Week 130 – The Flower of Sweet Strabane

Here’s a little gem of a song for Valentine’s Day. I learned this from the singing of the incomparable Johnny Moynihan on the second De Danann LP, Selected Jigs Reels And Songs. Pretty sure he also sang it when I saw the band live at the University of Kent in Canterbury in 1978. Hopefully Nick Passmore, who was one of the support acts for that concert, will be able to confirm this.

Googling around in connection with this week’s post, I came across a film of the band in concert from 1976 on YouTube. This song doesn’t feature, but there’s a couple of others from Johnny Moynihan which never made it onto a De Danann record.

‘The Flower of Sweet Strabane’ did feature, however, on this Wednesday’s Radio 2 Folk Show, in a lovely unaccompanied performance from the Irish traveller Margaret Barry (the notes to Selected Jigs Reels And Songs say “The song was given to us by Margaret Barry or Eamonn O’Doherty or somebody like that”). And Margaret Barry featured memorably in a fantastic programme broadcast later the same night on Radio 2: David Attenborough and the Natural History of Folk. This recounted his association sixty years ago, as a young BBC television producer, with Alan Lomax, in putting together the six-part Song Hunter series. This was a series of live broadcasts and, as was common BBC practice until much later, was unfortunately never recorded. But the radio programme included some fine recordings from the same era, posthumous recollections from Peter Kennedy and Bob Copper on their song-collecting adventures, very-much-still-here contributions from Reg Hall (who as a young squaddie managed to get a pass into the corporals’ mess so he could watch the programmes, and was duly bowled over by them). And, holding it all together, David Attenborough himself, demonstrating what a very fine, warm, intelligent, and actually rather funny human being he is. If you haven’t heard the programme do make sure you catch it on the iPlayer – just a few days left.

The Flower of Sweet Strabane

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