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Origin: The Old Triangle

DigiTrad:
OULD TRIANGLE


Related threads:
The Ould Triangle (59)
Lyr Req: The Auld Triangle (25)
The Ould Triangle: which gaol ? (32)
Tune Req: Old Triangle w/ Dermot O'Reilly voc (3)
Lyr/Chords Req: Old Triangle / Ould Triangle (12)


16 Jul 99 - 02:30 AM
Martin _Ryan 16 Jul 99 - 05:12 AM
16 Jul 99 - 05:55 AM
Martin _Ryan 16 Jul 99 - 07:52 AM
GUEST,walt 22 Jun 06 - 10:20 AM
Fergie 22 Jun 06 - 11:57 AM
GUEST 22 Jun 06 - 11:59 AM
Scrump 22 Jun 06 - 12:06 PM
GUEST,Hootenanny 22 Jun 06 - 12:46 PM
GUEST,thurg 22 Jun 06 - 02:22 PM
Dead Horse 22 Jun 06 - 03:36 PM
Big Tim 23 Jun 06 - 01:05 AM
Dave Hanson 23 Jun 06 - 01:06 AM
Big Tim 23 Jun 06 - 03:20 AM
Dave Hanson 23 Jun 06 - 07:24 AM
GUEST,thurg 23 Jun 06 - 10:08 AM
DannyC 23 Jun 06 - 10:23 AM
Tannywheeler 23 Jun 06 - 07:36 PM
Malcolm Douglas 23 Jun 06 - 07:45 PM
Tannywheeler 23 Jun 06 - 08:19 PM
GUEST,Joe_F 23 Jun 06 - 09:30 PM
GUEST,thurg 23 Jun 06 - 10:20 PM
Fergie 23 Jun 06 - 10:48 PM
Abby Sale 23 Jun 06 - 10:53 PM
Deckman 23 Jun 06 - 11:25 PM
GUEST,thurg 24 Jun 06 - 02:54 AM
Big Tim 24 Jun 06 - 03:30 AM
Big Tim 24 Jun 06 - 03:53 AM
Declan 24 Jun 06 - 04:01 AM
Big Tim 24 Jun 06 - 12:16 PM
Tannywheeler 24 Jun 06 - 12:57 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 24 Jun 06 - 10:03 PM
Big Al Whittle 24 Jun 06 - 11:23 PM
GUEST 02 Jul 06 - 05:48 PM
GUEST,Susanne (skw) 02 Jul 06 - 05:51 PM
GUEST,mick 03 Jul 06 - 11:33 AM
bill\sables 04 Jul 06 - 08:12 AM
Big Tim 04 Jul 06 - 01:44 PM
GUEST 05 Jul 06 - 04:19 AM
vectis 05 Jul 06 - 07:06 AM
Joybell 05 Jul 06 - 09:51 AM
Big Tim 05 Jul 06 - 01:43 PM
Keith A of Hertford 05 Jul 06 - 03:19 PM
GUEST 07 Jul 06 - 07:14 AM
Fergie 11 Jul 06 - 03:24 PM
GUEST,Tom Neary 30 Jul 12 - 01:00 PM
MartinRyan 30 Jul 12 - 01:06 PM
MGM·Lion 30 Jul 12 - 01:44 PM
MartinRyan 30 Jul 12 - 01:58 PM
GUEST, Sminky 31 Jul 12 - 06:26 AM
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Subject: The Old Triangle
From:
Date: 16 Jul 99 - 02:30 AM

Hi Does anybody know the history behind The Old Triangle Song? What "is" the Old Triangle, anyway? And why, how does it "jingle jangle"? Hans


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: Martin _Ryan
Date: 16 Jul 99 - 05:12 AM

It was a large iron triangle (with a gap, if you see what I mean!) within which the warder would rattle a rod to attract attention. "jingle-jangle" represents the sound.

regards


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From:
Date: 16 Jul 99 - 05:55 AM

Thanks Martin, why didn't I think of that myself?

And - the banks of the Royal Canal, I suppose they refer to a Dublin prison bank site? Do you know?

Hans


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: Martin _Ryan
Date: 16 Jul 99 - 07:52 AM

Hans

You're quite right! Mountjoy Jail is on the banks of the Royal Canal in Dublin

Regards


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: GUEST,walt
Date: 22 Jun 06 - 10:20 AM

hi hans,
as with most prison jargon the obvious explanation is meant for general consumption. however the esoteric version is much more human and indicative of what occupies the majority of a prisoners thinking. sex.
the 'auld triangle' is a coloquial term for the genitals. ie in britain 'meat and two veg' [vegitables]etc
and the 'royal cannal' is quite simply a womans vagina. ergo the 'banks of,,,' refers to the womans thighs.
which in the song intends to show that no matter what time of day or circumastance, the 'auld triangle' is reminding its owner that its still there. which echo's in the use of the steel triangle to signal morning and lights out. [pavlov might have had something to say along these lines!]

hope this helps.
walt, wales :-)


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: Fergie
Date: 22 Jun 06 - 11:57 AM

Jasus! Walt you are letting your overactive imagination run away with you.
Mountjay jail is situated on the south bank of the Royal Canal on the nortside of Dublin City. Many years ago (before there were cheap watches or electric clocks) it was customary to ring a bell to let the wardens in the various wings of a prison know the time of day (end of shift, feeding time, lights out etc. etc..). In Mountjoy prison they did not use a bell for this purpose, instead they used a large bar of metal that had been forged into the shape of a triangle (much cheaper than a cast bell) this instrument was suspended on a short chain in the exercise yard of the prison and it was beaten rapidly with a hammer at the oppropriate times.
Brendan Behan is reputed to have written this song, he was held prisoner in Mountjoy (universally referred to as the 'Joy in Dublin) Brendan was arrested for attempted murder of a Civic Guard (a policeman).
The song is evocative of the loneliness and tedium that prisoners experience, it is about life in prison it is not about the vagina, the genitals or womens' thighs. Get a grip on yourself Walt, you need to get out more.
Fergus


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: GUEST
Date: 22 Jun 06 - 11:59 AM

If he got a grip on himself he wouldn't need to get out more.


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: Scrump
Date: 22 Jun 06 - 12:06 PM

LOL ;-)

I must admit in years of singing the song, I've never thought of those sexual references - apart from the verse about the female prison, of course.


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 22 Jun 06 - 12:46 PM

I feel pretty certain that Brendan Behan did indeed write the song. It was performed in hi play The Quare Fellow. I remember seeing it at Wyndhams Theatre off Charing Cross Road in London more years back than I care to think of.


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: GUEST,thurg
Date: 22 Jun 06 - 02:22 PM

Behan wrote the lyrics. The melody is the same as that of The Galway Shawl, which I assume predates The Auld Triangle; likely the tune predates both songs.


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: Dead Horse
Date: 22 Jun 06 - 03:36 PM

And the Galway Shawl is a reference to pubic hair I suppose!!! ;-)


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: Big Tim
Date: 23 Jun 06 - 01:05 AM

Nowadays, Behan's authorship is seldom questioned, but it is very interesting to note how he introduced the song on radio in 1952. "This song was written by a person who will never hear it recorded, because he's not in possession of a gramophone. He's…he's… pretty much of a tramp".                                          

The comment is usually interpreted as Behan talking about himself: ironically, and with admirable modesty. However, having listened to the recording, it sounds, to me, more likely that he was in fact talking about another person. There is no hint of ironic humor discernible in his phrasing, and Behan was not renowned for his modesty: certainly not to the extent of crediting something successful that he had written to someone else.                     

In addition, his biographer Michael O'Sullivan writes that Behan asked for the radio royalty payment to be made to Dick Shannon, a Dubliner: possibly an old pub or prison acquaintance. O'Sullivan also quotes the show's producer, Micheál Ó hAodha, as stating "he [Behan] never claimed authorship". The 1952 broadcast consisted of only four verses, with three, five and seven above not included. The balance of probability is that Dick Shannon originated the song and that Behan later added to it.


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 23 Jun 06 - 01:06 AM

Brendan Behan wrote the song, it's verses to be sang in between scenes in his play ' The Quare Fellow ' about a man waiting exexcution.

Good song, good play too.

eric


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: Big Tim
Date: 23 Jun 06 - 03:20 AM

'Brendan Behan wrote the song'. That's a simple assertion, have you any evidence Eric?


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 23 Jun 06 - 07:24 AM

Soodlums, The Irish Ballad Book, page 85 and the credits to the film
' The Prisoner ' staring Patrick McGoohan, based on Behans play, The Quare Fellow.

What reason have you to doubt it ?

eric


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: GUEST,thurg
Date: 23 Jun 06 - 10:08 AM

Um, Eric - did you read Big Tim's post on the subject?

When I myself asserted (above) that Behan had written the song, based on the same sort of evidence as yours, the thought crossed my mind that for all I knew he could have embellished or polished a song he had heard in the joint or elsewhere ... I figured if anyone had contradictory evidence they would weigh in, as has happened ...


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: DannyC
Date: 23 Jun 06 - 10:23 AM

The Oulde Triangle and The Old Triangle and their respective Canals...

As there was an artist involved - it/they could, of course, be both. I am of two minds on the matter.


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: Tannywheeler
Date: 23 Jun 06 - 07:36 PM

If Soodlums says "The Prisoner" (TV show with Patrick McG.) was based on Behan's "The Quare Fellow" they are mistaken. Aside from the basic fact of imprisonment, there's no connection. The idea must've been put forward by someone who'd never seen either the Tv program or Behan's play.(imnever-to-beho)             Tw


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 23 Jun 06 - 07:45 PM

Anything you read in a "Soodlums" anthology needs to be checked before you believe it. They are not well researched.


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: Tannywheeler
Date: 23 Jun 06 - 08:19 PM

It appears you're right, Mr. Douglas.          Tw


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: GUEST,Joe_F
Date: 23 Jun 06 - 09:30 PM

Small metal triangles are used as instruments in orchestras. Thus, it is no surprise that someone thought of using a big one as a gong.

I think I may have asked this elsewhere, but: Why does he care how many women there are in the female prison? You'd think it would be either "In the female prison Is a certain woman" or "Outside this prison Are a billion women".

--- Joe Fineman    joe_f@verizon.net

||: Which is worse: getting used to what you don't like, or to what you like? :||


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: GUEST,thurg
Date: 23 Jun 06 - 10:20 PM

Yes, but outside the prison are also a billion or so competing men. Inside the female prison are 75 women who are presumably utterly desperate for, um, male attention. The thought of "a certain woman" is certainly romantic, and proper, but the thought of having 75 male-attention-starved women to oneself has a certain appeal to a type of improper imagination which I am sure is quite foreign to you and me. (I apologize for having to bring up such distasteful matter).


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: Fergie
Date: 23 Jun 06 - 10:48 PM

The female prisoners in the joy were used to "man" the prison laundry. Brendan Behan used to relate an anecdote concerning a male prisoner that pinned a note to the collar of his prisonshirt "more starch here" it said. The shirt came back from the laundry with a note pinned to the tail that said "less shite here".
Fergus


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: Abby Sale
Date: 23 Jun 06 - 10:53 PM

As indicated, Behan used the song, a verse at a time, in between the acts. There's often other "business" going on - the guard making comments about the singer's noise, etc.

The exact verses are slightly different from the way MacColl & most others later sing them. He _may_ have been the first to record it.

I got interested in the "proper" accent to use. Often it's sung in bog Irish or (more appropriately) prison/street slang, with which Behan would have been very familiar.   The song is written in standard English. The book gives no info on the accent to be used or social class of the singer. Well, other than his current situation.

I tried to get hold of an original recording. Turned out (this is mostly anecdotal & newspaper reporting...) the play was first produced in a miniscule theater(re) on zippo budget. To save on salaries, the singer is never seen. He sings from his cell only and is, in fact, a tape recording of Behan, himself.

The tape was stored with play paraphernalia and ultimately just disappeared. Gone. Zap. Seems that's pretty definitive. I'm told.

A shame. There is no credit (or disclaimer) in the book as to authorship.


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: Deckman
Date: 23 Jun 06 - 11:25 PM

Fascinating!


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: GUEST,thurg
Date: 24 Jun 06 - 02:54 AM

How about singing it with your own accent?


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: Big Tim
Date: 24 Jun 06 - 03:30 AM

The verse beginning "in the female prison" can surely be nothing other than sexual symbolism?

The Royal Canal is simply the Royal Canal. Behan was born at 14 Russell Street, Dublin, between the North Circular Road and the Royal Canal. He played on its banks and learned to swim in its waters. It was important to him. (And to his brother Dominic, whose ashes were scattered in the Royal Canal). Mountjoy Prison is also on the Canal's banks and would have been visible from inside. The sight of it stretching away in the distance would,for Behan, have been a particularly poignant sight.

The Quare Fellow was inspired by the execution of the real life Barney Kirwan on 2 June 1943 (while Behan was inside) for the murder of his brother in a dispute over the inheritance of the family farm. He then skinned the body and buried it in a bog. Behan thought him "bloody gentle", but also, "a complete nut".

"The metal triangle used to be rung to call the prisoners to their tasks" - Kathleen Behan, Brendan's mother.


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: Big Tim
Date: 24 Jun 06 - 03:53 AM

I forgot to say that a statue of BB was erected on the banks of the Royal Canal in 2003.


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: Declan
Date: 24 Jun 06 - 04:01 AM

While I thought that Walt was a bit over the top with his use of imagery, Big Tim's opening remark is obviously correct. I've heard that verse sung with the words "Then me old triangle...".

If you want to sing the song with an accent other than your own then the appropriate accent is obviously a Dublin accent, since the song is set here in Dublin and Behan, being a Dub, would have sung it that way too.


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: Big Tim
Date: 24 Jun 06 - 12:16 PM

As a matter of interest, other songs that Behan sang on radio that night in 1952 (on 'The Ballad Maker's Saturday Night')included, 'The Boys of Kilmichael', 'The Coolin' (his all-time favorite song), 'The Zoological Gardens', and 'We're Here Because We're Queer' (which resurfaced in his most successful work, 'The Hostage', in 1958).         

Behan had an excellent singing voice and could probably have made it as a vocalist in a ballad group. The number of songs, and fragments of songs, many self-written, that he scatters throughout his various works, shows that, had he put his mind to it, and stayed off alcohol, he could probably also have achieved major success as a songwriter.   

After all, he did have an excellent songwriting example within the family, his uncle Peadar Kearney, who wrote the Irish national anthem.


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: Tannywheeler
Date: 24 Jun 06 - 12:57 PM

Several of the Clancy Bros. were in "The Quare Fellow"--a production of that play at Circle in the Square in Greenwich Village in NYC--in the mid-late 1950s(?'60s?). Liam sang it then.         Tw


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 24 Jun 06 - 10:03 PM

Don't Muck About With The Moon----one of my favorites.


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 24 Jun 06 - 11:23 PM

Don't know that one, Art.

he always sounds a bit of a rum character from stories. Donleavy tells this tale about Behan coming to see him in London, with a story about an American magazine that wants him to write something, so can he borrow JPD's typewriter?

Donleavy says no, you just want to pawn it to go boozing. Behan cheerfully admits that is indeed the case, and they sit down together friendly as puppies.

Sounds a difficult chap to sustain a friendship with, supposing he'd got the typewriter.....


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: GUEST
Date: 02 Jul 06 - 05:48 PM

To complete John's quotation from Kathleen Behan above:

[1984:] Our Brendan spent so long in jail, he wrote a lot about it. He wrote a lovely song to go with his play 'The Quare Fellow', and called it The Old Triangle, after the metal triangle that used to be rung to call the prisoners to their tasks. (Kathleen Behan, Mother of all the Behans 108)

She seems to be certain her beloved son wrote it.


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: GUEST,Susanne (skw)
Date: 02 Jul 06 - 05:51 PM

That was me. Sorry, didn't notice the %$*/& cookie has expired again! Susanne


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: GUEST,mick
Date: 03 Jul 06 - 11:33 AM

Patrick McGoohan played in the film version of the quare fella so there might be a cause for a memory mix-up there . There is imo a subtle sexual imagery in the song .I don't see how anyone who couldn't "get out more" would not be affected in such a way . The hungry feeling of the lag dreaming of his girl Sal surely refers to sexual appetite as well as the usual one .


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: bill\sables
Date: 04 Jul 06 - 08:12 AM

If you visit Kilmanham Goal in Dublin, which is now open to the public, you will see a large iron triangle which, according to the decription card, was the Old Triangle from Mountjoy and the one in the song


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Old Triangle' Song
From: Big Tim
Date: 04 Jul 06 - 01:44 PM

Thanks for the tip Bill. I didn't see when I was there a couple of years ago, will do next time. (In case anyone is searching, it's Kilmainham).


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Old Triangle' Song
From: GUEST
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 04:19 AM

I thought that "the prisoner" was supposed to have been inspired by Franz Kafka


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Old Triangle' Song
From: vectis
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 07:06 AM

I have a recording of Dominic Beehan singing this and the sleeve notes state thaat he was the author of the song not Brendan. Brendan probably nicked it to use in his play or Dominic may have written it specially for the Quare fellow.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Old Triangle' Song
From: Joybell
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 09:51 AM

Not much mention of the tune except for what GUEST,thurg has to offer - (The Galway Shawl)
It might be of interest, for the record, that the Australian song "Moreton Bay" has been collected here with the same tune. Singer Alan Musgrove notes that "the tune is English". It was collected by Norm O'Connor from Simon McDonald of Creswick, Victoria in 1960. Simon McDonald learned it from his uncle Jack McDonald who was born in 1850.
Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Old Triangle' Song
From: Big Tim
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 01:43 PM

I'm sure it was agreed on another thread that the tune was a slowed down version of 'Galway Shawl'. I think Martin Ryan pointed that out.

Re Dominic as the composer; possible but unlikely. Maybe it was a missprint on the record! What date was that recording vectis? There was a dood deal of sibling rivalry between the Behan brothers; for example, Brian claimed to have originated 'McAlpine's Fusiliers'.

It would be interesting to know in what year 'Old Triangle' was inserted into the play, which Brendan began writing while in Mountjoy in 1945, when Dom was still very young. (The title 'Quare Fellow' was provided by Alan Simpson and/or his wife Carolyn Swift, directors of the Pike Theatre where the play was first performed. When Swift told Behan that the play would only be produced under the title of 'Quare Fellow', Behan replied, 'for £30, you can call it the 'Brothers Fucking Karamazov' if you want'. The original title was 'Casadh Sugáin Eile - the Twisting of Another Rope' (execution rope, get it!)


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Old Triangle' Song
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 03:19 PM

I have only ever heard it to Galway Shawl melody.
likewise Moreton Bay.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Old Triangle' Song
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Jul 06 - 07:14 AM

"he always sounds a bit of a rum character from stories. Donleavy tells this tale about Behan coming to see him in London, with a story about an American magazine that wants him to write something, so can he borrow JPD's typewriter?

Donleavy says no, you just want to pawn it to go boozing. Behan cheerfully admits that is indeed the case, and they sit down together friendly as puppies."

My favourite story is about when The Hostage was about to be premiered on Broadway. During rehearsal, Behan asked the director if he could make a sign for the set (the play is set in a whorehouse) which would say "bless this house" in Irish. He explained to the director that every house in Ireland would have one of these on the wall, even a house of ill repute, so the director agreed to this nice little touch of authenticity.

It wasn't till several weeks into the run that the director found out what "Pog mo thoin" actually meant. And he was furious.

Back OT: I've seen the Old Triangle at Kilmainham gaol as well, and was strangely moved...


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Old Triangle' Song
From: Fergie
Date: 11 Jul 06 - 03:24 PM

The triangle on display in Kilmainham Goal, is not the one from Mountjoy Goal. It is the original one from Kilmainham Goal, I was there today and checked it out.
Fergus


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: GUEST,Tom Neary
Date: 30 Jul 12 - 01:00 PM

I have posted the real explanation of what the Auld Triangle actually was on one of the other threads related to the song...The Auld Triangle was not in fact anything to do with the Joy itself, but was in fact the sound of the metal triangles used by the working boats on the Royal canal. They would make deliveries to the warehouses that ran on the banks opposite the prison, as a warning of a delivery or pick up. These deliveries were at six in the morning and six in the evening, so gave the men inside an idea of the time. Within the context of the song, it also represented a link to the normality of the outside world to the prisoners incarcerated within.


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: MartinRyan
Date: 30 Jul 12 - 01:06 PM

Click here for the thread GUEST TomNeary refers to.

Regards


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 30 Jul 12 - 01:44 PM

I think all these Goals referred to above must be Own Goals!


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: MartinRyan
Date: 30 Jul 12 - 01:58 PM

Naaah - they're Eoin Goals - truly Gaelic! ;>)>


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Subject: RE: The Old Triangle
From: GUEST, Sminky
Date: 31 Jul 12 - 06:26 AM

"I have a recording of Dominic Beehan singing this and the sleeve notes state thaat he was the author of the song not Brendan. Brendan probably nicked it to use in his play or Dominic may have written it specially for the Quare fellow."

Bert Jansch told me that Dominic wrote the song. Bert heard Dominic singing it in an Edinburgh pub and this formed the basis for Bert's version.


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