- 20 Jul 18
“Six in the bed by the old pierhead/and up at the crack of dawn.” Or two in the bed at the Mercure Hotel and up at the crack of noon. July 7, first annual Liverpool Feis, three minutes from the hotel door to the docks, adjacent to the Liver Birds, ferry gently gliding by, sky a lucent azure dome, and as awesome a gathering of Irish acts as will reassemble anywhere any time soon.
An atmosphere of concrete did little to induce a mellow mood. We had to resort, although Van the Man (or Van the Person as we are quite possibly required to call him these days) stoned many to their souls without need of inducement.
Next year, I was assured by Gerry O’Boyle, there’ll be green fields, grassy knolls and hidden hollows for mellow huddling.
It was a standard-issue Morrison set, which is to say blissful. And here’s a thing. A throng of thousands, average age circa 25, singing every word of ‘Brown Eyed Girl,’ released 51 years ago. How can this be? How can it be 51 years?
The line-up included Damien Dempsey, The Coronas, Mary Coughlan, Sharon Shannon, Nathan Carter, the Chieftains, the Hot House Flowers and a dozen more. But the stars of the show in my own unhumble opinion were Foy Vance and Aslan, beezer songs, mastery of the music, totally in tune with rumbustious audiences. “How Can I Protect You in This Crazy World?” rolled across the river all the way along to Bootle.
Shane came on for a mash-up finale. Pushed on in his wheel-chair. He didn’t look or sound well. But then, Shane hardly ever has. The late Philip Chevron once remarked, “People are always asking me how’s Shane. I wonder does anybody ever ask Shane how I am.”
Which sparked the train of thought which carried me back. Philip, of the Radiators from Space, later of the Pogues, was a man of deep culture and wide learning. He could quote reams from Ulysses, ruminate on the history of cabaret, his favourite singer was Agnes Bernelle. He had a huge respect for songs, would rail against performers who chopped chunks out of standards to render them “radio-friendly.”
“We’ll go to Greenwich/ Where modern men itch/ o be free.”
“And now the purple dusk of twilight time/ Steals across the meadows of my heart.”
I recall him in Bloom’s Hotel at a post-Pogues revel raging against the gouging out of such gems from Manhattan and Stardust.
In Bloom’s, too, he once gave me the shirt off his back, a tee-shirt showing James Joyce lined up with the Pogues. My son would love that, I remarked. He whipped it off and handed it across the table.
Philip died five years ago from oesophageal cancer, only 56.
At his funeral, Joseph O’Connor described him as a “million dollar hero in a five and ten cent story”.
He had said of himself in the year before he died: “I am a gay, Irish, Catholic, alcoholic Pogue.”
This was my thought as we floated away, of how much Philip is missed, that he should have been here.
When the so-called “Mother Teresa” arrived in Dublin in 1993 to be conferred with the Freedom of the City, I suggested she should be arrested at the airport and cuffed and charged. A number of normally-reasonable regular readers reckoned I’d gone too far.
I wonder do they still feel the same, after the scandals of the intervening period, and now the news that members of her Missionaries of Charity have been selling Indian babies to childless couples at between £350 and £8,000 a pop.
The Missionaries are by no means the only Christian charity in India to have touted tots. But they are the only one founded by a “Saint” with a huge fan-base in Ireland.
Two years ago, Pope Benedict promoted the Albanian wrinkly to sainthood. One of the required miracles was the recovery of West Bengal woman Monica Besra, from a stomach tumour. A cloth which had been touched by Mother Teresa was placed on Ms. Besra’s body. Next morning, she was right as rain.
Doctors put the recovery down to medical treatment. The Vatican was having none of it. Teresa had asked God to do the needful and he’d complied. A miracle.
Then there was Brazilian Marcilio Haddad Andrino whose brain abscess disappeared when a medal blessed by Mother Teresa was put on his forehead. Again, doctors said the medicine they’d prescribed had shrivelled the abscess. But what would doctors know, the Church responded. Another miracle. Job done.
My point 25 years ago had concerned a million dollars given to the nun by Los Angeles real estate fraudster and devout Catholic Charles Keating. Small savers were hit hardest. Keating was sentenced to 10 years. I talked at the time to the LA assistant District Attorney who had handled the case. His office had asked Mother Teresa to give the money back, he told me.
No chance, Mother Teresa had responded. That money came from God. I see that Dublin city council has stripped Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi of the Freedom of the City conferred on her in 2000.