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Music Review: No Irish Need Apply
by Bridget Haggerty

Was there ever a more visceral phrase than No Irish Need Apply? During the time of the Penal Laws, the town of Bandon in Co. Cork had a sign which said: Enter here, Turk, Jew or atheist, any man except a Papist.
Underneath those lines, some Irishman, fighting back with the only two things left that could not be stripped from him - his wit and his dignity - wrote: "The man who wrote this wrote it well, for the same is writ on the gates of Hell." Herewith, a review of a great CD by the Gallant Sons of Erin.

The same Penal Laws that banned the Irish from speaking their language, practising their religion, educating their children, and even "wearing the green" (displaying the shamrock on St. Patrick's Day) drove many a young man to answer ads to fight in the American civil war. Thousands came over to join the cause. "No Irish Need Apply" is a musical interpretation of the history of Company K, of the Irish Brigade's 28th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment

The Gallant Sons of Erin are a New England-based band largely comprised of Civil War reenactors who portray members of the old regiment. What they've put together is a unique collection of 14 original recordings of Civil War-era tunes written about Irish-American soldiers in the Union army. All but two of the songs are either rare or presented in recorded form for the very first time.

But what about that evocative title of the collection? One of the band members said that the album name is the title of the song that they believe best expressed the essence of the Irish immigrant experience of the era. They felt their aidience would immediately understand that the CD was a reaction to or an explanation of the 'No Irish Need Apply' syndrome - as is John Poole's original composition - and not an endorsement of it.

As one reviewer wrote - "The irony of the NINA syndrome was palpable in the Civil War years. The Irish were encouraged and sometimes even coerced into the service of the Union and by this act were asked to give the ultimate gesture of citizenship: to serve and perhaps die for their adopted country, but at the same time they were seen by many as not being worthy of even the most menial jobs in civilian life."

This is a CD we'd recommend to anyone who is interested in the role the Irish played in the American Civil War. But, even if you're not turned on by history, it's one of those recordings you can put on as terrific background music for an Irish party. Of course, there will always be a curious guest who will want to know more about the reenactors who put the CD together, You'll find everything you need to know here:28th Mass. Infantry.

If you're onterested in purchasing the CD, please click Amazon.


Thu, Dec 7, 2017

Holly and Ivy hanging up and
something wet in every cup*

Not so long ago, Irish Christmas decorations were much simpler than they are now. The children gathered holly and ivy for adorning, windows, doorways, mantles and pictures, and the father would carve out a turnip in which would be placed a large red candle. This would go in the window to light the way for the Holy Family on Christmas Eve. Only in relatively recent times did an Irish family have a Nativity scene and a decorated tree in the house. As for Mistletoe, it's quite rare in ireland and is generally associated with ancient Celtic and Druidic fertility celebrations; this is most likely where the custom of kissing under the mistletoe comes from.
*Old Irish Christmas toast
Image: Pashley Manor Gardens.

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