Can someone translate Irish to English in this song? The Rare Old Times

The Rare Old Times is a wonderful song about getting older and the world changing around you. In this case Dublin.

There is one verse that puzzles me.

rogue ?
Child of Mary = Catholic?
from the rebel liberties?

Did she really date a black guy?
Thanks

I’m thinking that the “rogue” refers to the singer.

“A child of Mary from the rebel liberties” is Peggy. She’s a good Catholic, but her family background is that her parents or grandparents likely supported the DeValera side in the Civil War of 1922.

Sounds to me that she more than dated “a black guy”, she went off with him to Birmingham, in England. Ah, but was he Negroid?

The area around Brimingham is known as “the Black country” for the coal mining that goes on there. The individual in question was a student, we are told, but he also had “a skin as black as coal”, which to me would mean that he may not be destined to be a coal miner himself, but that coal miners exist in his family or background.

The song is already in English. Irish is actually a whole different language.

The “Liberties” are neighborhoods of Dublin. Their “rebel” nature predates the Irish Civil War. (And anyway, both sides in the Civil War were “rebels,” in the traditional sense of being insurrectionists against British rule.)

The coal-country-heritage theory is cute, but rather out of character for Irish songs. Physical descriptions of people may be florid and exaggerated, but they are rarely metaphors. What appears to be physical description likely is physical description. So maybe the student chap wasn’t literally “black as coal,” but I’m pretty sure he had dark skin.

I know it’s in English not Gaelic.

So Liberties are neighborhoods. Thanks.

In English, it’s “Irish.”

You’re welcome. :wink:

A free spirited good catholic girl (member of The Legion of Mary?) from the Liberties. It’s the area just south of Christ Church.
The student chap was black.

There black people in Ireland? Who knew?

Yeah, dozens of them.

My immediate thought, though I am not British, was that he was black-as-coal, from living in Birmingham, the Midlands, the “Black Country.” (Although “the Black Country” is not identified with Birmingham itself, but rather some of the regions around it.)

So, I could go either way with the interpretation of “skin black as coal.”

My interpretation of it always was that he was an African student at Trinity College or wherever. Googling I found a secondhand reference to the author saying he was at a dance dancing with a lovely girl when an African man cut in and took her away.
The coal, Birmingham thing is tenuous, to an Irish person at least.

I defer to you judgment, then. Sounds like black (as in “African decent”) student is the most likely meaning.

I like a lot of the traditional Irish ballads but I absolutely loathe this song. I find it incredibly reactionary and all too typical of the misplaced nostalgia of some people in this country. Yeah, things were really better in the rare oul times when, you know, everyone was hungry, clergy were above the law, children were raped and tortured in industrial schools, women were institutionalised for giving birth out of wedlock (often after being raped by their fathers and brothers) and black people were a novelty.

But then I’m not a real Dub :wink:

I think the song has a beautiful melody and I love the chorus but I get what you mean. The worst thing about the boom was auld fellas saying how great things were in the past by comparison.

I’m not a big fan, either. If Dublin keeps on changing and your trade’s a memory, then don’t just whine about it, learn a new trade! Keep up with the times.

The “skin as black as coal” line also bothers me. Are you really any more upset that the guy who stole your girl is black than you would be if it was a white guy? Why? And women have been choosing other men for all of history-- The only thing that’s different about this new and scary modern world is that there’s the possibility that the other man might (horrors!) have a different skin color.

It’s because coal rhymes with soul.

*And I courted Peggy Dignan, as pretty as you please
A rogue & a child of Mary, from the rebel liberties
I lost her to a student chap with skin as white as milk
When he took her off to Birmingham, she was wearing pure silk
*

There is no indication that he is.

If it signifies anything (beyond conveniences of songwriting) it is more that he was from elsewhere, a world beyond that of the singer, and that when the girl leaves with him, she is really gone.

A few. Lynott’s probably the one you’ve heard of.
Maybe you want to contact the author of this song?

pete /at/ petestjohn.com

Took the courtesy of breaking the link.

This reminds me of a heated debate I once saw on another forum about another Irish ballad, “The Streets of New York”. Someone was outraged (I’m not exaggerating) about the classism in the lyric “my kids know to use the correct knife and fork”. Someone else pointed out that there are only so many words that rhyme with “York”. Cue a few hilarious alternative suggestions. Erm, maybe you had to be there.

That’s funny because I only heard that song recently and found that particular line odd but yeah doggrel balladeering requires odd rhyming sometimes. :slight_smile:

Sent him an email. I’ll post any response I get if I get one.