Nights in Ballygran

by Shannen W. Coffin

I have to respectfully disagree with my friend and fellow TiVo addict Jonah about HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. I am enjoying the show, perhaps not immensely, but certainly enough to continue tuning in. There is a predictability to some of the plot (as we saw last night), but I find Steve Buscemi’s Nucky Thompson more than makes up for many of the deficiencies in the show. I will say, however, that these are the least violent mobsters I’ve ever encountered in the mob genre. Even young Al Capone has only killed when spooked by a deer and broken only a few bones.

But that’s not why I write today: I write to celebrate the most recent episode’s terrific use of a classic Irish ballad, “Carrickfergus.” It is usually best served after about four pints, when “I’m drunk today and I’m seldom sober . . . a handsome rover from town to town” has a ring of truth to it. The song speaks to the yearning for home that many Irish immigrants knew in the New World. And the scene in which it was used, the Ancient Order of the Celts dinner, was a classic.

The credits did not say whose version of the song was playing, but I believe it was the late great Tommy Makem, whose haunting live version with the Clancy Brothers can be enjoyed here. (And feel free to correct me, dear readers, if I’m wrong. You’ve never failed me in that regard before.)

Update: And correct me you have. Several readers point out that it is Liam Clancy soloing in the video that I posted, not Tommy Makem. I raised a pint with the Clancy Brothers back in ’91 at O’Flaherty’s Irish Channel in New Orleans, but I may have had a few pints before they got around to me.  So I regret the error. That said, I’d still like confirmation that it is the Clancy Brothers version of the song on last night’s Boardwalk Empire.

Update II: So I’m batting .000, but at least got to highlight a terrific song. Turns out the version of “Carrickfergus” during last night’s Boardwalk Empire was recorded by Loudon Wainwright III. I highly recommend you track it down if you can. 

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