Saturday 27 August 2022

Shabby Dress, sung by Shannon Marie Harney

Shabby Dress, sung by Shannon Marie Harney

Now working with Bradford-based torch singer Shannon Marie Harney.  Shannon Marie is new to our repertoire.  But she is determined.

We have started with a song whose needs we understand, an old song...

Here is Shannon Marie and Shabby Dress on YouTube...

Video link

And here on Soundcloud...

A song with its own history... 

And I will give some of that history here, omitting detail that might embarrass the living, or the dead.



The anecdotal lecture about this song can be long - and even longer if we include the musical interludes...  But, in my defence, that is maybe what a song lyric should be - distillation...

The lyric is in the book, Love Death and Whiskey - pages 48-49.

If you put 'Terry Jones Shabby Dress' into your favourite search engine, you find this...

'Love Death & Whisky 40 songs by Patrick O'Sullivan is a great way in for those nervous of poetry. Shabby Dress - great song lyric of our time

10:06 AM · Aug 29, 2011·Twitter Web Client'

Terry had long been a supporter of my lyric writing.  When, in the 1970s, we first put a band together, he offered financial support - Terry's management company paid for recording studio time, with André Jacquemin at Redwood...

...and paid for The Van.  This, for me, was induction into the Cult of The Van, and other odd aspects of the life of working musicians.  Really, we did not know what we were doing - and did not know what we wanted to do.  When the danger arose that looking after The Van might become my full time job, I decided enough was enough.

Looking back, I can hope that nowadays I have a  better understanding of what was going on.  I can lecture, and I can quote...  Christopher Small, on 'Musicking', Ruth Finnegan, on the 'Hidden Musicians'.  David Hesmondhalgh's critique.  I can quote Ted Gioia.

For Christopher Small, music is a verb, not a  noun.  'Musicking' is something that people do...



In the 1970s and 1980s I had become a minor poet of the late twentieth century - and the horrors of that experience can become the basis of another anecdotal lecture.  But the main lesson from the experience was simple, and became a mantra:  If you are going to write for performance, you might as well write for performers.  So, song lyrics...

In the 1970s, at a difficult time in my life, my friend, Leslie Megahey, put me in a car and took me across Spain...  Pause here, for anecdotal comedy.

In Madrid I met Leslie's friends, Esperanza and Sidney Malkin.  Sidney was a large, Hemingwayesque character.  As a US Marine he had invaded Sicily.  In Spain he led a complex, not quite controlled, existence.  He leased the shooting rights of several villages in the mountains to the north of Madrid, and he organised hunting parties for visiting Americans.  Special guests would be taken to shoot bustard.  In Esperanza's distinctive English this became 'persecuting the bustard...'  It was impossible not to fall in love with Esperanza...

I spent some days in the mountains with Sydney, and his gamekeepers, watching the persecution of the bustards.  Nevertheless...  Sydney and I got on, and we became friends.

Sidney had lived in Paris for a long time, and he had in Madrid his French record collection.  So, it was in the apartment of Sidney and Esperanza Malkin, in Madrid, that I first heard the distilled essence of French song, Barbara.

Vinyl rotating.



Nowadays, we can search online for Monique Andrée Serf, stage name Barbara...  And that song, La Solitude, that I heard for the first time in Madrid...

Here she is on YouTube...

And here are the words...

My song, Shabby Dress, references La Solitude.  I have made it at home in the English language, more structured, more technical, less fierce...

Loneliness rather than the French, Solitude.

In Shannon Marie's version of my lyric we do get the feeling that the ghost, the reflection, the memory, whatever it is - at least it can be depended on.  A reliable ghost...


We could dedicate this song to Monique Andrée Serf, Barbara.  I could dedicate it to Sidney Malkin, or to Esperanza.  Or to Leslie Megahey.  And they are there in the story...

Terry Jones remained a supporter of my work, and a good friend.  This was before the public appearance of Terry Jones, the writer for children, and the scholar of medieval literature - whose scholarship was at first sneered at, and is now revered.

So, in the background are long, garrulous, lubricated, conversations about kinds of writing, and how they work.  The lyric, Shabby Dress, is a nice, technical, piece of writing - that is one of the things I like about it.  Terry Jones understood that.

When at last I got round to publishing that little book of my lyrics, in 2010, I sent a copy to Terry - as a thank you.  And he told me how much he enjoyed reading the lyrics aloud, as poetry.  Especially Shabby Dress.

So, alongside the composer, Adrian Long, who set the lyric - and alongside our companions and memories of those days - let us dedicate the song to Terry Jones...


Now, for goodness sake, do not tell any of this to Shannon Marie Harney...  

Just let her sing...


Patrick O'Sullivan

August 2022



Thursday 30 June 2022

A shipowner was about to send to sea an emigrant-ship...

A shipowner was about to send to sea an emigrant-ship. He knew that she was old, and not overwell built at the first; that she had seen many seas and climes, and often had needed repairs.  Doubts had been suggested to him that possibly she was not seaworthy.

These doubts preyed upon his mind, and made him unhappy; he thought that perhaps he ought to have her thoroughly overhauled and refitted, even though this should put him to great expense.

Before the ship sailed, however, he succeeded in overcoming these melancholy reflections. He said to himself that she had gone safely through so many voyages and weathered so many storms that it was idle to suppose she would not come safely home from this trip also. He would put his trust in Providence, which could hardly fail to protect all these unhappy families that were leaving their fatherland to seek for better times elsewhere. He would dismiss from his mind all ungenerous suspicions about the honesty of builders and contractors.

In such ways he acquired a sincere and comfortable conviction that his vessel was thoroughly safe and seaworthy; he watched her departure with a light heart, and benevolent wishes for the success of the exiles in their strange new home that was to be; and he got his insurance-money when she went down in mid-ocean and told no tales...

I have made the line of thought more visible with line breaks.  But that is the opening paragraph of William K. Clifford's essay THE ETHICS OF BELIEF, first published in 1877.

Links to the text and to other material, pasted in below...

If our starting point is Irish Diaspora Studies - and today it is - I think that it is difficult to read that paragraph without thinking of the discourse of the emigrant ship, of the Irish Famine migrations, and, of course, the 'Coffin Ships', now enshrined in song and sculpture.  All the elements are there, the Emigrant Ship, the unhappy families leaving their 'fatherland' to seek better times, exiles...  Ungenerous suspicions.  No tales told...

I will not unpack here my own line of thought, which can appear a bit complex - but, for me, is fairly simple.  One of the things that first interested me about Irish Diaspora Studies was the notion that we had an ideal case study of the nature of knowledge - the ways in which knowledge is created, is used, and earns its living.  When I first started developing that line of thought, I fell among philosophers.  Yes, yes, I know, but some of my best friends... 

And it was suggested to me that what I was doing belonged in the sub-section of philosophy called epistemology, the creation of knowledge.  In fact I would argue that that is not correct - I think that what I do is something else, not epistemology.  But I must accept the steer, from my friends, and explore the suggestion.  And I have become interested recently in epistemology's evil twin, what we are learning to call agnotology, the creation of ignorance.

As have we all.

I recently found myself reading Scott Aikin on the Straw Man...  We have plenty of straw persons in Irish Diaspora Studies.  And this led me back to that cluster of questions - called 'the ethics of belief', after Clifford's title - where epistemology, ethics, philosophy of mind, and psychology, meet.  And back to my meditations on the founding text, Clifford's 1877 essay.  

And the Emigrant Ship.

In discussion of Clifford's essay, the detail that Clifford himself had experienced a shipwreck is mentioned, but is usually - and probably rightly - discarded as irrelevant.  Clifford, himself, describes the wreck of the survey ship, Psyche, 1870, as 'comfortably managed...'  

Discussion of Clifford's essay also tends to discard, without comment, the detail that he is describing an Emigrant Ship.  And, I think, had in mind the discourses around the Irish Famine migrations.

Now, how could we unpack that?

Patrick O'Sullivan

June 2022


1  William K. Clifford,


Originally published in Contemporary Review, 1877; reprinted in William K. Clifford, Lectures and Essays, ed. Leslie Stephen and Frederick Pollock (London: Macmillan and Co., 1886). The author (1845–1879) was an English mathematician

2  In the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Clifford's shipowner and his Emigrant Ship become a 'shipowner who, once upon a time, was inclined to sell tickets for a transatlantic voyage...'

The Ethics of Belief

First published Mon Jun 14, 2010; substantive revision Mon Mar 5, 2018

The “ethics of belief” refers to a cluster of questions at the intersection of epistemology, ethics, philosophy of mind, and psychology.

3 Two useful books...

Chisholm, M. (2002) Such Silver Currents: The Story of William and Lucy Clifford, 1845-1929. 1st edn. The Lutterworth Press. doi: 10.2307/j.ctv1pdrr4p.

Madigan, T. (2008) W.K. Clifford and ‘The ethics of belief’. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars.

4 Scott Aikin and colleagues on the Straw Man - plenty to find out there.  See for example...

Aikin, S. and Casey, J. (2022) Straw Man Arguments: A Study in Fallacy Theory. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

5  Searching for 'The wreck of the Psyche' will take you to many strange places.  But, staying with the survey ship, 'Psyche'...  The best account of the wreck I have found is in Science and Controversy, A Biography of Sir Norman Lockyer, Founder Editor of Nature By A. Meadows, 2016.

Pasted in below, photo from The Correspondence of Charles Darwin: Volume 18, 1870, by Charles Darwin, Frederick Burkhardt, Sydney Smith, Cambridge University Press, 1985...


Monday 20 June 2022

It has been a quiet day in Irish Diaspora Studies...

We still have alerts in place - left over from the time of the Irish Diaspora List (see my notes about the Ir-D List, somewhere below).

So, we still monitor items of interest to Irish Diaspora Studies, books, articles, lectures, exhibitions, conferences, as they appear in the media - and some items I can share with Irish Diaspora Studies colleagues...

In recent years, of course, in the background, we have been negotiating Irish History's Decade of Centenaries.  There has been much to mull over.

Today alerts came in as usual - and, on one day, I shared these three links with colleagues... 

We see...  Decisions within the diaspora affecting the course of Irish History...  Creativity re-shaping an identity for independent Ireland - disparaged women's work re-shaping identity...  Independent Ireland still tidying up its untidy legislative legacy, proving of interest to the investigative journalists at Bellingcat....  And structures for three discussions within Irish Diaspora Studies.


London assassination a landmark in Irish history

The gunning down of a British army officer had far-reaching consequences for Ireland

This article by Ronan McGreevy concludes...

'The Wilson shooting was Ireland’s Sarajevo moment. Without it, there would have been no British ultimatum, no shelling of the Four Courts, no Civil War. Michael Collins would have lived, and the history of the new Irish state would have been different.

The impact of the Wilson assassination has been underestimated, because of the assumption that the Civil War would have happened anyway and his death only hastened the inevitable, but no war is inevitable.

From Collins’ perspective, Wilson was a dangerous enemy of Irish nationalism. Collins was in the visitors’ gallery of the House of Commons in late May 1922 when Wilson declared that the British government should have no hesitation in crossing the Border to secure order. Collins also held Wilson responsible for the “worse than Armenian atrocities” in Belfast.

Wilson had made enemies too within the British government. Yet Collins miscalculated the depth of unhappiness in Britain about the toleration afforded to the anti-Treaty side by the fledging Irish state.

The shots that killed Wilson would lead on exactly two months later to the shot that killed Collins at Béal na Bláth, leaving Ireland immeasurably the poorer for his passing.'

Ronan McGreevy is the author of ‘Great Hatred: the Assassination of Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson MP’, published by Faber (€16.99). He is a former Irish Post journalist.


The forgotten ‘weird sisters’ of WB Yeats who helped forge Irish identity

Overlooked except for a scornful reference in Ulysses, Elizabeth and Lily ran a vibrant women-only arts and crafts enterprise

'...They ran an arts and craft enterprise, Cuala Press, from 1908 to 1940, but Elizabeth and Lily were chiefly known as the sisters of two famous brothers – the poet William Butler Yeats and the painter Jack Yeats. They lived in the shadow of their male siblings, and the jibe in Ulysses, before fading into obscurity...'

This Guardian article links to the emerging Cuala Press archive, visible on the TCD web site...

'The Cuala Press ceased operation in 1986, and in October that same year Anne and Michael Yeats presented the remaining business archive (IE TCD MS 11535) and printing equipment to the Library of Trinity College Dublin. The print collection (IE TCD MS 11574) was gifted to the Library by Vin Ryan of the Schooner Foundation in 2017. Funding provided by the Schooner Foundation in 2020/2021 has enabled the conservation, metadata creation, and digitisation of the Cuala Press collection.'



Inside the Secretive World of Irish Limited Partnerships

'In early June 2019, the Bitsane cryptocurrency platform was a hive of activity.

According to CoinMarketCap, a price-tracking website for crypto-assets, it had a trading volume worth $7 million a day. Bitsane itself boasted of users in over 200 countries.

Within a few weeks, however, the platform, its social media sites and the deposits of close to 250,000 registered users had vanished.

Bitsane customers took to social media, first to question whether there was a temporary issue, then to panic about their deposits, then to angrily compare losses.

Some had invested tens of thousands of dollars into a variety of cryptocurrencies that were offered on the platform.

But from one day to the next, all that was gone...'

'... What Exactly is an Irish Limited Partnership?

ILPs came into existence as part of the United Kingdom’s 1907 Limited Partnerships Act. At this time, Ireland was still a part of the UK.

The same act brought into existence Scottish Limited Partnerships (SLPs), a corporate vehicle exclusive to Scotland.  Bellingcat has previously produced a number of reports concerning the alleged misuse of SLPs after a series of high-profile money laundering schemes came to light...


Thursday 17 March 2022

House of Commons Library - The Irish diaspora in Britain, Research Briefing

Well, the most interesting thing about this is that it has happened at all...

And, yes, what about George Canning, Prime Minister in 1827 - who described himself as 'an Irishman born in London'...


The Irish diaspora in Britain

House of Commons Library

Research Briefing

Published Wednesday, 16 March, 2022

A Backbench business debate on the Irish diaspora in Britain will take place in the House of Commons Chamber scheduled for Thursday 17 March 2022.

Documents to download

The Irish diaspora in Britain (154 KB , PDF)

This debate pack was prepared in advance of a debate on the contribution of the Irish diaspora to Britain.

Irish people in Britain have contributed hugely to life here across a wide range of sectors, and the lives of Irish and British people have been intertwined for millennia.

Niall Gallagher, chairman of Irish Heritage, an organisation that celebrates the work of Irish writers, composers, singers and musicians who are trying to build careers in Britain and beyond, has described the contribution of the Irish to the cultural life of Britain as “incalculable”.

For decades Irish labour was “indispensable” to the British construction industry, with Irish workers part of the teams that built the earliest tunnels for the London Underground network, as well as more modern works such as the Victoria Line.

Irish people have also contributed greatly to the National Health Service, and Irish President Michael Higgins paid tribute to their service during his 2014 State Visit to the UK. As of September 2021, 13,971 members of NHS staff in England reported their nationality as Irish, this includes just under 2,400 doctors, and over 4,500 nurses.

 Two British Prime Ministers, William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne, and Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, were born in Ireland. Ireland was part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland when both held office.

Monday 7 February 2022

Feedback: we became a 'suggested video' on YouTube...

 A 'suggested video' on YouTube...

I do not know if this is interesting or not.  But my musician friends tell me that this counts as Feedback, and should be shared...

It can be a footnote to my standard lecture, the rich comedy of:  'How the lockdown turned a lyricist into an ersatz record producer', or 'Learn from my mistakes.' 

I made so many mistakes...

But at least once - it turns out - I did something right.  But what?


In 2018 Stephanie Hladowski and I worked on the lyric I had written to sit comfortably on the melody by Ennio Morricone, Jill's theme, from the Sergio Leone movie, Once upon a Time in the West (1968).

As part of...  Exploration of Song.   Exploration of Lyric.  Exploration of the Recording Studio - the recording studio as a working tool, rather than a rite of passage.

There is more about this on my blog, below, at...

In the background are all those questions that lyricists get asked.  Like, Music First or Words First?  Problems and Answers.  The answers, by the way, always involve Structure.

Also, in the background, is my long study of a specific genre of song - but I won't go into that now.

I thought, in 2018, Ok, we have taken a step.  To acknowledge that, I will make a little video to fit the audio, and stick it on YouTube.

The idea behind the video was:  take stills, screen grabs, from the movie, Once Upon a Time in the West, and show Jill's story in reverse order.  So that my video ends with the first time we see the character Jill - Claudia Cardinale, in her cute little hat, peers out of the train.

The video is clumsy.  It suggests the idea, rather than completes the idea.  Nothing here is perfect. 

But we had finished something - and that encouraged us to go on and finish other things...


In the middle of January 2022 our song + video, The Train (Jill's Theme), became a 'suggested video' on YouTube.

Video link

We had not done anything clever - we put the video up in November 2018.  I did pause to make sure that the right data was visible to search engines.

I made clear my work's relationship with the work of Ennio Morricone, and with the movie.  I wrote to Mr. Morricone's agent, drawing attention to the song and to our YouTube video, saying... 'the emotion I hear when I listen to the melody is, above all else, compassion...'

I made no attempt to 'monetize' the song.  I did not want to pick a quarrel with Mr.  Morricone or the Morricone Estate.

In any case the video very quickly collected a 'copyright claim' on YouTube - which, I think, was simply the content recognition software doing its work.

I will not explore technicalities of what else we might have done with our song, The Train (Jill's Theme) - except to note that technically it is not a 'cover song', it is a 'derivative work'.

You will find online much advice about ways you might become a 'suggested video' - very little about what to do if you do become 'a suggested video'.

Pump out more product, is the advice...


YouTube gives us a grotesque amount of data behind the scenes.  They all do this, Spotify, CD Baby, Amazon.  Do not get bogged down...

The two main visualisations offered by YouTube are 28 days and 48 hours...

As of today, February 7 2022... 'In the last 28 days, videos on your Official Artist Channel got 5.6K views'

The Train (Jill's Theme) has had 5,578 views.

Where are our visitors coming from?  The bulk of the traffic is following an Ennio Morricone sequence.  The Danish National Symphony Orchestra, 22 million views, the Dulce Pontes version, 10 million - and so on.

Our visitors are overwhelmingly male, 92% - mostly over 50 years old.

The peak viewing time is after 1800 hours - between 6 and 9 pm in the English evening.  Which suggests that we are mostly being found by Europe - NOT the USA or China.  Main countries are...

Views · Last 28 days:  Germany 7.8%. Italy 6.6%. France 6.4%.

And more and more from Brazil, 8.9% - this has not affected the time pattern.  I suppose that Brazil does stick out, to the east.

There is some suggestion that a SMALL number of visitors go on to find our other tracks on YouTube, the lockdown rescue that became our Album, Hladowski sings O'Sullivan... 

To encourage this I have made The Train part of the Album Playlist on YouTube.  And I have made the link to our Hearnow site visible in the YouTube text...

And we have picked up a small number of new 'Subscribers'.

YouTube works by trying to please the user, and keep him (in this case HIM) looking.  YouTube brings eyes to adverts.  Because this video is not 'monetized', there are no adverts.

This is Search Engine Journal's comment...

 My little video does none of the things that the 'advice' suggests that a YouTube video should do - it has quite a slow burn start.  Part of the homage to the movie..

Can I not expect patience?  In the movie, how long is it before Harmonica shoots Woody Strode, Jack Elam and Al Mulock?


To our new Subscribers...

Gentlemen, you are welcome.  Thank you for your interest in our work.  But, I have to tell you, that, for the time being, we have little more to offer you...

The Train (Jill's Theme) - update Feb 18 2022

'This video got 10,083 views in the last 28 days'

'This video has gotten 10,960 views since it was uploaded'

'In the last 28 days, videos on your Official Artist Channel got 10K views'

Video link

Saturday 8 January 2022

No Irish, no blacks, no dogs - lace curtains and iconography

No Irish, no blacks, no dogs.

This is a note for Bill Mulligan's Irish Diaspora Studies Facebook group - there has recently been (yet more) newspaper comment on that iconographic sign.  And I want to make some images available to the Facebook group.

I might return to this note at a later date, if I find it needs tidying...

Tony Murray, who is quoted in the recent Irish Post article about the sign, tells me that the image displayed with that article - and in the 2015 Guardian article - is NOT the image stored within the Archives of the Irish in Britain at London Metropolitan University.

London Metropolitan University would charge a fee for the use of the image.  Tony Murray thinks that someone constructed a version of the image to avoid paying a fee.  It is this doctored image that is now widespread.

Nowadays it is possible to search the web for images...  I have found 4 versions...

1 IRISH, BLACKS, DOGS Window and Lace

Now very hard to find.  This is the original Archives of the Irish in Britain version - I have checked this with Tony Murray.  Note the fuller view of the window, the IRISH, BLACKS, DOGS sign, and above that the little Bed & Breakfast sign.

IRISH, BLACKS, DOGS a mixture of upper case and lower case lettering - note the lower case g in DOgS.

Note the version of the plus sign used as an ampersand in Bed & Breakfast.

Note especially the lace curtain - an important part of the iconography.

2 IRISH, BLACK, DOGS, Window no Lace

This version I discovered through the search.  I have not seen this before.  It must put Image 1 into a new context.

Again, a fuller view of a window - a window set into a pebbledash wall.  Similar but not identical IRISH, BLACKS, DOGS sign.  All upper case lettering, I think.  Different layout Bed & Breakfast sign - but similar ampersand.

No lace curtain.


3 IRISH, BLACKS, DOGS Lace no Window

This is the widespread version, believed to be a doctored version of Image 1. 

No wider image of the window, no Bed & Breakfast sign.

The same PATTERN lace curtain as in Number 1.  But there is distortion and modification.  Note the three half stars to the left of the sign - there is nothing like that in Image 1.

A different IRISH, BLACKS, DOGS sign - all upper case lettering.  Note the extra white space underneath NO DOGS.


4 IRISH, BLACKS, DOGS Industrial

This turned up in the searches.  I believe it to be a recent do-it-yourself version to illustrate an online article.  Easy enough to do.  I am digging.

There are lots of questions you can ask of these images...

Versions 1 and 2 look so similar, and so posed.  Was a photographer given an assignment? 

Is that paper size A4?  Look at the bricks to the left of the window.  It has been pointed out to me that the piece of paper is the same height as two and a half London house bricks.  So maybe height 182 mm, much smaller that A4 paper, 297 mm.

Black marker pens?

All that being said, people whose word I trust tell me that they saw such signs in real life, as young people in London...

Now, my own comments...

Comment 1 - Search

We needed somewhere where we could display the images in sequence, and make comparisons.  This blog entry is the best I can find - and it works...

I have not given any specific source for each image.  There is a convention, that we give a web address and the date a web site was accessed.  But that is unhelpful here.

What you can do now, because I have brought the images together, is do your own web search, see context and make comparisons.

It will depend on how you have your own computer set up, and on what your system allows.  But, in Google Chrome, if you RIGHT CLICK on an image, there is usually a way to search the Web for that image.  You can test that now, here on this blog - RIGHT CLICK on the 4 photos that I have collected, above.

If you have Google Lens in place you can click through to search in Google Images.  These are the hits through Google Images...

Searching again, January 11 2022, I found

Image 1 (the original)

4 hits

Image 2 (the discovery)

3 hits

Image 3 (the image that we know is doctored)

309 hits

Image 4 (the recent do-it-yourself)

1 hit

But Google Images also tries to link Image 4 with Image 3.

That is searching through Google Images - other search systems create different patterns, and I am experimenting.  But the overall pattern is clear.

Reaching Images 1 and 2 sometimes needs a bit if digging into old blogs, which will test your ingenuity.

So the known phoney, Image 3, dominates.  As we have seen - now that we have a context - it is obviously a doctored image. 

Amongst those 300 and more sightings of Image 3 you will see many established newspapers and journals - it is very odd, to put it mildly, that this image has been circulated and reproduced so widely without anyone ever stopping to examine it.

Examine it and search for a context.  It is not hard.  You have just done it.

Comment 2 - 'posed'

Dealing with the images in reverse order...

4 IRISH, BLACKS, DOGS Industrial

This, I deduce, is a very recent do-it-yourself effort, created to illustrate a legal article.  There is no attempt to set the scene, no B & B sign - it looks like someone's office or factory.

I must include this image because it will turn up in the search.  It does show the image search working well.  And it shows how much the IRISH BLACKS DOGS sign has indeed become an icon.

3 IRISH, BLACKS, DOGS Lace no Window

This is the widespread doctored version.  I think that it is obviously a mock-up - I think that there are clear signs of Cut & Paste.

2 IRISH, BLACK, DOGS, Window no Lace

This one is very interesting because - as I say - I had not seen it before.  Its existence was revealed to me by the search.

It has all the elements of Image 1, the two signs, the framing window.  Note that it is a casement window, in a pebble-dashed house - and you can just see some stained glass in the lower part of the window above.

Trees are reflected in the window.

1 IRISH, BLACKS, DOGS Window and Lace

The important image, the image that is stored in the Archives of the Irish in Britain at LMU.  I was first shown this image many decades ago - and when I was first shown it I said that it looked posed.

Why do I think that Image 1 looks 'posed'?

It is too perfect.  It tells the story too perfectly.

I had worked for Time Out magazine in the 1970s - this is just the sort of thing a photographer sent out to bring back an illustration would come back with.

It displays all the elements of the narrative.  It reads down within the framing window frame.

First the Bed & Breakfast sign.  The eye takes in the lace curtain background.  Then the No Irish sign

This is a B & B, this is a respectable B & B - we don't want Irish, blacks or dogs.

What I have listed as Image 2, the new discovery, is so similar - I think a good working assumption must be that the same photographer was responsible for both Image 1 and Image 2.  But, if I were a picture editor choosing between 1 and 2, the lace curtain would sell Image 1 to me.

The same reasoning, I guess, guided whoever doctored Version 3.  The lace curtain sells it.

Note that this is a sash window, in a London brick house.  We feel we already know that window - we have walked past it many times, a North London terrace.

The trees are clearly reflected in Image 2.  Can we see something white reflected in the window in Image 1?  Some people think they can make out the white signage of a London bus.

Images 1 and 2...  Two very similar photographs, telling the same story in the same way, possibly by the same photographer.  Are there more out there, is there a portfolio?  Can we identify the photographer?


I think that I have taken this discussion as far as is appropriate in a blog entry.  Obviously the discussion could go in many different directions.  One direction would be to explore the gaps and distortions in the research record of the Irish in Britain, and of the Irish Diaspora more widely.  This we are doing.

Previous discussion of these images has spiralled in strange directions.  Doubts about a Robert Capa photograph do not lead to the suggestion that no one died in the Spanish Civil War.  Doubts about an Alexander Gardner or a Matthew Brady photograph do not lead to the suggestion that no one died in the American Civil War.  In the age of mechanical reproduction we really should not be sucked in to defending the authenticity of any particular image.

In the 1970s and 1980s I worked with the creative photographers of that period.  My home, in Bradford, Yorkshire, is not far from the National Science and Media Museum - we spend a lot of time looking at photographs,

As I have said, the discovery of Image 2 must change the discussion.  Images 1 and 2 are very interesting.  As photographs they are efficient.  Perhaps someone did wander the streets of London, camera at the ready.

Or perhaps someone, with appropriate prayers, made an icon.

Patrick O'Sullivan

January 2022



Niall O'Leary writes...

Image 3 is immensely interesting.  As you point out this is a modification of Image 1.  What has been done is that the fold of the curtain containing the single half star to the left of the sign has, for whatever reason, been cloned three times, with artefacts from the (clumsy) cloning especially visible in the first fold.  See the attached graphic where I have lined up the star from the original, Image 1, and the three stars from image 3 side by side behind a grid   To my eyes they are clearly the same star.  Perhaps this is just to obscure the copyrighted nature of the original as you say.  Interesting all the same.

Tuesday 7 December 2021

Autoharp + Stephen Foster + Hard Times

When the UK Autoharp Association announced its 2021 Advent Calendar project, I was determined to offer a contribution...

Partly because, after a struggle, I had finally got my health into a better place, and I wanted a project that was visible and achievable.

And...  I am a loyal member of the Autoharp Association.

So, the UK Autoharps Advent Calendar - 24 songs and tunes played and sung by Autoharp Association Members, one song a day in the count-up to Christmas.

And my contribution appeared on Day 6, December 6.

Hard Times by Stephen Foster, performed by Patrick O'Sullivan  - here we are on YouTube....

This note on my blog addresses some questions that I have been asked, and addresses, very briefly, some background  issues...

1.  Stephen Foster - background and comment...  Fairly easy to pick up on the web nowadays...

Library of Congress

Stephen Collins Foster, 1826-1864

'...Although penniless when he died on 10 January 1864, Foster bestowed on America a rich legacy of memorable songs...'

He was 37 years old when he died.

This is the NY Times Review of

Ken Emerson, DOO-DAH!  Stephen Foster and the Rise of American Popular Culture

But lots out there...  You can see a number of themes...  Stephen Foster's part in the creation of 'Americana', including blackface minstrelsy, and his place in the record of slavery...

2.  Research and thinking about Stephen Foster is now aided by the online Stephen Foster Collection at the University of Pittsburgh...

We can certainly pick up there everything we need about our song, Hard Times Come Again No More. 

This is the first sketch, June 26, 1851, in Fosters note book...

This, by the way, puts aside the suggestion that Foster's title and the song were inspired by Hard Times, the novel by Charles Dickens, first instalment published 1854.

But the 'Hard Times' idea is certainly around.  From 1854 onwards the song is in print...

Christy Minstrels Sheet Music...

Arranged for guitar...

3.  Discussion on the web...

Paul Campbell

Old music: Stephen Foster – Hard Times (Come Again No More)

'A song written nearly 160 years ago still resonated down American history. And you don't need to be American to be blown away...

The helpful Mainly Norfolk web site -

But note that both those web sites are wrong - we now know that the song was not 'written' in 1854.  For we have seen the note book...

The song has special resonances for the McGarrigle/Wainwright family...

And became a 2020 lockdown project for Rufus Wainwright...

4.  The autoharp communities have a special relationship with the work of Stephen Foster.  There is a relationship with 'Americana', and its history - it was in the United States that the autoharp became a 'folk' instrument.

There is a relationship with 'country music' - a complex relationship.  See, for example...

Jackson, M. A. (2018) The Honky Tonk on the Left: Progressive Thought in Country Music. Edited by M. A. Jackson. University of Massachusetts Press.

And the autoharp communities have a special relationship with this song, Hard Times.

See from 2012...

Hard Times Come Again No More - The Cyberpluckerpotluck

An international, online collaboration

Organised and edited by Catherine Britell

You can just hear me, in 2012 - guided by Stephanie Hladowski - determined, as ever, to make a contribution.

I have dedicated my 2021 version to Cathy Britell.

See also...

Bryan Bowers and Friends perform Hard Times

California Autoharp Gathering 2019

Music starts at 3.20...

The melody sits comfortably on the standard autoharp.  I sing it in F - we have chorded it very simply, F C Bb.

5.  Is it a Christmas song?  Paul Campbell, in that Guardian article, tells us that Foster would sing this song often, in his last days - before his death in January 1864.  It is certainly a song to be sung at Christmas.  In any case the Autoharp Association guidelines for the 2021 Advent Calendar project did say that the chosen song does not have to be a Christmas song.

Is it an Irish Famine song?  The text has resonances - the troubled wave, and the wail along the shore, puts Foster's song alongside Irish Famine narratives, like Thoreau's account of the wreck of the brig St. John, bound for Boston, from Galway, full of emigrants - wrecked in Cohasset Bay, October 1849.  Thoreau's 'The Shipwreck' was published in 1855 - it is in...

King, J. (2019) The History of the Irish Famine, Volume II The Irish Famine Migration Narratives: Eye-Witness Testimonies. London: Routledge.

See also

Morgan, J. (2004) ‘Thoreau’s “The Shipwreck” (1855): Famine Narratives and the Female Embodiment of Catastrophe’, New Hibernia Review / Iris Éireannach Nua. University of St. Thomas (Center for Irish Studies), 8(3), pp. 47–57.

6.  Resonances with my academic work - I am currently Visiting Professor of Irish Diaspora Studies, London Metropolitan University...

I have mentioned Stephen Foster's part in the development of 'Americana', blackface minstrelsy and the record of slavery...  There is a complex knot of issues around Irish and Irish-American involvement in the creation of and the performance of the blackface minstrel stereotype, the exploitation of that stereotype for humour - to be put alongside, perhaps, the comic exploitation of stereotypes of the Irish.

The first substantial meditation on this is Peter Quinn's sombre novel...

Quinn, P. (1995) Banished children of Eve. New York: Penguin.

Robert Nowatzki 's articles are a good starting point...

Nowatzki, R. (2007) ‘“Blackin’’ up is us Doin’ White Folks Doin’ Us”: Blackface Minstrelsy and Racial Performance in Contemporary American Fiction and Film”’, Lit: Literature Interpretation Theory, 18(2), pp. 115–136.

Nowatzki, R. (2006) ‘Paddy jumps Jim Crow: Irish-Americans and Blackface minstrelsy’, Éire-Ireland. Irish-American Cultural Institute, 41(3), pp. 162–184.

Greaves, M. (2012) ‘Slave Ships and Coffin Ships: Transatlantic Exchanges in Irish-American Blackface Minstrelsy.’, Comparative American Studies, 10(1), pp. 78–94.

Hughes, R. L. (2006) ‘Minstrel Music: The Sounds and Images of Race in Antebellum America’, The History Teacher. Society for History Education, 40(1), pp. 27–43.

And lastly...

7.  The credits

UK Autoharp Association, Advent Calendar, December 2021


Stephen Foster

Hard Times, Come Again No More

First draft 1851

Published 1854


Patrick O'Sullivan


Patrick O'Sullivan

Oscar Schmidt 21 Chord Model B Autoharp, 1975-77


Danny Yates

Audio & Video Production

Danny Yates

City Sound Studios 

As I say, I was determined, determined, to make a contribution.

In a funding bid recently I spoke of our new ability to exploit the recording studio, and recording studio technology, as a working tool - rather than a rite of passage.

We took recording studio, first draft, short cuts.  First we built a spine.  We chose a key, comfortable for me and the autoharp.  A simple guitar structure for Verse 1.  There are 5 Verses.  Copy and paste 4 times.

That is the structure to support my singing.  And that is why the guitar part is so simple - we might return and work on that again.

Autoharp.  It is an Autoharp Association project.   The autoharp follows the guitar structure for Verse 1.  Chords F C Bb.  There are 5 Verses.  Copy and paste 4 times.

Add another layer of autoharp.  Add a bit of colour and autoharp variation.  We should return and work on that again.

The inevitable technical glitch - one video card failed.  Redo some video, and blend it in as best we can.  No one will ever notice.

(Of course you did notice.  But we got our submission in, in time...)

Patrick O'Sullivan

December 7 2021