Podcast is here, and also below:
O.J. [Oliver John] Abbott, Home Child, singing “The Barley Grain For Me” with Pete Seeger, at the Newport Folk Festival, 1959-60:
How/why did this English orphan from Paddington, London know so many of the old Irish tunes? Because when he was sent to Canada, as an 8- or 9-year old boy, he was placed with some of the Irish farmers of South March (and apparently learned some of his songs from the Laheys of March).
(More on O.J. Abbott in a future entry…he is one of Canada’s most notable folk singers).
Reading Peter Behrens’ The O’Briens, I was reminded (because of the novel’s character of Mick Heaney, a drunkard and a degenerate, and an Ottawa Valley fiddler) of a film I watched many years ago: The Best Damn Fiddler from Calabogie to Kaladar.
Not that Emery Prometer (the main character of the film, and also a hard-drinking Ottawa Valley fiddler) is anywhere near as awful as the lecherous and child-molesting Mick Heaney. Prometer is not awful at all, really (or not like that, not like Heaney), though he’s certainly an irresponsible husband and father. The film depicts him as a lovable ne’er-do-well, a sympathetic, though obviously flawed, character.
My dad loved life; and family; and food; and drink; and song: he loved life, he loved it all.
He had a big heart. And he loved life: he loved it all.
As a younger man, when he was hale and hearty, he had a beautiful singing voice too. And he knew so many songs!
He taught us some of the old Irish ballads, and some of the newer Irish tunes too (yes, I can sing ‘The Dutchman’ from start to finish, without a cheat sheet: thanks, Dad!), and some Canadian folk songs, and a couple of dear old French Canadian numbers, as well. He taught us to always have a ‘party piece’ or two with which to entertain the company.
Here his voice had weakened, and he couldn’t remember all the lyrics, so my sister got the lyrics up through google, but he had trouble reading them from the screen. But as sick as he was here, he was game, he was ready to sing, and still his voice rings true.
- Canadian Thanksgiving, 2012 = October 2012 ↩