Auld Triangle


True to his word Jon reminds us, “As I said, The Gaol Song reminded me of this one, learnt on FSC I think.”

A bit more radical this one, written by Dominic Behan for his brother Brendan and included in the latter’s play The Quare Fellow, it subsequently took on a life of its own. Although it’s not explicit in the song, which seems more mundane in its regrets, the play is set the day before the execution of an inmate for a crime that is never specified. Perhaps it’s not surprising that the song later became identified with the Irish rebel cause. Mind you I think the play actually has wider issues in its sights, but then I’m no expert of Behan either. What I do know is that Brendan spent time in Mountjoy prison and was active in the IRA. His stretch at HM’s pleasure was probably responsible for setting him on the path of writing as a career, as his first play, The Landlady, was written while in Mountjoy. On release he dedicated himself to writing but never renounced the Republican cause. Both literature and politics, however, were somewhat subsumed by his drinking. Start with Wiki on the song here and the play here, then you can delve into the lives of the various Behans at your leisure should you so wish.



20 Responses to “Auld Triangle”

  1. Simon Dewsbury says:

    And there was I expecting a wedding song!
    Excellent version

  2. Rosie says:

    Must admit that I thought there would be a wedding song too, or something topical for the day! This was lovely though, and as always the concertina is brilliant.

  3. Phil says:

    Top marks for choosing a republican song! I love this song – the Doug Anthony All Stars used to do a terrific version, prefaced by Fred Geis’s “Lament for Brendan Behan”. (I thought Jon lost the tempo a bit, though.)

  4. Reinhard says:

    Why, Rosie, this song *is* topical for the day with Ms Middleton sacrificing herself for a life imprisonment.

  5. muzza(s.e.England) says:

    Very moving song………… I wish humanity could live in peace.

  6. Jane Ramsden says:

    Thanks, Phil, for the pointer to DAAS, whom I hadn’t heard of before. Here is a YouTube link for those who want to hear their version of The Auld Triangle. Their voices positively ring:

    I like this 1976 version by Luke Kelly:

    But perhaps this version of The Royal Canal by The High Kings (as opposed to our Remnant King) is particularly perversely fitting for a royal wedding day:

    Thanks, Jon, for spurring me on to sample several versions of this song. I’ve already said how much I liked ‘Derry Gaol’ and ‘The Gaol Song.’

  7. Jane Ramsden says:

    I heard tell one of the 1001 books you must read afore you die is Brendan Behan’s ‘Borstal Boy.’ I read it very young, as my father had an interest in such. By ‘such,’ I think anything written that was about (in)justice, (in)equality & class difference as much as anything else. I was too young, but it made an impression to this day. I think I should read it again.

    @ Muzza: We might have to settle for most people, mostly at peace, most of the time.

  8. SRD says:

    Nicely done, although I do like the Pogues version.

  9. Annabell says:

    thanks a lot, Jon.

  10. I learnt this song years ago, prolly from Luke Kelly, and I knew Dominic Behan wrote it, but I didn’t know until today that it was written for The Quare Fellow – despite the fact that I had a small part in a 1962 production of the play: I don’t think we used the song in our production.

  11. Diana says:

    You really have to read the words to truly get the sense of this – conditions were atrocious in gaol according to this “song”. Again I concur with some of last years comments – it was not a theme I was expecting.

  12. Muzza (N.W.Surrey.UK) says:

    Just for information-
    Lesley Garrett has just been on “Wogan” and she has brought out an “Old favourites Folk song CD”. She has just sung “A bold grenadier” (used in ‘Far from the madding crowd’).

  13. John Biggs (Welsh Marches) says:

    A very moving song this and Jon expresses it beautifully.
    I know little of the work of Dominic Behan, but he visited our Southampton folk club once in the 60s. In his chat between songs and poems, I remember he made this one profound statement……”The man’s ambition must be small, who writes his name on a s*** house wall”! Now why has that stayed with me all these years ?

  14. Diana says:

    John in the past I noticed that you had made some references to Southampton and I wondered at the time if you had resided there. I was born in Winchester and I do remember going to Southampton often as a child, because I think it was only about 15 miles or so away and the buses ran there regularly.

  15. John Biggs (Welsh Marches) says:

    Yes Diana, From school, I went in 1960 to train as a cartographer with Ordnance Survey, and finally moved back to the Welsh borders in 1979, by which time they had taught a computer to replicate the skills I had learnt.
    During my time in Southampton I haunted The Balladeer Club, The Fol’csle Club at the Bay Tree Inn and ‘The Blacksmiths’. I also frequented the notorious Yellow Dog Jazz Club and the blues sessions at The Railway Inn in Portsmouth, and in these clubs I first heard a promising young blues singer called Long John Baldry. So there in a nutshell you have the scene of my mis-spent youth and the start of my love of folk music.
    My wife to be and I bought our wedding ring in a second hand shop close to Winchester Cathedral. It’s cost, £2.00. She has always said I know how to give a girl a good time.

  16. Diana says:

    How interesting John – although it is frightening to think you were replaced by a computer. Dreadful! My mother was a silver waitress as a young woman iin Dumpers which was quite a high class restaurant then, extremely close to the cathedral, if I remember correctly. It has been a few years since I visited Winchester but I don’t think the centre has changed very much because I had seen snatches of it on the television. I remember Long John B – he certainly was, and many happy times spent in Portsmouth and Southsea. Of course I have no recollection of all your haunts but I do like to think of your wife’s wedding ring costing only £2.00. Well you must have given her a good time cos she married you didn’t she?

  17. Muzza (N.W Surrey-UK) says:

    @Diana……..Dumpers!… unfortunate name for a restaurant,……..I wonder if the public loos are called ‘Henri’s Bistro’.

  18. Diana says:

    It iwas quite a high class restaurnat Muzza. But agree a strange name.

  19. Brian Kell says:

    I have not heard this for a very long time. Takes me straight back to The Elliott’s club in Birtley late 60s joy

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