windsor ignoring her role in her son’s abuse of young girls. What little action she took against him was due to public outcry and pressure helped along by a disastrous interview in which his sense of entitlement oozed out of the pores he claims not to sweat from. She also forked out part of the money that was paid as part of the settlement with Virginia Guiffre, one of his and Epstein’s victims, though her part could not be used directly to pay the victim but only for the part that went to charities.(16) Not a minor point for feminists, you would have thought. Nonetheless, they lament the death of the loving mother and grandmother. One who showed none of the warmth Sinn Féin claim she shows.
Monarchies are inherently reactionary, even without the atrocities committed by them or in their name. They are hereditary positions occupied by parasites living off the public purse. A lavish funeral and later coronation of Charles will be held, costing millions of pounds. Other old grandmothers will go hungry this winter or die of hypothermia as energy prices soar, a fate Elizabeth did not face and neither will Charles. The old grandmothers around England, who will die of hypothermia this year, through their taxes ensure that Charles will see the winter through, unless a horse-riding accident upsets his plans. Monarchy is all that is rotten in society, the sycophantic outpouring of fake grief is of a people who do not seek a better society, who are enthralled to their masters and their betters, those who bow down to the great and the good. But it was again James Connolly who had said “the great appear great because we are on our knees, let us rise!”
The idea of rising off our knees has been abandoned by most. Sinn Féin is lavish in its praise for her, one of the political and cultural shifts that results from the Good Friday Agreement. The rot has even spread to their friends in Colombia. Timochenko the former FARC guerrilla leader tweeted his condolences to the people of Great Britain and also mentioned that handshake with McGuinness.(17) Britain’s trade unions through the TUC have also bowed down to the royals. The ideological role of the Windsors in class conflict is ignored. Even the otherwise militant RMT has called off strikes planned for September 15th and 17th. There was a time calling for the abolishment of the monarchy was a no brainer for progressives. In the 1980s Arthur Scargill made just that call and when questioned as to what the royals would do then, he replied, “they can work in Sainsburys”. Though some of them have pilots licences, maybe they can do the Gatwick – Dublin route with Ryanair.
Those who mourn Elizabeth Windsor are complicit in what she represents: privilege, war, torture, racism. There are no ifs or buts to that. It is as Robespierre said, “The King must die so the country can live”. It is time to abolish the monarchy and throw onto the putrid rubbish pile of history all that it represents and Charles and William can, as Scargill suggested, get a job and sycophants can go back to worrying about Madonna or Beyoncé.
The intensively mediated death of Elizabeth Windsor, accompanied by the relentlessly maudlin and invasive coverage of official mourning and her funeral, had an intensity that can only be described as imperial. Forced as it was into every corner of public discourse, this coercive atmosphere of state sorrow had a distinctly colonising thrust and meaning. Unleashed during a moment of total class warfare within her very disunited kingdom, it also marked an endpoint in the trajectory of her most obedient servants: the formerly Irish but now thoroughly British political party, Sinn Féin. During Windsor’s reign colonial chickens came home to roost as the woman who presided over British forces while they rampaged across the six counties of British-occupied Ireland then became over the past decade and a half the queen of foodbanks in her own country. (1) Her reign spanned a long period during which overt political violence in Ireland was…
Main article by CHEMA MOLINA@CHEMAMOLINAA in Publico.es, translation and comment by Diarmuid Breatnach
(Reading time entire: 4 mins.)
The origin of the Bella Ciao song is uncertain and there are different theories about how this mythical popular song came about.
Over the years it has acquired a meaning closely related to the anti-fascist protest movements and in defence of democracy.
However, the Italian artist Laura Pausini refused to sing it during the El Hormiguero1 (show), reasoning that it is “very political”.
The piece has a clear political nature that goes beyond the success which the Money Heist series has given it and that has made it one of the most listened-to Italian songs in the world.
Italian partisans had already employed verses of this hymn against Mussolini’s fascism and the Nazi occupation during World War II.
Specifically, it was the partisans of the Maiella Brigade, in the Abruzzo region (east of Rome), and the Garibaldi Brigade, in the Marche area, a territory located between the Apennine mountains and the Adriatic Sea, who began to sing it, mixing traditional melodies with militant lyrics.
But there are other theories that suggest that the beginning of this song dates back to the 19th century.
The Mondinas, women who worked in the rice fields of northern Italy, recited the lyrics of this song as a sign of protest against the harsh working conditions they experienced every day.
In fact, the historian Cesare Bermani explains that the origin of Bella Ciao comes from a song called Fior di tomba (Flower of the grave) and that the poet Costantino Nigra had previously mentioned it in the second half of the 19th century.
One of the versions of this song reached the Mondinas of the provinces of Vercelli and Novara, both in the Piedmont region.
Another theory points out that the anthem could have Ukrainian roots. The musician Mishka Ziganoff, born in Odessa in 1889, moved to New York and composed a piece that could have been the origin of the start of the Bella Ciao air2.
Later, Italian migrants spread the air of this song when they returned to their country3.
Apart from its origin, the song began to become popular and to take on a political meaning due to the festivals organized by communist youth in different European countries. In the summer of 1947, the World Festival of Youth and Students took place.
There, the partisan version of the anthem was promoted, which later reached the Festival of the Two Worlds (also called the Spoleto Festival) in 1964.
The Bella Ciao show was performed at that event, organised by the Italian group Il Nuovo Canzoniere Italiano. The singer-songwriter Giovanna Marini, an artist who also helped to popularise the song, participated in the performance.
Bella Ciao has crossed borders and has been translated into many languages. In Spanish, one of the best known versions is that by the author Diego Moreno, who published his interpretation in 2014 on the album Bella Ciao! Adios Comandante!
THERE IS NO NEUTRAL POSITION ON FASCISMby Diarmuid Breatnach
The current controversy over a prominent Italian singer’s refusal to sing Bella Ciao at a kind of game show was predated by controversy over the origin of the song.
Most authorities now seem to refute the popular belief that it had been sung by Italian partisans, instead dating its emergencer as an antifascist song soon after WWII.
All are agreed however that it was predated by “Alla mattina appena alzata” a song with different lyrics of women rice-planting labourers, the Mondines, bewailing their extremely hard working conditions, their exploitation and expressing their hope in liberation.
Its origins therefore in women workers’ resistance is noble but so also is the antifascist sense in which it is usually sung today.
Laura Pausini, when declining to sing the song, excused herself by saying that “it is very political”. Yes, it is and Pausini needs to realise that neither in the world of today nor in the past is there, nor has there ever been, a neutral position on exploitation of labour or on fascism.
The responses to Pausini recorded by Publico on Twitter were mostly negative towards her decision and rationale but also revealed a fair amount of confusion.
The most common critical response was along the lines that anti-fascism is fundamental to democracy and therefore above politics, one commentator going so far as to state that Pausini is confusing position or stance on the one hand with ideology, on the other.
Fascism is a political ideology and so therefore is anti-fascism. Of course, anti-fascism is normally associated with the Left of the political spectrum but some conservative individuals and groups have been known in history to be actively anti-fascist too.
However that does not change the fact that anti-fascism is a political position whether ascribed to by revolutionary communists and anarchists, social-democrats or conservatives.
As the world capitalist system in crisis turns to making the workers pay more through rising costs of essentials and wage controls, along with cuts in state social services, the masses will resist. In many states, it is then that the ruling class turns to fascism to repress the resistance.
Neither Pausini nor anyone else can rise above that struggle. One may certainly attempt to be neutral but circumstances will not permit it, will certainly frustrate the attempt. Objectively one’s actions and words will either favour fascism or work against it.
2Without listening to the air, I am unable to venture an opinion on this. However, thinking about it, Bella Ciaodoes evoke Eastern European Jewish music to me. According to Wikipedia, Ziganoff was a Christian Roma from Odessa, Ukraine but well familiar with Yiddish and Klezmer music. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mishka_Ziganoff
3This is a well-known process of the dissemination of song airs and even lyrics by migrant workers or sailors (or even soldiers). For example the air of the ballad Once I Had a True Love may be found on an Alan Lomax collection of traditional songs from Extremadura, central-western part of Spain.
The colonies have been striking back at the Empire in film for some time and why not? Sure the Empire’s been colonising them all over again for decades, also through film.
But for a long time the liberal anti-colonial script-writers couldn’t bring themselves to make the main heroes of the film the indigenous colonised in Africa, America, Asia or Oceania – or else the finance backers doubted they’d recover their investment.
So the situation of the colonised had to be seen through the eyes of a liberal hero of European background or ancestry1 — someone with which, as they thought the the white European audience could identify2.
Stories figuring the Europeans colonised by England, i.e the Irish and the Scots, many who were in turn used by the Empire to colonise the lands of others — gets the film-makers over that difficulty.
Script-writers and casting directors in that ex-colony-now-superpower have been getting back at the English for years, of course, in historical drama3 but also portraying their villains with English accents4. Posh accents at first and then regional and London-Cockney5.
But rarely against the Irish, being often heroes in US films, providing they are Irish-Americans, which is to say Irish UStaters.
Two productions I’ve watched recently had as heroes people exported by the Empire from their own conquered homelands to other conquered colonies, in each case forming alliances with indigenous people.
Both productions have also given coverage to native languages of the indigenous people and, in one of them, also to a fair bit of the Irish language, spoken and sung.
THE NIGHTINGALE IN TASMANIA
The Nightingale (2018) is set in the British colony of Tasmania in 1825. In that period, which is not the main story, the Black War took place, in which an estimated 600-900 indigenous Tasmanians were killed, nearly wiping out their entire population. The killers were British colonial armed forces and settlers.
Political or social prisoners in the UK6 of the period were often transported to serve their time in penal colonies where, if they survived, they could be freed upon completion of their sentences or even earlier by agreement but to return was impossible unless they could purchase passage home.
Clare — “The Nightingale”, so nicknamed for her singing voice — is one such social prisoner, an Irish woman convicted of stealing and transported to Van Diemen’s land to serve her time.
She is part of the household staff of a British officer stationed there but is permitted to marry a free Irishman, Aidan; they live together in a hut and have a child together. The officer desires Clare and acts violently upon that desire, giving rise to a chain of tragic events.
Clare sets out to track the officer down and wreak revenge upon him but, needing a tracker-guide, employs an indigenous Tasmanian for that purpose. The story then is not only about her journey but about the uneasy relationship between these two victims of colonialism and occasional glimpses of other aspects of colonial rule, particularly in Tasmania.
IRISH, SCOTS AND INDIGENOUS
Frontier (2016) was originally a series for Television and, like The Nightingale, found a home later on Netflix. It features Irish and Scots heroes against the British Authorities and military.
It is set in British Canada in a historical struggle for control of the fur trade between the Hudson Bay Trading Company, a monopoly jealously protected by the UK, and a consortium of trappers striving for independence in trade.
The indigenous people are represented too, with a female warrior and communities, speaking Cree and a number of other Indigenous languages, including Inuit, with subtitles providing a translation.
The main hero is Declan Harp (now there’s names with an Irish connection!) who is half-Cree and half-Irish; after his parents were killed, he is adopted by Benton, the British administrator of the area but Harp later grows to hate Benton, who had his wife and child murdered.
A lesser male hero and ally is Michael, totally Irish but with a shaky moral compass. The main female heroes are a Cree warrior/ hunter and a Scottish woman, owner-manager of a tavern.
A female sort of anti-hero is a wealthy English woman of aristocratic type and there’s an Irish woman of humble background, being schooled to be “a lady”. There are a number of male Scottish anti-heroes too and there’s a Metis (of mixed Indigenous and French [or Breton or Basque?] parentage) helper, trapper and guide.
The Frontier has a couple of villains of US-origin but that’s allowed, this is Canada after all, its domination taken over by the USA from England. Otherwise nearly all the bad characters, the “black hats”, are English and so too with The Nightingale.
The British soldiers in both stories have regional English accents but so do some of their lower-ranking officers. Most of them are brutal and drunkards, some also murderers and rapists. Anti-English propaganda? No doubt but from what we know of history and even of more contemporary colonialism, very likely true enough.
Reviews have praised Jason Momoa’s portrayal of Declan Harp in The Frontier and certainly his physical size and appearance (long tangled locks, one eye clouded, looking out under lowered eyebrows) does focus one’s attention.
Personally I found the number of times he survives torture, serious beatings and wounds straining credulity and, in a way, tending towards boring, as though the Director or screenplay writer thought: Let’s get Declan to have another massive bloody fight here, we haven’t had one of those in a couple of episodes now.
However, even with at times difficult-to-believe plot turns, there are some excellent performances, chiefly perhaps and not surprisingly Alun Armstrong as Lord Benton and Shawn Doyle as the ruthless smoothly urbane but underneath volcanic Samuel Grant
Greg Bryk as Grant’s smooth and sinister manservant-lover Cobbs Pond puts in effective performances too. Evan Jonigkeit as Captain Chesterfield, is also good, particularly in his anguished frustrated desire for the tavern owner Grace Emberly (Zoe Boyle), and his burning desire to rise above his social station.
Jessica Matten is believable as the Cree warrior-hunter Sokanon, despite her gender being unlikely in that role, but her frowning expression grows repetitious after a while.
Katie McGrath played the plotting and provocative English aristocrat Mrs. Carruthers well in her unfortunately short run as a character (but Wardrobe and Sequence, would she wear the same lace-sleeved undergarment so many day in a row?).
The female who develops something of a penchant for killing violent dominating males and disposing of their bodies is an interesting character creation though her appearances in that role are few.
When Declan Harp commandeers a ship to take him and McTaggart (Jamie Sives) to Scotland to rescue Grace and avenge himself on Lord Benton, we are introduced to a Portuguese ship captain and a Polynesian mariner, the latter also singing and praying in his native language.
In Scotland, Harp recruits local toughs to attack the English Castle Benton where Lord Benton has taken residence and they kill many redcoats.
STEREO OR TRUE-TYPES
The main characters in The Nightingale are of course the vengeful woman Clare (Aisling Franciosi), her aboriginal guide and companion ‘Billy’ (Baykali Ganambarr), along with the British Lieutenant Hawkins (Sam Claffin) and Sergeant Ruse (Damon Herriman) she pursues.
All are believable characters with strong performances by the actors. England is an evil bastard in this story, represented by the officer Hawkins and sergeant Ruse but some decent English individuals make their appearance on occasion too.
The dialogue is mostly English but the Tasmanian language spoken and sung in the film is Palawa Kani. Some Irish is spoken between Aidan and Clare, the latter singing mainly English folk songs but to her child sings the Irish language lyrics of Cailín Álainn to the Scottish air of the Mingalay Boat Song7.
Speaking their own language makes the subjects their own people; speaking English, usually badly or with heavy un-English accents, though making them more intelligible to English fluents also presents them to the English-speaker as lesser-English, lesser-UStater, lesser-Canadian — in total: lesser human.
1 For example the plight of the Cheyenne in 1864 was represented in Soldier Blue through the eyes of the European woman Cresta Lee (Candice Bergin); it’s the liberal newspaper editor Donald Woods (Kevin Kline) who we accompany as we follow the story of the hero Biko in Cry Freedom, murdered by the South African white minority regime. Even in the British colony in Ireland, where the natives are white, the heroes may be English (Brian Cox playing an honest English cop in Hidden Agenda, Emma Thompson as the lawyer in Name of the Father).
2 When the promoters and financiers finally realised that a large part of their paying audiences were not in fact white European is when one started to see heroes of other backgrounds and ‘blacksploitation’ films.
3 Mel Gibson’s The Patriot and Bravehart, for example but going much further back, Disney’s The FightingPrince of Donegal (1966).
4 For examples Grand Moff Tarkin in original Starwars trilogy (1977-1983), Steven Berkoff in Beverly Hills Cop (1994), Scar in The Lion King (1994), arguably Anthony Hopkins [though Welsh and playing a Lithuanian] in Silence of the Lambs (1991), Sher Khan in The Jungle Book (1996) and sequel.
6 Not just the British – the French had their penal colonies abroad, for example in Guyana and the Spanish state sent prisoners to Ceuta, in North Africa even in modern times.
7 An anachronism, since the composer of the Irish lyrics of An Cailín Álainn is Tomás ‘Jimmy’ Mac Eoin from An Bóthar Buí in An Cheathrú Rua, Conamara, Galway, Ireland – and he was only born in 1937. The lyrics of the Mingalay Boat Song are also apparently sung to a much older air and one supposes the original lyrics would have been in Gaedhlig.
Women’s football will become universal in Catalonia starting from the 2022-2023 season. Both field and indoor soccer players may participate in any male category within the territory, whether amateur or grassroots. This has been determined by vote of the Ordinary General Assembly of the Catalan Football Federation (FCF), held at the Ciudad Deportiva de Blanes, where the Catalan clubs have voted in favour of this new step for full equality between men’s and women’s football.
The regulatory change will enable any female soccer player to process a federative license in a male team, starting this Friday, July 1, coinciding with the official start of the new soccer year. Consequently the cap for mixed football, now set in the cadet category, is eliminated, also incorporating players of youth and amateur age, who will be able to compete up to the Men’s Youth Preferred, in the first case, and up to the First Catalan, 2022-2023 season, and the Super League, 2023-2024 season, in the second.
Likewise the FCF will give a new impulse to women’s football through the development of the Women’s Football and Indoors Committee, which will be in charge of setting out the main lines for action in this area throughout the entire mandate.
This year’s celebration of the Patum 2022 festival in Berga has sung and chanted for independence. With the square full of about 6,000 people on Thursday, the massive Catalan independence flag, the Estelada (with the white star in a blue triangle)1 was launched across the crowd as they sang the Catalan national anthem, Els Segadors2 (the Reapers).
With the song finished, some began to shout “independencia” (independence) and this was quickly taken up by the mass, revisiting the tradition of protest that existed before the pandemic. The Catalan independence movement has been somewhat becalmed of late, with serious divisions between the two main nationalist political parties and a lack of grass-roots activity.
The Patum festival is a traditional Catalan festival of great importance and is recognised by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. “The fiesta coincides with Corpus Christi and includes a whole series of theatrical representations, characters and figures that fill the town of Berga every spring. It is a religious commemoration that dates back to the Middle Ages, which has managed to preserve both its religious and profane roots.
“La Patum de Berga has been held annually for centuries during Corpus Christi, and includes street entertainment and shows with different figures typical of these fiestas (giants, “big-heads”, eagles, guitas (dragons), plens (devils)). Fire and dance play a central role. The fiesta really gets underway on the Thursday of Corpus Christi, with the Ceremonial Patum. The salto de plens is the apotheosis of the fiesta. It represents an infernal orgy where fire devils jump to the rhythm of music. The following day is the Children’s Patum.”3
Berga is in the Barcelona region but over 107km from the city (and about half-way to Andorra). The Patum Festival of this year 2022, which began Wednesday, June 15 and will last until Sunday, June 19, was expected to be even more crowded than usual after two years in a row without being able to celebrate it due to the pandemic.
1The other Catalan nationalist flag commonly seen is the Vermelha, with a red star and no blue. The white X on a black background is also flown but more rarely, it draws on history also and signifies ‘death before surrender’.
2An anarchist, Emili Guanyavents won the competition to compose the national anthem lyrics in 1899 and based it upon a traditional historical cultural expression arising out of an uprising of Catalan rural workers in 1640 against the chief minister of Philip IV of Spain. The lyrics are, as might be expected, very militant and, since even the Catalan lanugage was banned, the song was of course banned during the four decades of the Spanish Franco dictatorship