Monday, November 30, 2009


Mise agus Toshi agus Pete

November 30th 09


Well done to St. Galls on a wonderful victory over The Loup. This Blog and Belfast Gaels are rooting for them to bring an all-Ireland title back to our city and county. Naomh Gall abú.

This Blog gets lucky sometimes. Truth to tell this Blog is lucky all the
time but every so often this Blog gets very, very lucky. Take last month
for example. Or to be very accurate earlier this month.

Regular readers will recall that this Blog was in the USA and Canada on one of those mad a-city-a-day schedule at the beginning of November. What you did not know was that in between all the other bits I got to meet with Pete Seeger and his wonderful wife Toshi. A mutual friend got me Pete’s contact details and I am eternally grateful to him for that.

When I was a teenager Pete Seeger was one of my heroes. He still is. He
was out there singing his songs and making music for workers and fighters
for civil rights, and women and disadvantaged people generally as I got interested in Irish and world politics. He is still at it at ninety one years of age.

Anyone who saw him on television with Bruce Springsteen and a gang of
other wonderful musicians at the Obama inauguration will have marvelled at the man’s energy and musicality. And he is still an activist. And an idealist.

So when he agreed to meet our small group we were delighted. He lives with Toshi in upstate New York in a forest. He and Toshi bought a bit of land there in 1949 and lived in a trailer before building a log cabin and after some time the house that they now live in. It is a very beautiful and quite isolated place.

When we arrived at the front door Pete was on his way out. He was pushing a wheelbarrow.

‘Here are our friends, all the way from Ireland’ he announced to Toshi, a
small cheery faced woman who was busy at the table in the big kitchen. She welcomed and shepherded us into the heat while her husband wheeled his barrow outside.

‘Pete was bringing in wooden blocks for the fire’ Toshi explained.

Soon we were gathered in a circle listening to Pete’s yarns. He is a
natural story teller and within minutes he was singing for us to illustrate a point. His first songs were pop songs from the 1920’s and he sang a few bars to give us a flavour of that time.

‘Now here’s one an Irish plumber taught me forty years ago and he launched into Óró Sé Do Bheatha Bhaile.

‘Óró sé do bheatha bhaile. Oró sé do bheatha bhaile. Oró sé do bheatha baile. Anios ar theacht an tsamhraidh.’

This Blog is pleased to say that I sang close harmony on that one. Your man was green with envy. I was delighted with myself. Imagine Pete Seeger singing Oró Sé Do Bheatha Baile. With me !!!

And before we knew we were into Guantanamera and then If I Had A Hammer and Pete was talking about his parents and his grandparents and his Irish great granny and Woodie Guthrie, and The Weavers and Ireland and Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Sands and Bruce Springsteen and the Clean Up the Hudson campaign, all interspersed with songs and Toshi was making tea and keeping him right and we were greatly honoured to be with this great man and very wonderful woman.

Tinya, their daughter who runs a pottery in their basement joined us and
talked about Portadown and we went out and I collected acorns from around
their house and before we knew it was time to go again.

Pete gave me his new book WHERE HAVE ALL THE FLOWERS GONE? It’s terrific. Tons of songs, music, stories and a cd. Your man might just get it for Christmas. If he is good. Well if he is very, very good. It’s available through Sing Out Corporation. P.O Box 5460. PA 18015-0460. USA.


News of the death of Violet Holland, matriarch of the Holland family, mother of the late Harry Holland reached me at the weekend. I want to extend my deepest sympathy and condolences to the Holland family.

Mrs. Holland was an outstanding Irish woman. She reared a large family through the worst of the conflict and many of them have gone on to play leading roles in the life of Belfast City.

Violet was the mainstay of her family and a staunch defender of her community. Go ndeanfaidh Dia trocaire uirthi.


Ed Feighan said...

What a wonderful experience meeting another one of the great legends.I would just like to live in your shoes just for a few visits of some of the great people you have met over the years, Nelson Mandela and the Clintons and the brave ten that gave their lives for Ireland. Is mise le meas E.F.

Timothy Dougherty said...

do bheatha abhaile, your a lucky man Gerry ,what a great story to tell . Having a great love of folk music and the great Pete Seeger ,I am happy for you it must have been a great experience .The movie "The Power of Song " has archival footage and home movies are used to illustrate a social history of folk artists Pete Seeger. I must say Gerry that I am very jealous of your meeting with the Great Pete Seeger,and happy for you at the same time.There is An Cumhacht na Amhránaíochta

Anonymous said...

after the public revelations made by yourself concerning intimate family details, could i please offer my support to aine, yourself and your entire family circle, i hope it gives inspiration to others that they will not suffer in silence, you are in my thoughts and my prayers...god bless....a friend

Feardorcha MacBranar said...

Gerry a chara bá mhaith liom tacaiocht a thabairt duit agus Áine agus do chlann uilíg ag an am seo crua.Beidh muid ag smaoineadh oraibh,biodh nollaig mhaith ort agus Collette fosta.Fred,Maria, Clíodhna agus Aoife