In honor of Father's Day, this segment of A Celtic Sojourn is dedicated to the theme of fathers and their relationships to their offspring. In many of these songs and poems, offspring means sons. We include here poems by John B. Keane, FR Higgins, Joseph Campbell, Patrick Kavanagh and Seamus Heaney, and songs from Robbie O'Connell, Ewan McColl, Dougie MacLean, Dick Gaughan and more.
Often in literature and songwriting in the Celtic countries, paternal relationships are based on recollections in later life. Sometimes the father has passed on: often, the writer is in middle or old age. The sudden realization the child is now becoming the parent is a common theme.
So, this program perhaps has a wistfulness, a nostalgia and yes, a sadness throughout. But the range of emotions is varied and interesting. Several of the writers, like Cork poet Theo Dorgan, and Scottish singer Dougie MacLean, explore the idea of talking with their fathers and each compares their own lives and lessons learned with their forbears. We will hear Seamus Heaney heaping praise on his father's legendary abilities in digging turf and admiration for his expertise with a spade. Heaney almost apologizes for choosing a pen as his own preferred tool to dig with.
Robbie O'Connell recollects his surprise when he learns that his father was over 60 when he learned to dance. Ewan McColl writes two bitter songs about the his father's struggles in mid-20th century industrial England. And Dick Gaughan spits McColl's socialist admonishments to his own son, telling him there are "no boogeymen, ogres, wicked witches, only greedy sons of bitches, who are waiting to exploit your life away."
We also include Irish poet Joseph Campbell, who remembers —prayer-like— going "with his father a ploughing." And also, a Linda Thompson song describing the pain of generations passing battle equipment from one to the other; bequeathing destruction from father to son.
So yes, this segment I suppose, is definitely not the hippity hop, polka dotted gift tie, let's-go-out-to-brunch-with-dad scene of normal Father's Days. But after all, we are A Celtic Sojourn, where to paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, all of our wars were merry and all of our songs were sad.
Happy Father's Day.
Playlist below. (Note: You need at least a basic (free) Spotify account to listen.)
"I Will Go with My Father a Ploughing," (Joseph Cambell) read by Jimmy McGee, Voices and Poetry of Ireland
"Memory of my Father," (Patrick Kavanagh) read by Brian O'Donovan
"Talking with My Father," Theo Dorgan, Voices and Poetry of Ireland
"The Call," Seamus Heaney
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