COLM O'REGAN: You could say more in a chant or a rhyme and what’s more you could hint

Everywhere I go, people always ask me: who I am, and where do I come from. And I always tell them, I’m from Dripsey, MIGHTY, MIGHTY DRIPSEY.

I rarely include the mighty, mighty Dripsey bit any more, at least not since aged eleven or so. At that time it was usually on a school-tour bus or train, sang with thirty other children. Looking back on it, maybe singing that was important. At the time, when Dripsey was in a post Mill-close slump, thirty school children singing the EVERYWHERE WE GO-OH chant on the way to Bunratty Castle (“Here’s a pound to spend, bring back the change.” “Thanks Mama.”), was a powerful statement of identity.

There was something about that non-standard bus trip, the moment where it turned left when it should have turned right and suddenly struck out into uncharted territory, high above ditches that had normally blocked your view, that made it necessary to state who we we-ere and where we came from. It wasn’t the only chant or song. There were dirty ones too. Dirty back then usually involved furtive mentions of faeces, farts, or people’s ‘bits’ and a tragedy involving someone who was innocently going about their business.

There was poor Johnny who went down to cut some wood (taboo, taboo). A freak gust of wind caused him to lose his grip on the axe, somehow, - the details are not entirely clear - and now he is out of action, potentially indefinitely. Just a man trying to provide fuel for his family, or one would hope he already had a family, as the nature of the injury might mean any natural conception was going to be complicated. As children we didn’t really appreciate the seriousness of having a ‘bollix in two’. We just went on merrily to another of Johnny’s misfortunes - the cow-milking incident. In this case, Johnny only had himself to blame. I don’t know of anyone, no matter how much of a novice milker, who would pull the tail instead of focussing on the more obvious, udder option.

Speaking of sudden gusts of wind, there were longer songs too - the epic Inky Pinky Parlez Vous - a story of a fart that travelled from a 92-year-old woman all the way down the street, across the Irish Sea to Bristol Rovers’ home ground, Rome where Julius Caesar accidentally swallowed it. These are innocent times, when the mere mention of a fart was enough to entertain a busful for a few miles.

(Inky Pinky Parlez Vous is a song that stretches at least back as far as the First World War when it was a song called Three German Officers and that was definitely not one to cover on the school bus. Although maybe they sing it now, who knows? The way the country’s gone down the tubes, HAH?)

You could say more in a chant or a rhyme than you could in normal speech and what’s more you could hint. Take the case of Seanie/Johnny/Charlie who had a pigeon, a pigeon had he.

To give you some background, somewhere throughout its flight, by morning and by night, whether because it flew under other birds or was involved in fights with them, when it got home it was covered in …. Anyway he had a pigeon, a pigeon.

The most harrowing story is that of Miss Mary Mack, all dressed in black with buttons all down her back. Completely illiterate, her parents didn’t seem to care and already she was smoke-smoke-smoking her father’s pipe.

I don’t want to judge the mother too harshly but rather than make any attempt to rectify the situation, she was content to just give her daughter money to see an elephant climb up a fence.

They were different times I suppose.


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