As the last century was drawing to an end, the Belfast Agreement was signed on 10th April 1998, which is why it is widely known as the Good Friday Agreement. It marked the dawn of an era of peace and understanding and an end of “The Troubles”.
It was a poignant date in the history of Ireland coming almost two-hundred years to the day since the Irish Rebellion of 1798 when the United Irishmen led by Theobald Wolfe Tone, Robert Emmet and others supported by French troops rose up against the governing British. The rebels were defeated at Vinegar Hill in October of the same year but the guerrilla war against the British began immediately.
Having been introduced to the west of Ireland by my wife Miriam in the early 1970s, I had always wanted to release an album that was more broadly representative of the nation’s struggle against oppression than anything I had found available in the marketplace.
Enter Ron Kavana.
I released Ron Kavana’s Alien Alert album in 1997 on Proper Records while he was taking a break from music and studying on a Humanities course. He graduated shortly afterwards with an honours degree in Irish Studies after and we discussed producing a new album.
I commissioned Ron to produce a double album of material which Ron entitled “IRISH SONGS OF REBELLION, RESISTANCE AND RECONCILIATION. 1798-1998”. He was particularly keen to distance himself from creating a collection of “rebel” songs and brought his great knowledge of Irish history and culture to life in a two-hour, 37 track double CD.
In my sleeve notes at that time I wrote “THE TROUBLED HISTORY OF IRELAND IS FOREVER ENSHRINED IN FOLKSONG. THIS COLLECTION IS DISTILLED FROM THE THOUSANDS Of SONGS, STORIES AND POEMS THAT HAVE BEEN WROUGHT FROM THE HANDS AND HEARTS OF THE PEOPLE OF IRELAND FOR CENTURIES.
The inclusion of Ron narrating Robert Emmet’s last words (his speech from the dock before his execution in 1803) brings to life the courage of these bold people, but the real hidden gem is Ron’s own peace anthem - “Truth and Understanding”.
This album has been available for many years and has sold in huge quantities in the “budget” CD market. Now it’s time to run it up the flagpole again and bring it to a new generation in the digital domain as it still stands as a perfect musical example of what can be achieved through the process that starts with rebellion, turns to resistance and eventually ends in reconciliation. ~ Malcolm Mills