1014 is the best place to start Mustard Finnegan’s history of Ireland. It in that year Brian Boru defeated the Danes. For hundreds of years, Ireland was known as the Isle of Saints and Scholars – the image of monks in monasteries; smoking pot, lovingly illustrating copies of the gospels, praying and guiding the heathens in Europe outta of the Dark Ages. Though not all of that is necessarily the true. Ireland was made up of a bunch of small kingdoms with kings more like Afghan warlords or the Bloods and Crips – I’m the king of from here to that rock over there and I’m gonna steal your cattle and run back to my ring fort. Ireland had big problem with the Vikings. The Vikings were a bunch of dudes from Scandinavia with helmets with horns sticking out of them who loved to vacation in Ireland and plunder the Irish monasteries and murder the monks. After a few hundred years of this the Vikings started to stay around and started, like all the cities in Ireland and meddled in Irish politics (bit like the EU these days).
Brian was an ambitious sort of fella and conquered one Irish kingdom after another and made them pay tribute to him (this is not like Michael Jackson’s Tribute, Brian would take hostage of the kid of the lesser kings and if the lesser king didn’t do his bidding and pay taxes and send solders when Brian needed them then that was the end of the young fella). Once the Irish were under his heal he went after the meddling Vikings of Dublin. Coming face to face for battle on Clontarf beach on Good Friday 1014 – the Irish warriors kicked serious Viking ass along with kicking the asses of the Dublin Viking’s mates from the Isle of Mann and Denmark – many of whom after the beat down drown in Dublin Bay trying to escape the Celtic axemen, starting the long tradition of pollution in Dublin bay. Unfortunately, for Brian, who being wicked old (he was about 73) and was praying in his tent as the battle raged so he did not notice a sneaky Viking who suck up on the big B and buried an axe in Brian’s back and that was the end of him.
The Norman Invasion
Belfast Andi – Irish Ways Irish Laws
After 1014, Ireland went back to it petty warlords fighting with each other over this bit of bog and that sheep over there and all was good and dandy until a woman got in the picture. In 1167, Diarmait Mac Murchada (that’s Murphy in English), King of Leinster (the east bit of Ireland) ran off with Derval (the woman in question), the daughter of the King of Meath (the rich bit of Ireland in them days and these day) and the wife of Tighearnán Mór Ua Ruairc (Terry O’Rourke in English), King of Bréifne (a strip of fields and bogs that ran from Meath to Sligo these days called Leitrim). Tighearnán was pissed off of course and with the help of the High King, Rory O’Conner, they ran old Diarmait outta the country. Diarmait being a schemer and a general a-hole approached a Norman Knight called Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke also known by the name Strongbow (Strongbow is much more Knightly and Ciderish name, Richard de Clare sound more like the name of the owner of chain of ladies hair saloons). Diarmait promised Strongbow his daughters hand in marriage, who by all accounts was a pretty hot chick, as well as succession rights as King of Leinster, if he’d help him out. Strongbow not having much going on as the King of England when not hammering the Scots was beating up on his own Knights, took him up on the offer and arrived with his mates (Fitzgerald, Fitzgibbon, Burke, Butler and Prendergast) and the best in 12th century military technology gold pieces could buy. Shortly there after Diarmait was back being King of Leinster but over old England, old Henry II didn’t like the idea of one of his knights becoming a king of anything and setting up a rival kingdom so he called up the Pope and asked for the OK to invade Ireland (of course this is the one time the Pope is a bloody Englishman) and once permission given Henry arrives and declares himself Overlord of Ireland.
The Pale and Beyond
Blood or Whiskey – Follow Me up to Carlow/Holt’s Way
BibleCodeSundays – Clew Bay Pirates
The Dreadnoughts – Grace O’Malley
We can skip ahead to the 1590’s now, the Norman Knight have gone native (more Irish then the Irish themselves) and the English rule is now pushed back to the general Dublin Area – known as The Pale. Ever heard the expression “Beyond The Pale”? Meaning being outside proper behavior, well that was where the wild Irish lived with their new Norman mates, fighting with each other over this bog and that bog and the odd goat.
One of those Chieftains was a woman called Grace O’Malley, the Pirate Queen who was so fearsome that she show up bare breasted in Queen Lizzy’s court in London to demand the removal of the Queens representative in Connacht.
The Flight Of The Earls
Black 47 – Red Hugh
Queen Elizabeth was a tough old boot in her own right and took a leaf outta ol’ Brian’s book raising the sons of the Gaelic Chieftains in her court. One of these lads was Red Hugh O’Donnell of the Tyrone. Hugh and his mate O’Neill of Ulster (The O’Neills are the oldest and biggest family in Europe, there is something like 3,000,000 descendants of Niall of the Nine Hostages the original Neill running about, the O’ meaning descended from, talk about virile) played a good game with the Queen. When in her court they played along by English rules and when back home in Ulster they did what ever they bloody pleased. But Lizzie’s henchmen in Ireland keep pushing in on O’Neill and O’Donnell business and enough to piss’ em off that they stopped playing the game and rebelled. The Irish chieftains were able to push the Perfidious Albion almost out of the country but were finally defeated a the Battle of Kinsale in 1601 – Kinsale is as far as you can get from Ulster, being on the south coast in Cork. O’Neill and O’Donnell and most of the other O’s fled the country for Spain and that was the end of Gaelic Ireland.
The Plantation Of Ulster
Being traitors to the crown, all of the lands of the O’Neill and O’Donnell went to the crown who decided that the best way to control the Irish was to get rid of ‘em and replace ‘em with good English protestants – this was after the reformation of course.
“Here’s a health to the Protestant Minister And his church without meaning or faith For the foundation stones of his temple are The bollocks of Henry the Eight” – Brendan Behan
This plan didn’t work out so well as most of the smart English with ambitions for advancement went to the America’s and stole the Indians land so in Ulster the numbers had to be made up with low class, lowland Scots. The Irish got kicked out and the planters got the good land (and the natives the views).
Cromwell in Ireland
Flogging Molly – Tobacco Island
The Fisticuffs – Young Ned of The Hill
The 1600’s was an ugly time to live in Ireland. When the civil war broke out in England the Catholics of Ireland, Gaelic and Old English supported the cause of Charles I and took the opportunity to try and get their lands back from the planters – much slaughter followed. With the end of the war in England and Chuck’s head on a spike Cromwell turned his eye on Ireland and took revenge in the Irish for rebelling and waged holy war on the population. Cromwell was by far the biggest Fu#ker in Irish history, his soldiers laid wasted to much of the county, butchering the citizens of Wexford and Drogheda when the garrison of those cities didn’t surrender fast enough. When he didn’t murder you, then he transported you to Barbados to your death as a slave in the sugar plantations or worse to Connacht and eternity as a bogger. Allegedly Rihanna is descended from one of those Irish transported to Barbados…..I told you Cromwell was a fu#ker. Cromwell eventually dies (of malaria of all things) and the Stuarts are back on the throne of England. Cromwell’s body exhumed, hung, drawn and quartered.
Ollie Cromwell, Lord Protector and general bastard. Warts’n’all
The Battle Of The Boyne
Roaring Jack – The Old Divide And Rule
Hugh Morrison – Ye Jacobites By Name
Prydein – Minstrel Boy
The Tossers – Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye
The Stuarts were bad new. It would have been in everyone’s favor if Guy Fawkes had his way……BOOM! Things calmed down under Chuck II but there are problem when his brother Jimmy II replaces him. Well wee Jimmy was a Celtic support and the England parliament, Huns. They manage to live with him until a son was born and then they realism the Catholics won’t be going away. Jimmy is given short shift and exiled to France with his daughter Mary and her Dutch son-in-law William of Orange put in his place. Jimmy II raises any army with the support of the King of France and sails for Ireland to join up with his Irish supporters.
James manages to set back peace, love and understanding 1,000 years in Ireland when he lays siege to the walled city of Londonderry. The siege is only lifted when Williams ships arrive with solders and supply’s . The two sides play cat and mouse for a little while and finally meet on the banks of the river Boyne on July 12th, 1690. James’ French and Irish army verses Willies Dutch, German, English troops. William wins and James runs away. The most ironic thing about this is the bad history that still abates- the brethren up in Ulster regard this a a victory over the Pope and Popery, yet the Pope was playing politics here not religion and supported the protestant William and most of Williams army was Catholic – the Pope was trying to stick it to the French. With Jimmy gone, the Irish fell back to Aughrim under the command of Patrick Sarsfield, defeat followed and then on to Limerick. The City of Limerick was put under siege (that it still needs to clean up after) but William didn’t want to wait it out and offered a fairly decent treaty – join me or go to France and join the French army. The Irish took the French route and spent the next hundred years dying on the battlefields of Europe for the ungrateful French. With Willie back in England and Sarfield and his men dying for France. The over loards in Ireland we left to their own devices to introduce the penal laws
“Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach!” – “Remember Limerick and Saxon Perfidy”
There is a old joke that goes something like this…..
Question – How do you describe a well balanced Irish man?
Answer – Someone with a chip on both shoulders.
Well The Fisticuffs are a bunch of well balanced, streetwise, blue collar Irish fellows from Chicago, so not only have they the chips they have big shoulders and they aint afraid to use’em. You’ll Not Take Us Alive is The Fisticuffs 3rd full length release and its fast and abrasive Celtic punk straight off the streets of the Southside. I’d describe The Fisticuffs as ‘old’ Flogging Molly, meets The Popes meets The Tossers in a bar brawl and they are the ones with the knuckledusters and they don’t pull punches.
A coupla’ months ago I ran across this band and ordered their debut CD, Bruised But Not Beaten and found it to be a very enjoyable entry into my Paddy-Punk library. And although this first release didn’t immediately inspire me to write a review, it had certainly whetted my appetite for further material. Fortuitous timing as I discovered this 2006 release only weeks before their follow-up disc, Neatly Stumblin’ was released. It is this CD that I am writing about today.
The Fisticuffs are a young, (formed in 2005,) six-piece hailing from South-Side Chicago and according to their MySpace page, list The Tossers and Flogging Molly early amongst their influences. These influences are evident from the first listen through, and comparisons to those bands are proving a challenge to avoid. So apologies in advance.
Neatly Stumblin’s instrumentation includes fiddle, mandolin, whistle, guitar, bass and drums, with some added harmonica and banjo peppered in here and there for some added spice. At the front of this mix are Bobby Baldwin’s barking vocals coming in like a mid-way point between Flogging Molly’s Dave King and The Killigan’s Brad Hoffman, but with a pinch more ire, like he is justing getting past a mean case of road rage. My only complaint is that they seem mixed a slight bit too loud on some songs, giving a feeling of disconnectedness from the rest of musicians. This, however, is not the case for all tracks, fortunately, and the majority of the vocals work quite well with the rest of the sound creating a solid recognizable entity.
The band chose to include a couple of covers on this release, (including Whiskey in the Jar, and Finnegan’s Wake,) however, with a total of sixteen tracks on the disc bringing it’s total time in at just under an hour, one can’t really accuse them of using covers as “filler” material. Originals on the disc range from toe-tappers to mosh soundtracks to a couple of lilting instrumentals, without a dog in the bunch. However, I have no idea why the band chose to not put God Bless Ya Rosie on their MySpace page. This is an awesome song that would definitely be moving this disc!
Now I know that this is reflective of my own personal tastes, but the mandolin/fiddle interplay from the debut release is what made me buy this sophomore disc, and I am really happy I did. This particular element is a strong feature on Neatly Stumblin’ and, along with Mr. Baldwin’s enthusiastic vocals, really creates a defining signature sound for this band.
With its many good songs and catchy riffs, I would recommend The Fisticuffs’ Neatly Stumblin’ for fans of Flogging Molly, The Killigans, and The Tossers, or just anyone who really digs mandolin and fiddle riddled Chicago-Irish punk!