Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Flogging You, Flogging Me, Flogging Everyone

My great-grandfather, my name sake and all around great man, arrived in the United States July 17, 1920 on a ship called the Celtic with his father and mother. They emigrated from Scotland via Liverpool. I don't know anything about the motivation for leaving the Old Country, I'm guessing it's a combination of wondering what the sun looked like and a desire to get away from the English. I could be wrong though.

An interesting aside about my great-grandfather Stewart. He was born right around the turn of the century near Dumfries, Scotland (also the home of Robert Burns).



Like many of his generation he found his way into WWI fighting with either the Gordon Highlanders or the Black Watch in the British army, I haven't been able to find out which. In either case he was part of the 1918 offensive which wrested much of north eastern France from German hands. Both units were part of the mobilization that started in the forests of Villers Cottret and moved up through Picardy. This is only interesting as I lived in this area for five months toward the end of my missionary service in France. I found it a very interesting juxtaposition in the generations of my family.

Back to our narrative. Passing through Ellis Island, the Forbes settled in Quincy, Mass. Soon Stewart sent for (at least that's how I suspect it happened I haven't been able to prove it. I just know that she didn't come on the boat with him) his sweetheart. They married and my grandfather was born, in that order even.

Now I bring this up because my Scottish great grandparents settling in highly Irish Boston provided one of the great narratives of my family's life.
Our common hatred of the Irish.

Now you have to understand that my great-grandmother spent her life cleaning hotels and houses for the previously established Irish population of Boston. Can you imagine how that would irk a proud Scotswoman? Especially one who's father owned (as far as we can tell anyways) a prosperous business in Glasgow.

So you can imagine the somersaults she's doing in her grave knowing that her great-grandsons betrayed the family heritage of blind racism against the Irish by going to Irishfest 2000 this summer (I guess the Irish are on a different calendar, that's the only explanation for why it wasn't Irishfest 2007). In our defense, Irishness and Scottishness in America have become largely conflated into a larger "Celtic" identity.

It's this new concept of Celticness that can explain how a band called "Enter the Haggis" can play at an Irish festival. They, by the way, kicked some major arse in their performance. They successfully fused bagpipes, panpipes, and punk rock sensibilities to create a fascinating sound that was toe tappingly awesome.

They were followed by a less than stellar punk band during whose performance my brother and I, in true old man mode, left the main stage area and found a quiet seat where we could criticize the music that kids of today listen to. What happened to the good old days when there were true artists like White Lion, Whitesnake, or Great White? That said there still are bands worthy of attention in this day and age. The closing act at Irishfest 2000 was one of those, Flogging Molly.

Now for those of you who don't know them I'm ashamed of you (unless you're over forty in which case I'm impressed you know how to turn on a computer....Wife will yell at me about that comment later). Flogging Molly is an Irish punk band that's been around for years. Fusing instruments as diverse as pipes, accordions, and piano, they've developed a loyal following throughout North America. Their hits might be an acquired taste for some including classics as "The Worst Day Since Yesterday", "The Devil's Dance Floor", and "Drunkin Lullabies". As with any proper Irish band it seems like most of their music is about drinking, but would you really expect less?

In the end this proved to be one of the best concerts I'd been to in ages, and was well worth the inevitable haunting by great-grandma's unsettled spirit. It also should redeem me slightly in the eyes of those who mocked my fall into country music. Here's a video for those of you who aren't familiar with the greatness of flogging molly and one to introduce Enter the Haggis.


Flogging Molly


Enter the Haggis

2 comments:

Mr Jo Bloggity said...

My Danish ancestor's totally kicked your Celtic ancestor's butts.

Alissa said...

i ist german