The word Bard sits nicely with Tommy Makem. It is of course a Celtic loan word from Scottish Gaelic bard. Other names in other languages give us the similar meaning words skalds, rhapsodes, minstrels and scops. A teller of stories, and poetry, and of course the songs of the day.
Tommy was blessed with, not only the voice and the manner, but also the larger than life character that was needed to perform all these duties and many more.
Oh, me name is Dick Darby, I’m a cobbler
I served my time at ould camp
Some call me an old agitator
But now I’m resolved to repent
With me ing-twing of an ing-thing of an i-doe
With me ing-twing of an ing-thing of an i-day
With me roo-boo-boo roo-boo-boo randy
And me lab stone keeps beating away
Who can ever forget Tommy launching into the Cobbler ? Lots of simulated spitting and hammering on stage, as the audience were transformed into a shop somewhere in time as the Cobbler set about mending an old pair of shoes, as he chirped away to himself.
Such was the scene, where ever and when ever he set about performing one of his songs, monologues, or stories. So, whether it was Red is The Rose, Gentle annie, or Johnny McAldoo, the audience were sure one the real deal, Tommy never dealt in half measures. It would be remiss of me not to mention his association with The Clancy Brothers, and indeed his great friend Liam Clancy.
I recently had the privilege of having Tommy’s son Conor, listen to song about his dad. Here is what he had to say:
“Martin has made a great debut album, filled with fine writing,
singing and playing. The Bard of Armagh, obviously, is the one for me.
The old man would have been delighted.”
I hope these short few words give you some insight into the man, who really was a legend, Tommy Makem. The Bard of Armagh.