With St. Patrick’s Day upon us, I’ve been singing some of the songs that appear in my book, A NEW WORLD. At the beginning of the book, Eleanor Thatcher is dragged by her cousin to see Cahill McCrea, a singer of Irish songs in a pub in Boston. That’s Aiden Padraic Cahill McCrea to be formal 😉
(That cousin is Valerie Trimarco, who becomes Jack Ralston’s match in JACK’S HEART.)
Cahill is signing “Roddy McCorley (This is the classic Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem version.)
~ ~ ~
The song came to a rousing climax with the audience joining in on the last chorus and cheering the finish. One male voice, heavy with beer, rose over the calls of appreciation and demanded the singing of “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen.”
“No!” The negative chorus seemed near unanimous.
Looking past the bulk of the red-bearded man at the next table, Eleanor picked out the requester from among the crowd at the bar. He had to be at least half a foot shorter than her own five foot eight and easily a decade past retirement age. He wore a tweed cap, flanked by feathery white tufts above his ears.
” ‘I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen’!” he insisted above the protests. “And I’ll fight each and every one of you who doesn’t want it, do you hear?”
The idea of the little man fighting anyone seemed laughable, but she felt no urge to laugh. Someone in the room wasn’t laughing at all. She sensed tension.
She scanned the faces around the wizened, pugnacious man at the bar and saw expressions ranging from good-natured smiles to mildly irritated frowns. None produced the uneasiness she felt. But somewhere— “I’ll fight you, Cahill McCrea, if you’re thinking you won’t sing it. Fight you to the death. Do you hear that, Cahill McCrea?” The man’s challenge drew stifled chuckles.
Eleanor’s search ended at the next table. The red-bearded stranger—it was his tension she felt. The tight line of the beefy back and broad shoulders straining his white shirt communicated it as clearly as words. How strange. How could the little man at the bar possibly cause this bear of a man a moment’s concern? He wasn’t even looking in that direction. Instead, she realized as she followed his frown, he focused on Cahill McCrea.
The singer still rested at ease on the stool, although his smile appeared oddly tight. But that could have been an effect of the lights.
“Can’t you just imagine that?” Valerie gleefully murmured in Eleanor’s ear. “It would be like Mickey Rooney challenging Mike Tyson.”
Eleanor didn’t answer and didn’t take her eyes off the red-bearded man and McCrea. She had the feeling a drama was being acted out that only she could see.
Cahill McCrea ducked under the guitar strap, further shadowing his face, but his voice held only easy confidence when he called out, “I’ll sing you ‘Brennan on the Moor’ next set, Michael. Will that be doing you?”
She held her breath. Ridiculous. Nothing’s going to happen. But still she didn’t breathe. Warily, she watched the elderly man addressed as Michael slide off his stool. The red-bearded man seemed to coil, as if preparing to spring. McCrea held totally still, his face unreadable.
But Michael only doffed his tweed cap to McCrea with great ceremony before returning it to the nest of white tufts and resuming his seat.
As Cahill later explains to Eleanor and Valerie, the crowd doesn’t want Cahill signing the tear-jerker “I’ll Take You Home, Kathleen” (here by John Gary) because he becomes maudlin.
Cahill substitutes Brennan on the Moor (Jesse Ferguson sings it here), which includes his wife saving the day when “she handed him the blunderbuss from underneath her cloak.” Can’t resist listening to the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem’s version, too.
And because you can never have enough songs about highwaymen ;-), here’s “The Wild Colonial Boy” from the movie The Quiet Man.