Fiery Bird & Irish Legends Thursday 15th March 2018

You can take no credit for where you were born or other accidents of birth, but you can be eternally grateful that you have a place to go back to elsewhere to recharge and soak up a culture that is part of your bones because it was always there growing up. It told you magic was real and people born from its hearths and cottages stride the world and infuse it with art, music, prose and hope. So Fiery Bird Show on Thursday 15th March with two guests from the legends of my youth The Dubliners and The Fureys I decided to make it a whole St Patrick’s Day thing. I took Joe in with me so we could be like Fanny & Johnny (Craddock) and any other famous duo (George & Mildred, Arthur & Hilda, Flanagan & Allen) and talk about some of our memories growing up in Irish families – me in Woking and him in Hackney. Similarly we all had the shamrock flown over every year, Mass and the big dance in the evening with a showband or if you were lucky a ‘name’ – I remember the year Johnny McEvoy came over, all those matrons stormed the stage. One of them called out ‘Johnny how do you stay so slim?’ ‘Ah it’s the singing’ he replied. There and then I thought that is the fitness regime for me!’ I’ve been trying to track him down since to point out that he was wrong, very wrong; pointing to my belly like someone trying to get elected to council pointing sadly and sternly at a pothole in election leaflets.

We had to do Irish dancing before Riverdance, before it was fashionable black dresses and floppy shirts. The dancing teachers drummed the fear of God into you, if you saw Fame and the woman bang a stick on the ground and tell them ‘this is where you start paying’ you’ll have a tenth of the idea, except no one in 1977 wanted to be famous for Irish dancing. Attired in a green felt dress and knickers on show you kicked in the back room of the Red House or in the Centre Halls display on St Patrick’s Day, when from Woking The Jam were kicking the doors out of the town. It was part of what you did, and it is part of what we all do now, with joy and abandon, on the dance floor over refreshed with cousins and sisters, to the mortification of our children ‘I don’t know why you think you can do Irish dancing you just look like a load of horses going round pawing the floor or wobbling like penguins’ Pah! What do they know? – my sister was impressing her friends in a Devon pub until someone pointed out Michael Flatley’s Mum was in the room so she calmed down and went and sat in the corner – busted; like people who go into hospitals with white coats and pens in their pockets pretending to be brain surgeons

Part of everyone’s upbringing was our music, every family party, every dance, the names and music of bands like The Fureys & The Dubliners on the reel to reel tape recorder (that broke when Michael put nails in it trying to be like M in James Bond) were the background to Dads and Uncles trying to open a Double Diamond Party Seven with a can opener or coming back from the bar at dances holding pints of Guinness, crisps and bottles of minerals with straws (was it our fault? Is David Attenborough shaking his fist at us). It wasn’t about pubs with faux Celtic lettering or floppy hats, no not when you had a light up Vatican, a plastic Mary in your knicker drawer and a Brigid’s cross on the wall.

In the week we spent clearing out the Phoenix Centre little music venue in Woking that was built upon the traditions we grew up with of having music everywhere for everyone -apologies for any vacant spaces of exhaustion during the show we rushed to the radio station straight from clearing and cleaning – I was so happy to have had the chance to talk to and share the interviews from, Sean Cannon – The Dubliners & latterly The Dublin Legends and Eddie Furey – The Fureys, I couldn’t wait to slap out my tenuous claim to fame that my Aunty Mary was the midwife who delivered Finbar Furey the youngest of the musical family. I was humoured. Then also, hearing from Sean and Eddie, years of touring, how much they still love it, the folk clubs and venues that abounded in those days, sadly now so many closed, where Ewan MacColl was first singing The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face and the likes of Billy Connolly were plying their trade. I was a bit star struck there’s no denying.

Woking has always had a large vibrant Irish community and growing up here as part of that was a special time, some of the songs and memories too from those days will be shared – I’m not sure about changing names to protect the innocent, I am not sure how innocent we all were 😉 but I see how those memories play out on the background now no longer there. They sing ‘my house it fell to progress’ and ‘the grey unyielding concrete makes a city of my town’ and McAlpine’s Fusiliers line up and form the first front to push an agenda that all those communities that came here to build it no longer feel a part of. My Uncle came here to build Sheerwater, he met my Aunt here and during courting introduced his sister, my Mum to my Aunt’s brother my Dad, a double wedding and 13 children between them all, they settled in East London and we had an exchange of prisoners every holiday and chance we could arrange. We are, like so many of my friends from so many families, from so many different nationalities, one community, Woking.

There is a competition to win two tickets to see The Fureys on 19 April if you can answer Eddie Furey’s question – what was the song they played on Top of The Pops that John Peel named as his record of the year. You can email

You can see The Fureys at Camberley Theatre on 19 April and The Dublin Legends at GLive on 20 April

You can listen again to the show here


Brian Boru’s March – The Chieftains

Alternative Ulster – Stiff Little Fingers

Fields of Athenry – Tony Fuller – The Free MacGuinness Band

Belle of Belfast City – Kirsty MacColl & The Pogues

Irish Rover – The Pogues

Dublin In The Rare Auld Times – The Dubliners with Paddy Reilly

Teenage Kicks – The Undertones

Oro, Se Do Bheatha ‘Bhaile Sinead O’Connor

When You Were Sweet Sixteen – The Fureys

Green Fields of France – Davey Arthur & The Fureys

Four Green Fields – Phoenix Chroi