I was poking around the internet finding obscure and odd tidbits (mostly fuel for my writing) I was listening to some old Irish music when my fingers mechanically linked-up with what I was listening to. Out of curiosity, I began plugging names and places into a search engine. I began pulling threads of an old history and by chance, I discovered an incredible connection between three well established staples of Irish music: The Kerry Recruit(Traditional) Enniskillin Dragoons(sung by Luke Kelly of the Dubliners) and a poem by Patrick Kavanagh sung also by Luke Kelly of The Dubliners), Raglan Road.
Here’s where I was taken: circa 1850’s, a poor farm hand, the Crimean war, A Northern Ireland trade fair, the charge of the light brigade, a dishonored general, and the legendary beauty of black haired women in Dublin. Interesting, eh? Allow me to expound a bit.
The Kerry Recruit is a song about a poor farm hand who, at the allure of money, excepted a position in the English Army and was sent of to fight the pointless Crimean War.
When at Balaclava we landed quite soon,
both cold, wet and hungry we lay on the ground
Next morning for action the bugle did call
,and we had a hot breakfast of powder and ball
My question was this: In what regiments did he serve? And like lightening or some stroke of strange luck, the next song popped on my playlist. It was, The Eniskillen Dragoons. But listening to the lyrics I had to check back to, The Kerry Recruit. Some new curiosity began to stir.
Well we fought at the Alma, likewise Inkermann,
and the Russians they whaled us at the Redan
In scalin’ the walls there meself lost an eye,
and a big Russian bullet ran off with me thigh
If he served in these campaigns, in all likelihood he certainly may have been part of the Enniskillin Dragoons who fought these battles with a northern Irish contingent. I did a bit more digging. What campaigns did these dragoons serve in?
And when the war is over we’ll return in full bloom
And we’ll all welcome home the Enniskillen Dragoons
Well, what does Wikipedia have to say about that? I checked it out and indeed they were at Balaclava.
It was an interesting connection, certainly but It didn’t end there. Another song came to me by way of…well you know technical audio things, but perhaps something more?
On Raglan Road on an autumn day I met her first and knew
That her dark hair would weave a snare that I might one day rue;
I saw the danger, yet I walked along the enchanted way,
It begins beautifully and at first crack, it is perhaps just great poetry. Something jumped out at me, “Raglan Road.” I opened my internet browsing history and pulled up the last pages I was reading. They were all stuffy information regarding these campaigns during the Crimean War. Lord and General Raglan who commanded British troops during this event was the very same who gave the legendary order that Lord Alfred Tennyson took advantage of in his poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade. In short, that charge was a supposed false communication and the cavalry on horses charged into heavy artillery. Rock crushes scissors, and so the 600 who charged were massacred. What a blunderer.
But where was this charge? Balaclava.
So I buttered me brogues, shook hands with me spade,
then went off to the fair like a dashing young blade
When up comes a sergeant he asks me to list,
‘Arra, sergeant a gra, stick a bob in me fist
Our Kerry Recruit, went up north and joined the dragoons. He was sent to fight with their regiment in Crimea. He was wounded at Balaclava, perhaps during the very same charge that Tennyson wrote of and the order given by none other than Raglan.
On a quiet street where old ghosts meet I see her walking now
Away from me so hurriedly my reason must allow
That I had wooed not as I should a creature made of clay –
When the angel woos the clay he’d lose his wings at the dawn of day.
That same road that the charming women with black hair walks down is named after this very same Raglan. My last question, and goes unanswered is, what political debauchery and shame took place to give this pedant general a tree-lined avenue in Dublin?
I pushed the poems together, inserted my own creativity and came up with this poem; it has yet to have a title:
On Raglan road on an autumns day I staggered, stumbling along the way,
I saw her first and asked a new,
where goes your man, that Kerry Recruit,
to a fair far north?
He has joined, alas, a sergeant,
Who stuck a bob in his fist,
And sent him away aboard of a warship,
Bound for the Crimea,
So fair thee well to my Enniskillen dragoon
Who shook hands with his spade to shake hands with the Devil,
the reapers scythe;
the man whose dishonor they named this road,
Fair Thee well, my Eniskillen Dragoon!
He Who is now layed low,
In Inkerman or Balaclava,
the charge that we rued,
At the dawning of the day.
On completely different tangent, I present to you, a badass picture of Winston Churhill
Happy St. Paddy’s day, Adieu!