This lady is Nancy Spain. Does that name mean anything to you? The real Nancy Spain (1917 – 1964) was an English journalist who worked for the Daily Express and News of the World in the 1950s and 60s, and was a radio broadcaster. Notorious and controversial, openly lesbian at a time when this was difficult, her friends included Marlene Dietrich and Noël Coward. She died in a plane crash on 21 March 1964, while on her way to cover the Grand National at Aintree. So why is she heading up this post? It’s because Swithun’s first piece is Nancy Spain:
Swithun was familiar with this tune from the famous Christy Moore song in the 1970s. In fact, Christy himself picked up the song from a man from Sallynoggin called Barney Rushe – who had written it in the late 60s. Barney was resident singer at a club in St Helier on the island of Jersey: he had needed a name which would fit his love song, and chose Nancy Spain – almost at random – because he liked the sound of it! The song has nothing to do with the life of the real Nancy Spain.
Next up from Swithun is a tune called Cape Clear, made popular in a 1989 album by Nollaig Casey and Art McGlynn:
In our Ballydehob Sessions we used to play tunes composed by Nollaig Casey (Nollaig Ní Chathasaigh), as she is West Cork born and bred! She has had a long career, encompassing both classical and traditional genres. She was a founder member of Planxty in 1980, and has toured worldwide. Cape Clear is seen above on the far edge of Roaringwater Bay, and this view is familiar to both Swithun and myself, as both our houses face out over ‘Carbery’s Hundred Isles’. The tune appears in the collections of Joyce (1909) and Petrie (1905). O’Neill (1903) also has a version, which he titles O! Sweet Adare.
Lastly from Swithun (for today) is a double track – The Pride of Petravore and Lanagan’s Ball:
The first comes from a song by Percy French (1854 – 1920): Eileen Oge – The Pride of Petravore. The tune is by Houston Collisson, with whom French collaborated.
Eileen Oge, and that the darlin’s name is
Through the barony her features they were famous
If we loved her, who is there to blame us
For wasn’t she the pride of Petravore?
But her beauty made us all so shy
Not a man could look her in the eye
Boys, O boys, sure that’s reason why
We’re in mourning for the pride of Petravore . . .
Lanagan’s Ball is a rollicking jig, said to go back to 1860. Thank you, Swithun!