On February 15th, 2021, John Buckley McQuaid, released an album of original songs about Ireland, This Is Where I Keep My Dreams, to a thundering silence from the media.
Long have I missed albums from Irish artists that address our present situation of apathy and indifference. Could it be that the media is ignoring such releases or could it be that such releases have so little commercial appeal, that artists refrain from recording and releasing them?
The situation for musicians is desperate, between Spotify and COVID-19, many musicians have thrown in the towel and have had to find other means of supporting themselves.
We asked twelve Irish musicians and others working in the live music industry to strike four notes in response to the challenges of 2020. Here's what they said:https://t.co/KY2SZ2JuLa@broadsheet_ie @johncummins1973 @david_soitis @DavidKeenanmuso @dlLambo @AvocaReaction
— CassandraVoices (@VoicesCassandra) December 10, 2020
This brings me to ‘This Is Is Where I Keep My Dreams’, which delves into Irish history and has many comments, both critical and compassionate to make on the present situation. Mr. McQuaid (no relation to the late Archbishop!) is saying something that needs to be heard – now, more than ever! He has also created videos which add wonderful visuals to accompany many of the songs (links provided).
Here’s to the island of saints and of scholars
ere’s to the biblical beasts of the field
Here’s to the kingdom of clerical collars
Here’s to the wounds that may never be healed.
John Buckley McQuaid, ‘Land Of The Magdalenes’
‘Land Of The Magdalenes’ is a tale of the Diaspora, echoing James Joyce, a man who would not bend the knee to either Church or State, who referred to Irish art as ‘the cracked looking glass of a servant’ – an image of colonial subjugation.
Neil Burns rails against middle class mentalities dominating Irish Arts, arguing publication and fame is based on who you know, not the merit of your work.https://t.co/SxRqvHZsyv@foreverantrim @broadsheet_ie @BowesChay @wadeinthewate11 @Elzobub @IlsaCarter1 @KevinHIpoet1967
— CassandraVoices (@VoicesCassandra) July 21, 2021
Joyce himself went into exile in Europe, not being a man to play popinjay to an English court. He was guilty of the cardinal sin of pride, the sin of the devil – the defiant Joycean stance is still a reproach to any servile attitude towards Church, State, or a twisted, demonic God, who may, even now, be making Joyce pay throughout all eternity for his defiance.
Today the image in the servant’s looking glass is that of a post-colonial pig in lipstick smirking at its own reflection, aping its betters, mired in its own moral excrement, the sow rolling merrily on its young.
Rosary Beads and Respectability
Instead of rosary beads and respectability, we have the brash, vulgar, ignorant Castle Catholics, educating their children in private schools, a new pernicious breed of self-interested professionals and the very wealthy, whose aspirations are status, the acquisition of wealth, and self-advancement.
Give us this day lord, our villas in Spain, Lord
Give us our castles with breakfast in bed
Give us a case of expensive champagne Lord,
Give us a place Lord, to lay down our heads.
John Buckley McQuaid ‘Dear Mister Taoiseach’
All a far cry from the childhood of the late Frank McCourt, who wrote of having to conceal a pig’s head under newspaper walking home for fear he’d be mocked at Christmas, as they couldn’t afford a turkey.
When the brash Celtic Tiger gave way to the Crash; in a pub one afternoon, I noticed a couple walk in with Brown Thomas bags and noted their instinct to conceal them. People did not approve.
Today the Brown Thomas Brigade no longer care – the sale of luxury goods goes up and up, and the divide between the wealthy and the poor has widened and widened, decimating an already struggling middle class.
And you can be sure that we’ll never forget
The culture of vultures and dealers and debt
The struggles and troubles, the gold, white and green
So much for our beautiful 1916
John Buckley McQuaid ‘Prodigal Kiss’
So we have replaced foreign oppressors with our own.
Class solidarity and resistance against oppression is necessary around the world today, but this nation has an extremely important role to play, and is surely judged by how it treats its vulnerable – the young – sure stick them in hotel bedrooms where they can’t even learn how to crawl – the sick – let them drop dead on waiting lists – and the old – let them die in nursing homes.
As capitalism consumes itself, we witness the consequences globally, increasingly powerful vested interests hold sway in so called democracies, polarising the divide, the social fabric disintegrates, and the world begins to convulse.
We have witnessed Brexit, Trump, civil unrest, our own electoral shifts, the established powers clinging on as the centre weakens, and the left and the right finding themselves curious bedfellows in opposing the establishment. All the while in this country, we have:
Trotters trotting to the trough.
John Buckley McQuaid ‘Homeless Hotels’ (unpublished)
So what would a visitor from the past witness here? If Oisin were to return from the land of his youth:
His heart is still young ‘though he’s long in the tooth
For want of a horse, he’ll be taking the Luas
He used to be cool now he’s yesterday’s news.
John Buckley McQuaid ‘Prodigal Kiss’
Maybe he’d notice the cherished children of the nation queueing outside the GPO. Maybe he’d
notice the obscenity of the tents in the city and the spectral figures begging for money. He might not even be sure what century he was in. He might notice the undeserving child eating its dinner off the ground outside the GPO.
So we had the Mother and Baby homes, the Industrial schools, the orphanages, the Magdalene laundries, the lunatic asylums, the Ferns report, the Ryan report…. those Girls who lived in hell:
Where cruelty prevailed
In gardens with forbidden trees
Whose walls we never scaled
John Buckley McQuaid ‘Girls Who Lived In Hell
@RositaSweetman provides new testimonies from survivors of Mother and Baby Homes, and calls for a criminal prosecution of the Catholic Church and full redress.https://t.co/Tas0iA0BPV#MotherAndBabyHomes #motherandbabyhomesreport @broadsheet_ie @amandaknox @AliceHarrisonBL
— CassandraVoices (@VoicesCassandra) January 22, 2021
Then we have the craw thumping about it all.
What of the babies they left on our doorsteps
What of the innocent girls that they shamed
What of the idols they fearfully worshipped
What of the bones that they buried unnamed
What of the tears they pretend not to notice
What of the orphanage blood in our veins
What of the postcards that nobody posted
Telling us where they could find the remains?
John Buckley McQuaid ‘Dear Mister Taoiseach
Today we have our homeless hostels:
Children living on the street, leave these premises by ten,
Every day’s a new defeat, seven, they’ll be back again
John Buckley McQuaid ‘Here In Deirdre Land’
The homeless, who are forced:
To scrounge for a crust, and curse the hyenas betraying our trust.
John Buckley McQuaid ‘Homeless Hotels’
Today we live in an open air Magdalene laundry, again sanctioned by the State, (and there are no high walls,) where the vulnerable are shoved into single rooms in hotels, battened on by private interests – if they’re in the way, they can be shovelled into a machine to clear them off the streets.
In the land of polished halos, nothing ever changes….
Undercurrent of Sadness
The undercurrent of sadness on this album by John Buckley McQuaid, himself an emigrant who lives in Denmark, is something that will actually suck you in, challenging the paralysis, indifference and passivity here, the ongoing connivance with the Church:
There’s a crowd of ghosts on O Connell Street
And a spire where a pillar used to be
Now the city boasts a mighty tourist fleet
While the Liffey’s full of longing for the sea….
John Buckley McQuaid ‘Prodigal Kiss’
Nothing ever changes. Nothing ever changes, in the land of polished halos…….
Comfort’s a terribly cruel addiction,
Comfort may never be cured,
Comfort is closing its eyes to affliction
Comfort just won’t be disturbed
John Buckley McQuaid ‘Comfort Just Won’t Be Disturbed’ (unpublished lyric)
The prod of a pitchfork might cure it.
There’s a distant sound of drumming
From the prisons of the poor
Soon the pitchforks will be coming
To administer the cure.
We should hang ourselves in private
For the greater common good
And they dared us to survive it
Or to write it down in blood.
John Buckley McQuaid ‘Likes Of You And Me’ (unpublished lyric)
The depressed souls in our world serve a useful function – the first to be picked off in a dysfunctional, valueless world – as an unheeded warning to the stampeding herd hurtling over a cliff.
Sins of the Father
The children of the Celtic rodent may bang away on their pianos, but the Sins of the Father will be visited on them.
Dreams may be real for the freaks and the fools
Finding employments like winning the pools
Thats why we sent him to all the right schools
Freedom is freedom to follow our rules
John Buckley McQuaid ‘Follow Our Rules’ (unpublished lyric)
And what of this boy?
I’m looking for a child
With a heart of gold
Stars in his eyes
And a long way to go.
John Buckley McQuaid ‘Looking For A Child’ (from the album Call It Love)
The Dreams of a child. The Dreams of a nation. Who dreams of being a pig?
Take a look in that cracked looking glass, and you may see the reflection of a lipsticked pig, possibly your own. You might ask yourself the question: is compassion possible in a land with a legacy of Church and State being so inextricably intertwined?
And if you haven’t heard the album yet, do yourself a favour and give it a listen: https://johnbuckleymcquaid.lnk.to/ThisIsWhereIKeepMyDreams
These songs deserve to be heard and we deserve to hear them.
‘Girls Who Lived in Hell’
’Land of the Magadalenes‘
’Candy and Cutlets‘
’Dear Mister Taoiseach‘