The Ungathering - Happy St Patricks Day
Kevin Rowland's celebration of his Irish roots on My National Pride.
Below is a Spotify playlist for St Patrick's Day and the year that's in it. Given the focus this year on The Gathering, the big idea to boost tourism from the Irish diaspora it's strange how little I've heard about the major achievements of the diaspora. Surely as well as celebrating ourselves for staying behind to run the asylums, industrial schools and laundries and teach their children to doff their hats to their abusers we should celebrate those who got out and their progeny, who have achieved so much.
This playlist only touches the tip of the iceberg, invoking mainly second generation musicians in Britain. It starts with a few songs in which Irish heritage/culture is directly invoked, and indirectly in the case of Wuthering Heights in which Kate Bush invokes the spirit of another woman who shared her mixed Irish/English heritage, Emily Brontë (Brontë was a rather pretentious reworking of the more prosaic Prunty).
Then there are some protest songs, informed somewhat by their writers sense of multiplying nationality, of not quite belonging to a purely English equation nor a purely Irish one.
This is followed by a selection of songs that are soaked in the rootlessness which emigration can bring, dealt with directly and indirectly. The Smiths on not quite belonging - "When you walk without ease / On these / Streets where you were raised" - or Shane McGowan mourning the fate of old hobos in London to the air of an Irish ballad: "And I'm buggered to damnation / And I haven't got a penny / To wander the dark streets of London"
These are not singalong celebrations, emigration causes pain and suffering, as does nationalism, but it can also release people into a wider sense of their place in the world. How Ireland in the seventies and eighties could have done with more voices raised in protest. In the next group of songs voices are against discrimination, the negative role religion can play and in Careering by PIL a non reductive protest against sectarianism and the Troubles. If you look at the history of protest and the labour movement in Britain it is possible to feel a sense of loss for an Ireland that might have evolved more quickly had it managed to harness rather than release the potential of it's population.
It finishes on a positive note as Morrissey manages to resolve the conundrum of dual nationality in Irish Blood, English Heart.