Thank you for the Music

Yesterday along with my wife and son I headed off to the RDS in Dublin. It was 14 years ago when I last set foot in the place, then for a Sinn Fein conference on the direction of the peace process. Yesterday was an event attended by people with more common sense, thousands of them; children dressed in Xmas attire representing their respective schools in putting on a musical extravaganza for the benefit of their parents and friends.

For weeks we had to endure our eight year old sing every ABBA song that was ever recorded. She enticed her four year old brother to sing along just to prove that two heads are worse than one. The din would normally be enough to send me off to the pub but I resisted. Her persistence paid off on the big day. Collectively the kids put on a great show and brought memories flooding to me from the days when I was a great fan of Abba music.

The first time I had heard the group was in Dundalk’s Imperial Hotel in 1974. Their winning entry in the Eurovision song contest, Waterloo, was played to the audience just after their victory was announced. What a catalyst that proved to be for the Swedish band. It catapulted them to international celebrity status. Weeks later I was in prison for the first time; a sixteen year old in Crumlin Road Jail on remand never quite sure whether to be proud or pissed off. Waterloo soon made it to number one in the British charts and every time I heard it in my cell or on the wing I lapsed into self pity, remembering the much better surrounds where I had first encountered it.

I was so pleased to hear my daughter and her little friends belt out all the old numbers that used to give me such joy. And the fact that she had not made it back from Belfast with me and her brother the day before until the stroke of midnight did not deter her in the slightest. There is something deeply beautiful about the collective singing of children or the crescendo that gathers each time I pass a school and they are on their break. Listening to them is an ear on the future. There is always the hope, even a belief fuelled by their boundless energy, that they will make a better job of things than we ever did.

During one of the concert breaks I bantered with my wife, asking if she had seen the armed garda on the roof on our way into the concert arena. Puzzled, she looked at me with a quizzical expression suggesting she hadn’t a clue what I was talking about. I told her there were armed men all over the building and on the roof in case priests should attempt to storm the venue. I got one of those ‘give it a rest’ looks. I think she has had enough of god’s monsters being whacked with the right end of the stick that is frequently brandished in her company. Even the four year old has developed the habit, through imitation, of shouting ‘bastards’ every time the religious channels are flicked on. He is without doubt right but it isn’t something to be encouraged. I just think they are bastards now to myself and don’t shout it in front of him. Censored in the house of free speech! Won’t the SWP just be delighted if they have got over their split sufficiently to resume their passion for trivia.

Concert over, we made our way home on a packed evening train to a house mercifully freed from the ABBA duet in the playroom. A silent night not even accompanied by the song. Bliss.


  1. I think of US troops blasting at Noriega's compound torturous pop tunes. For me, ABBA would be the same if confined, but I'm pleased it gave you a thrill of renewed pleasure and innocent freedom through the eyes and ears of your children. (If not your wife, who has better taste in music.)

  2. Acara great to hear you and the wee ones had a great [and priest free night]now had it been a few jars and the Pouges well it would have been perfect.take care , Marty F