Irish dogs, and a ditty.

Ireland has not named one dog or another as the national dog of Ireland but their are plenty of Irish dogs that could lay claim to that title.

Irish dogs

The largest breed is of course the Irish Wolfhound. This breed of dog is given credit for ridding Ireland of wolves. Though imposing, this Irish dog belies a great gentleness and loyal character. it is no wonder he is an iconic symbol of Ireland. Along with the round tower and  the harp, the Irish Wolfhound  make up the mark found on every piece of Belleek China, iconic indeed.

Irish dogs

The breed of Irish dog owned by Michael Collins would be the Irish Blue terrier sometimes referred to as a Kerry Blue terrier. This sturdy energetic and fierce dog with it’s distinctive beard and blueish black coloring was the perfect dog for ferreting out vermin in the barns and fields of Ireland, hunting small game, or protecting the homestead. By all accounts The Kerry Blue is the National dog of Ireland.

Now one would only have to visit an Irish field full of sheep to understand that there are Irish dogs of non – Irish blood that have become iconic dogs of Ireland. The sheep dogs, more specifically the border collie. Border collies are the energizer bunnies of the working dog class. Competitions are held and farmers and herders put on a display of their dogs skill. The dogs manage to herd their quarry into pens while receiving orders via whistles from their owners. It’s amazing to watch.

There are nine native breeds of Irish dogs from Ireland, four Terriers, two Hounds and three Gundogs.

Irish Dogs;

  1. Irish Terrier,
  2. Soft Coated Wheaten Irish Terrier,
  3. Irish Blue Terrier Kerry Blue
  4. Glen of Imaal Terrier,
  5. Kerry Beagle,
  6. Irish Wolf Hound,
  7. Irish Setter
  8. Irish Red & White Setter
  9. Irish Water Spaniel)

All of which believe they lay some claim to the title of #1 dog of Irish dogs

Now  I believe the most beloved dog of Ireland is whichever dog greets you at the door, be it setter or hound, wheaton or blue, spaniel or beagle, mutt or mongrel. And it is to this end I’ll leave you with this little ditty about yours truly Irish dog, of American descent.

Irish dog

My dogs a terrier not that bright
He just won’t learn as some dogs might
But he’s a good dog with a bark not a bite

You pet him on his sturdy head
He’ll roll on his back as if he’s dead
But really a belly rub is his aim
And really who doesn’t, he’s not to blame

But in the end he’s a good companion
Chasing squirrels with reckless abandon
His name is Mickey we call him Mic
And when we walk it’s no great trick
He’s not so smart but we’d have no other
just one dumb mic being walked by another





Loretta Lynn ageless singer puts on great show.

When the talk turns to singing, talent or passion, I almost always choose passion. last night I had the privilege to see and hear the great Loretta Lynn sing in a cozy little venue in Cohassett Ma. and It was tremendous.

loretta Lynn

Now you would think the accomplishment for the 83, yes, 83 year old Lynn would be to show up for the show never mind sing hit after hit for an hour, but sing hit after hit she did, and sing well, as well.

And the band! They of course were great musicians and singers, playing great country riffs and steel guitar slides and supporting background vocals, but they also looked out musically for her. If there might be a note she might falter on or a chorus that might be hard to reach the boys would slide on in and lift her up just a touch, there was a lot of love and respect and humor in that collection of musical heroes.

On an occassion an audience member would yell out “We love you Loretta” which would always get a response of ” I Love you too darling” or “sweetheart” like you were talking across the kitchen table to your favorite family member. It was a joy to be there and with all things musical it is the joyful, the passionate, the uplifting, that makes for memories, good memories.

Now so you don’t get the idea that the above love of the show put on by Loretta and the gang appeals to to the mature crowd who can remember her in her younger days our 16 year old also attended the show. Now granted she is an unabashed lover of country music but her opinions of the show were purely positive. I’ll try to give you the condensed version. She was happily surprised with the tone and power of her voice, to quote

 “I kind of expected her to be unable to hit notes but she sounded  great.” ” She sang really well and sang all her hit songs, she was amazing.”

Amazing she was, and down to earth, and a classy lady all night long. I feel fortunate to have seen this woman sing her songs and I hope she’s doing them when she’s 93.


2015 Sligo Fleadh has another O’Shea competitor.

sligo fleadh 2015Sorry for the long gap between posts but have been waiting to hear about the newest O’Shea to compete at the all Ireland Fleadh held this year in Sligo. It is with great pleasure that one Betty O’Shea of Enniskerry County Wicklow was entered in the tin whistle competition for the U 12 division.

I hope James and Karina don’t mind if I post their response to how things were going at the Fleadh but I think it shows the great time to be had and the hard work put in by all competitors.


Hi Brian and Caroline and family!

We all had a great time in Sligo camping at Strandhill campsite for the week and wandering around seeing great music all over the place in Sligo town, as you’d imagine. It was capped off by Nana and Granda (Jim and Teresa Halley) driving up from Dublin on the Friday and Betty’s u12 tin whistle competition on Saturday morning. She did a great job, and it was really impressive competition, including all the Boston folks! (I didn’t get a chance to talk to them, as I would have liked, but we really enjoyed seeing Jimmy Noonan from Boston play in an earlier big session — do you know him? He ended up tutoring for the week, and his son was in Betty’s competition.)

In the end the winners were 1. A boy from Waterford, 2. a boy from Cavan, and 3. a girl from Limerick — great players all around. Betty was very disappointed, but this morning she has come around again when Karina signed up to ‘TunePal’ online and Betty loved it (Caroline probably knows about TunePal — we learned of it at the Fleadh). And of course two more years for her to have a crack at the u12’s!

We went to “Fleadh TV” (channel “TG4”) a couple of times and were right in the front row, so we might get to see ourselves on TV when they show them again at some point. Especially Betty, when she and Karina had a “girls night on the town” on the final night while James and I had a boys night in the tent, and Betty was sitting on the edge of the stage for “Moxie”, “Beoga”, “Stockton’s Wing” (with some new young members, too), and others – so she might be on TV at some point (looking a little tired but excited!). Also had a great night seeing Liam Kelly and Philip Duffy in a small venue, up close.

Wish you guys were here for a visit! Hopefully we’ll see Carol at the end of November…. Keep in touch,
Jim and the gang (p.s. a picture, walking the streets of Sligo – sorry about the guy blowing his nose….):

Slogo Fleadh 2015
I don’t know Jim I think the fella blowing his nose in the background is a nice touch.

The U 12 competitor is the lovely lady on the right, being aptly supported by her younger brother James and the equally lovely proud mother Karina, (Dad’s taking the photo).

For anyone who has been to an All Ireland Fleadh you know that the towns population explode as the competition day nears, The sessions spring up in pubs, hotels, restaurants, and street corners. The younger competitors can attend the SCOIL EIGSE and be tutored in their musical expertise by Irish music masters. Later on these same masters will be found in the aforementioned sessions. To coin an Irish Phrase the music will be mighty, and a good time is had by all.

When I wrote to see if Betty had qualified for the Fleadh I was both extremely pleased and bitterly jealous that we were not able to attend on short notice, plans are being made now to attend the 2016 Fleadh Cheoil in Ennis, time to call in some favors no doubt.

So as I sign off here’s to the musicians young and old that keep the traditions alive and vibrant.










Real Irish music

Real Irish musicNow back to some real Irish music.

You have your choice and all are right as being “THE” authentic Irish music.

The Bard, The Rover, The Farmer. These were the carriers of the torch, the passer ons of the tradition of Irish music. The harp, the fiddle, a squeezebox, the pipes, later on a flute or whistle these were the tools of the early player.

                          Real Irish Music

They played music to dance by, jigs, reels, hornpipes, or songs for the soul in airs and slow airs. The music was passed down father to son, mother to daughter, learned by listening and reproducing the tunes. A legacy almost lost. Thankfully organizations like Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann organized and promoted the tradition of Irish music. Their work comes to fruition each year seen and is heard at classes, regional Fleadhs, culminating with the All Ireland Fleadh Ceoil each August.

Then there are the singers. Again there are old songs passed on from generation to generation, sung in the native tongue these are the old songs these are the “Seanos songs” most who think they know Irish songs have never heard Seanos. It is a beautiful at times haunting style sung in a particular way

Add to these traditions beautiful musical arts like lilting, whistling, and storytelling, and you might get a glimpse of real irish music. I have to laugh sometimes. I’ll be at a session with fantastic musicians going at it full tilt, when some expert on Irish music will wonder when they will start playing real Irish music. You know, when Irish eyes are smiling, Mother Macree, or Danny boy. Now thats a story thats already been written (Traditional Irish songs the best Irish songs)

Readers of this humble blog well know I am a sucker for Irish folk music. The legends of the resurgent folk gender of the sixties who revived and reshaped Irish folk will forever be real Irish music to me. Luke Kelly, Jim McCann, Tommy Makem, Paddy Reilly, giants all. But I’m sure if you asked them what real Irish music was they would go back to those traditions passed down from father to son, mother to daughter. As Pete ST. John so aptly wrote “raised on songs and stories”

Cheers, and check out a session near you.


Irish Country singer Grace O’Shea.

Nice video from an up and coming country singer, Grace O’Shea. The things you find on youtube are just fascinating. You never know if you are seeing the beginnings of the next Reba, Dolly, Loretta, or Taylor, but if passion, talent, and style play a role I think this girl may have a chance. Be it superstardom or picking the guitar by a bonfire I think this Country singer with the nice Irish name will be playing good music for a really long time.


Stepping into an Irish bar for a pint

I almost didn’t write this post as the title was so tempting. There is something special about stepping into an Irish bar for a pint that’s different than any other bar.

There may not be a better feeling of well being, a more heighten level of expectation, than to drop into a good Irish pub for a properly poured pint of Guinness. Even better during a crisp afternoon when the bar is less crowded and you are left at peace with your thoughts your dreams and your pint. Now there is a fine line between a pint or two and maybe a bit too much, and a not so fine line line of the daily dozen downing, but that being said, here’s a spot or two in Boston, the South Shore, or across the Atlantic where a pleasant drink can be had.

The Corrib in Brighton, best had at the bar, and yes this is what got me thinking as I had a lovely sandwich with my daughter there Sunday last with a beautiful pint of Guinness. reasonably priced as well.

Mr. Dooleys, Boston. a bit pricey, but a good pour and great atmosphere, again though it gets crowded at nigh,t but a satisfying  pint in the afternoon, makes life worth living. Some good music there as well.

The Green Dragon, Faneuil Hall, Boston. the famous meeting place of Sam Adams and the Sons of Liberty, though rebuilt after a fire razed the original building, is a great place to strike a blow for freedom, and they pour a really good pint of Guinness, I especially like going in on slow summer afternoon days when that young acoustic singer is performing, real class.

The Eire Pub Dorchester.  Made famous by the greatest president of modern times Ronald Reagan who stopped in for a sipp with the locals, the Eire is an authentic neighborhood Irish bar that serves a great pint and the best sandwiches around.

Irish bar
The Eire Pub a great Irish bar.

Then there were the times in Ireland.

Glendalough, Wicklow, Ireland I suppose the scenery or the company would make stepping into an Irish bar more special. The Hotel lounge across from St. Kevins Church and Glendalough served a nice time. My family and cousins, having a cup of soup, a toasted sandwich or two, and I and my cousin making out like bandits with our two pints of plain

The Harbour Bar, Bray, Ireland. Go along the harbour walk around the little park, look out over the harbour and the ships moored each telling there own story. Watch the Swans as big as large dogs make there way into and out of the ripples, and then venture into the best hidden gem in Ireland. In the afternoon you’ll get to soak up the pub with it’s just old feel, Now That being said, the harbor bar also promotes new music, concerts, festivals, rock and roll extravaganzas, which is cool, but as a tourist I’ll take a slow afternoon and some of that black stuff.

Dublin favorites:

O’Donahues St. Stephens Green.

Neary’s Bar.

The Stags Head.

I suppose by this time all must think me a drunkard, we are all welcome to our opinions, as my father would would say ” You are all welcome to your opinion, just keep it to yourself”. Either way, when a beautiful sunny day beckons you in nothing makes you feel more alive than a pint and a toast to freedom,


Traditional Irish songs the best Irish songs

traditional irish songsThere are Irish songs, there are American Irish songs, there are modern Irish songs and their are great Irish tunes, but in this humble authors opinion traditional Irish folk songs are the best Irish songs.

Many songs people think are traditional Irish songs are surprised when they find out their favorite is really something else.

A few examples would be:

  • When Irish eyes are smiling
  • Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ra
  • My wild Irish Rose
  • Mother Machree
  • I’ll take you home again Kathleen

These songs where written for Americans with an eye for entertainment, Vaudeville shows, theater shows, and that new fangled technology- radio. In the end singers like John McCormack, Bing Crosby, and Dennis Day made the distance between Ireland and America seem very small indeed.

Many songs people think go back centuries are really modern

  • The Ould Triangle
  • A man you don’t meet every day
  • Rare old times
  • The fields of Athenry

Great song writers like Pete St. John however are responsible for these modern Irish folk music classics.

Then there are the traditional Irish folk songs passed down from Generation to generation, songs and stories passed along through the oral history awaiting that other modern wonder -the printed page. The bards, the troubadours, the seanchais responsible for the Irish culture and soul to thrive and grow.

Be it,

  • the lark in the morning
  • The Rising of the moon
  • Or the Foggy dew

The Irish folk tradition takes many forms.

Now the nice thing about being a lover of Irish music is I get to pick, play, sing, my favorite Irish Folk songs. It’s the feel that I look for. It’s the passion of the singer or the hopelessness of the lyric, or the liveliness of the tune. Heck there are even times when I’ll find an Irish song that is up beat and positive.

But be it songs about the heroes of Ireland, the victims of famine and persecution, or the resiliency of the human spirit, the best song to raise a toast to is an Irish song. And with that we’ll have a listen to an Ireland legend sing a song for Ireland.



Memorial day 2015 Thank you to all Veterans.

This Memorial day 2015, I want to give a big Thank You to those that served, Those that protect and uphold the Constitution of the United States. As time passes by many forget that we are endowed by are creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, And the pursuit of happiness. Those that serve put their lives on the line, suspend their Liberty to their commanders, and postpone their pursuit of happiness for themselves and their families for our freedom. It is important that we not forget this.


(Sung to the tune of My old friend John)


Has anyone here seen my old friend Glen

Can you tell me where he’s gone?

He saved a lot of people

probably over a video

I guess i rely don’t know.


Anybody here seen my old friend Ty

Can you tell me where he’s gone?

He saved a lot of people

probably over a video

I guess I really don’t know.


Has anyone here seen Ambassador Stephens

Can you tell me where he’s gone?

He tried to help people.

probably over a video.

I guess I really don’t know.


Didn’t you love the things that they stood for?

They stood up for freedom in Benghazi, for you and me

They would not let things be.

They saved lives for freedom, not a video you see.


Has anyone here seen their flag draped coffins.

Has anyone lied to their kin?

Bald face lies to their grieving faces,

That was our coward Hillary.


Has anyone hear seen Glen Ty or Christopher

Can you tell me why they’re gone

It seems the brave, the brave they die young

While the cowards live on and on.


Rest in Peace Glen Doherty                                          Rest in Peace Ty Woods             Rest in Peace Chris Stephens                                       Rest in Peace Sean Smith



Pubs of Dublin the oldest, longest, smallest,

pubs of DublinA friend of mine is heading over to Dublin for what turns out to be a long weekend, a Wednesday to Sunday  jaunt from Boston. First off I was jealous, but then the talk turned to my favorite part of such a trip, the pubs of Dublin.

Now the oldest pub is the Brazen Head by ChristChurch, it has a nice outside courtyard, good food, 3 bars inside, and plenty of touristy attractions. Many a Dublin bar will have a cabaret type Irish music dance show to entertain the tourists, but despite it’s long history the oldest pub in Dublin is a bit too commercial for this consumer of Arthur Guinness’ wares. Though it won’t make it on the Dublin A list of pubs, I really enjoyed O’Shea’s Merchant just across the street. The best Trad music you are apt to find, good food, and kind of a true feel you look for in a pub.

The longest of the pubs of Dublin is attributed to the “Hole in the wall” pub by Phoenix park in Dublin. Now by the name you would think it to be a small little hole in the wall place, but it turns out to be a a converted carriage house which is why it is the longest pub in Dublin. The story goes that pints were passed thru a hole inthe wall to soilders after curfew and the longer you stay and get to know the locals the more you believe it to be true.

The smallest of the pubs of I Dublin, is attributed to Dawsons lounge. When size matters I guess it’s best to market your short comings and turn it to your advantage. A cozy little bar that cramps up on the weekends as all want to say they have been to the smallest bar in Dublin.

pubs of dublin

If you are heading to Dublin I have two favorite pubs of Dublin for two completely different reasons. The first is O’Donoghue’s by Stephens Green. I think I love O’Donoghues so much because the times I have been there have been during the off peak tourist times. The music sessions attract all we lovers of Irish trad and during peak season it gets crowded. The music has always been authentic the many times I’ve dropped in to O’Donoghue’s, and a good time was always had. When people ask me what the word “craic” means I always think about nights in O’Donoghue’s.

pubs of Dublin

Nearys Pub Dublin is a favorite for an entirely different reason. There are times when you want to have a pint of plain with a friend or just enjoy some solitude and Neary’s is the best pub in Dublin to do this. Now it will crowd up on the weekends and it gets it fair share of the after work crowd as well, but that being said Neary’s is as old school, classic, just what I want to be in, type of Dublin pub. The entrance way adorned with two globes being held by statuesque arms extending  from  the exterior walls, beckon you in. There is a back entrance adjoining the Gaiety theater and the  lounge upstairs furnished with arm chairs and couches, Paintings, very comforting. This excerpt from Tom Sweeney’s travel blog might sum it up the best——

“If you want the sound of bodhrans being belted and tin whistles being tooted, there are plenty of places in the city that provide traditional music, but in Neary’s it’s all about traditional values and the sound of convivial conversation. Mind you, the sooner the one-tune, guitar-murdering busker who deafens shoppers in nearby Grafton Street gets electrocuted by his own amplifier, the better. Then he, and everyone else within half-a-mile, can rest in peace.”

So please remember use a little pub etiquette when you frequent these fine Pubs of Dublin  as the last thing you want to be is that loud tourist the locals wish ill upon,



Raised on songs and stories

There are few songs, at least in modern times that evoke as much feel for the Irish than the great Pete St John’s “Rare old times”. The line that strikes at the core is the iconic “Raised on songs and stories” I think it is what separates a true Irishman from the rest.


raised on songs and storiesThis Saturday night last I went to the local Irish Cultural Center in Canton Ma. to hear a young girl and her acoustic guitar play a few tunes. The bar was full of Rugby players fresh off the pitch and some aspiring footballers taking in some pre season practice. The songs she sang were mainly American country songs with a few pop hits thrown in. I know, I know, what does this have to do with Raised on songs and stories? Be patient I’ll get there.

When the boys are fresh off a match, or watching a match, the discussions and attentions in the pub afterwards are about the match. The music is an after thought, a nice after thought, but not the main attraction.

raised on songs and stories

The young lady did know one Irish traditional song, and with a slight introduction that it was her father’s favorite song and hoped she did it the justice it deserved she belted out her version of “Grace”. Well you know those Rugby players all stopped their banter as a really nice, passionate, version of “Grace” caught them. At the songs conclusion, a round of applause from all, a bless his soul for Jim McCann for he has recently passed, and did she know any Luke Kelly.


Raised on songs and stories, The songs about Irish heroes forever retold in music, forever appreciated by generations young and old. The telling of the story is important, the singing of the song is important, that doing the song the respect it deserves is of utmost importance. I suppose that’s what Pete ST. John instinctively knew when he wrote that line, that all Irish are held together with a thread of story and song.

Not a bad way to be raised at all, I can think of no better,