There’s an advert on Irish television where the winner of the EuroMillions lottery buys a tropical island for his friends and family… oh Ireland in the sun!
Didn’t he know there was a Caribbean island there already which is more Irish than Ireland?
Montserrat is the tiny 39 and a half sqm Emerald Island of the Caribbean because of its Irish links which run deep.
The Irish have been around the Leeward Island since 1632, sent there from neighbouring St Kitts and later Virginia.
Fly the flag
Montserrat was to build a thriving economy around tobacco and indigo (that’s blue dye) and later tobacco and sugar.
Fast forward to today by way of Cromwell’s transportations, and if it wasn’t for the sun, palm trees, volcano and rain forest you’d swear you were in Ireland.
It’s there in the island flag with its figure of a cailín standing by a cross and holding a harp. We’ll gloss over the Union flag in the corner.
While a shamrock adorns Government House.
So why then is Montserrat not a throng of Irish visitors from the Old Country?
Possibly because they prefer the Canaries and there is a lot to like about them but say that it’s Tenerife you love then you’ll love Montserrat too.
There’s the volcano which gives you the distinctive black beaches shared by both islands, though there is one white beach that we all love too on Montserrat.
While there’s evidence of the volcano’s activity in the form of a buried city, and now St Vincent’s has awoken and is erupting the focus switches south to the ghost town of Plymouth.
The best place to view it is from the Garibaldi Hill viewpoint or the viewpoint from Jack Boy Hill on the east of the island following a short hike.
Combined, of course, with a trip to the Montserrat Volcano Observatory.
While Montserrat’s Irishness is all around you in its symbols (the shamrock stamp in your passport), names of villages and they say too in an Irish brogue it goes into overdrive around St Patrick’s Day.
When the Montserratians tie in their own commemoration of their slavery past with the saint’s day.
For the craic, yes, but also because it is steeped in their history.
St Paddy’s Day, mon
On St. Patrick’s Day in 1768, the African slaves on the island rose up and it is alleged nine slaves were hanged.
And they have never been forgotten with St. Patrick’s Day now heradling a ten-day festival to honour their Afro-Irish heritage.
Again there are too few of the Irish who go out to Montserrat, and we mean to do something about it.
And trawling through the records we’ve seen that Martin is a regular visitor out to the Emerald Island
Where he was a special guest at Governor’s wife Sujue Davis’s popular latest Coffee Morning on Tuesday, March 11 before that same evening performing at the Uncle’s bar/restaurant a popular night spot in Flemings.
And the Montserrat Reporter (are you employing?) chronicled that ‘the three-man Irish band performed throughout the week at probably every ‘rum shop and bar’ and is a major performer in the popular “Pub Crawl’.
So Montserrat, all 4,900 of them, celebrates their Irish roots with good trad music then, and also its Caribbean heritage with our favourite Soca Music.
Arrow hits the mark
Hot-hot-hot? Yeah, you now it, mon. It’s this classic from one of Montserrat’s favourite sons, the legendary late Soca star Arrow
So to get there… you’ll fly out of the UK to Antigua where it’s only a 15-minute flight out to your Ireland in the Sun.
And here’s where you’ll stay with a wide range of hotel rooms, guest houses, villas and apartments all flagged up on the Montserrat site.
And with less than 5,000 people on the island, everyone practically knows each other, and if you say you’re Irish you’ll get a warm welcome from Warren and Cherise!
Guide me, O thou great Redeemer, Pilgrim through this barren land. I am weak but thou art mighty. Hold me with thy powerful hand. Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven. Feed me till I want no more. – Bryn Terfel, Cardiff
And Cwm Rhondda (The Rhondda) is the unofficial anthem of Wales.
Now the screw was peeping, as the lag lay sleeping. Dreaming about his girl Sal. And that auld triangle went jingle-jangle. All along the banks of the Royal Canal – The Auld Triangle, The Dubliners
Luke Kelly drolled that ‘in the female prison there are 75 women and among them I wish I did dwell, and that auld triangle could go jingle-jangle all along the banks of the Royal Canal.’
And if you know this song, penned by Brendan Behan (and if you don’t then you’ve been missing out) you’ll walk along the Royal Canal in the north of Dublin singing it aloud.
Or if you’re cycling too as I have done, all the time hoping that the broken bottles wouldn’t puncture my tyres.
That was then, and this is now, and the announcement of the €12m scenic 130km Royal Canal Greenway is to be welcomed.
If you do the lot you’ll have chalked off 90 bridges, 30 locks, 17 harbours and four aqueducts.
And take in Co. Dublin, Kildare, Meath, Westmeath and Longford.
So as a preamble let’s get on with our Rainy Days and Songdays six of the best songs with Irish landmarks.
What a Corker!
As I was goin’ over the Cork and Kerry Mountains, I met with Captain Farrell and his money he was countin’. I first produced my pistol, and then produced my rapier. I said ‘stand and deliver, or the devil he may take ye – Whiskey in the Jar, Thin Lizzy
Musha rain, dum a doo, dum a da.
The Cork and Kerry Mountains have always held a special affection for me as the first travel assignment when a cub reporter in Reading.
Going over said mountains in our Citroen cars was not helped by a bout of seasickness going over on the Swansea-Cork ferry.
But nothing that the local tipple, Murphy’s Stout and the craic didn’t put right.
Low lie those fields
Those low-lying fields: Athenry
Low lie the Fields of Athenry, where once we watched the small birds fly. Our love was on the wing. We had dreams and songs to sing. It’s so lonely round the Fields of Athenry – Fields of Athenry, The High Kings
Lowing, or maybe braying, around those Fields of Athenry were our four donkeys which came with the rented cottage.
I can’t remember what la famiglia called the three others but mine was Oaty as in Donkey Oaty!
I was maybe just tilting at windmills.
And as for stealing Trevelyan’s corn… we just bought some from the Centra for the donkeys.
The Band is back together
In a neat little town they call Belfast, apprentice to tradeI was bound…, a sad misfortune came over me which caused me to stray from the land, far away from my friends and relations, betrayed by the Black Velvet Band – Black Velvet Band, Peaky Blinders
It was more good fortune that came over me… to take me away from my friends and relations to the States after university.
And work, no not on the Black Velvet Band’s pitch, Broadway, but Boston where I inevitably served tables at an Irish pub.
Where every night among the most requested songs was Black Velvet Band.
And yes, of course, like our gullible hero of the song ‘many an hour’s sweet happiness I spent I spent in this neat little town Belfast.
As for a black velvet band, or any colour for that matter, try as I may I never persuaded one… i wonder if she’ll be there when I return.
Where the Dark Mourne sweeps…
Oh Mary this London’s a wonderful sight with people here working by day and by night, they don’t sow potatoes, nor barley, nor wheat. But there’s gangs of them dogging for gold in the street. At least when I asked them that’s what I was told so I just took a hand at this diggin’ for gold. But for all that I found there I might as well be in the place where the Dark Mourne sweeps down to the sea – Mountains o’ Mourne, Don McLean
Mourne Mountains, Co. Down: It’s always a thrill to see the Mountains of Mourne, my Dear Old Mum’s home province, when driving either north or south.
Mountains of Mourne this sweeping range, has a special place in our hearts as the lullaby I would sing to Daddy’s Little Girl.
It was round by Brockagh’s corner
It was down by Brockagh Corner one morning I did stray, I met a fellow rebel and this to me did say, he had orders from our captain to assemble at Dunbar. But how were we to get there without a car – The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem
Beockagh, Co. Donegal: And still on lullabies this gentle little ditty about the Irish War of Independence is an alternative to nursery rhymes.
If your mother is from Nationalistic north-west Donegal that is.
Well it got me through childhood… give three cheers to the Teasy and Johnson’s Motor Car.
Meeting of minds in Wicklow
Sweet vale of Avoca! How calm could I rest. In thy bosom of shade with the friends I love best. Where the storms that we feel in this cold world should cease. And thy hearts, like thy waters, be mingled on peace. – The Meetings of the Waters,John McCormack
And my beloved old homestead of Co. Wicklow and its poet laureate, Thomas Moore.
The Meetings is a family favourite, going back to the days when my Donegal Granny and Grandpa honeymooned here.
We would often return there in our Thirteen Years in Ireland on family day trips.
And skim stones which can be more of a danger sport than you might imagine.
Particularly if you’re that young boy on the other side of the bank who ducks just as a stone is jumping up out of the water.
Just like watching the detectives don’t get cute, just like watching the detectives, I get so angry when the teardrops start, But he can’t be wounded ’cause he got no heart. – Elvis Costello, Watching the Detectives
And with apologies to the Poet Laureate of New Wave.
But it’s not the bespectacled one but the new run of Line of Duty, shot in Belfast, which has got me thinking.
About my favourite detectives in the cities they are associated with.
So here are seven deadly detective shows, their music and their cities.