He was first inspired to write ‘The English Market (Christmas Angel) Song’ two years ago when a stallholder told him his name had “come up among the traders” in the context of writing a song about the market.
“The English Market is a very deep and meaningful place for me, going back to my childhood. I’d often take a shortcut through the market for diversion, colour, entertainment, and maybe an O’Flynn’s sausage on a stick,” says Spillane, who recalls his mother telling him babies came from the English Market.
“It made a lot of sense. There were a lot of chickens, rabbits and ducks, a lot of flesh and naked animals — it seemed like the kind of place babies would come from. There were eggs and turkeys and cabbages — babies wouldn’t be too far away from that produce. Also there are three storks surrounding the fountain.”
These resonances, he says, resulted in the lines: ‘In the English Market I was born, one cold and frosty day/As they wrapped me up in a cabbage leaf, I could hear the angels say…’ Spillane says he’s also delighted with the line: ‘My mother gently dipped me in the fountain of pure love/With her tender heart she missed one part where she held me from above’. With this line, he says he moved the Greek myth of Achilles into the Market.
“Achilles was dipped in the fountain of immortality by his mother and thus could not be killed.
“She held him by the heel, however and this was his weak spot, and an arrow to the heel killed him. The part of us that is held and protected by our mother is our weak spot — not toughened.”
While walking in the city he met an English teacher, Stephen Daunt, who told Spillane his middle name was Achilles. “I met Achilles in Cork, what a coincidence. When these things happen it seems like you are working on an intuitive level, where everything is falling nicely into place.”
Spillane will sing the song, which is on his new album, The Man Who Came In From The Dark, on RTÉ Radio 1’s Countrywide on December 20 and on RTÉ 1’s The Saturday Night Show on December 27.