The Auld Triangle

 History

 

Mountjoy was designed by the British military engineering officer, Captain Joshua JebbRoyal Engineers and opened in 1850, based on the design of London's Pentonville Prison also designed by Jebb. Originally intended as the first stop for men sentenced to transportation, they would spend a period in separate confinement before being transferred to Spike Island and transported from there to Van Diemen's Land.

 

A total of 46 prisoners (including one woman, Annie Walsh) were executed within the walls of the prison, prior to the abolition of capital punishment. Executions were done by hanging, after which the bodies of the dead were taken down from the gallows and buried within the prison grounds in unmarked graves

The song

The song is used to introduce the play, a story about the occurrences in a prison (in real life Mountjoy Prison where Behan had once been lodged) the day a convict is set to be executed. The triangle in the title refers to the large metal triangle which was beaten daily in Mountjoy Prison to waken the inmates ("The Auld Triangle goes Jingle Jangle"). The triangle still hangs in the prison at the centre where the wings meet on a metal gate. It is no longer used, though the hammer to beat it is mounted beside it. In the original play by Brendan Behan, the song is written as the "old triangle" not "auld triangle".

The triangle was rung regularly to signify points in the prisons routine.

A second level of meaning is hinted at in the final verse in which the singer imagines himself dwelling in the women's prison. Another mourns the separation from ''his girl Sal". These hint at the internal erotic fantasies that prisoners use to separate themselves from the harsh prison environment. In this meaning the old triangle becomes the female pudenda and the Royal Canal the vagina. [1]

As with many Irish ballads, the lyrics have been changed with each passing cover. For example, the Dropkick Murphys recording condenses the structure into a three-lyric section song with a chorus based on the last two lines of each stanza in the original.

Les mer her

The Auld Triangle

Fiddler`s Green

Legend has it that there is a special paradise awaiting sailors. This place was called Fiddler’s Green. Descriptions of it go back at least to 1685, when a description of it appears under the name of “Lubberland.”

Fiddler’s Green grew in the telling, but it was a place where there was always music, and where dancers never got tired. There was plenty to eat – pudding, meat, pie, candy. Tobacco and alcohol were plentiful and free. Often a sailor's soul in Fiddler’s Green was tied to a ship, but on these magic ships there was no work. The wind always blew fair, and if one was fishing, the fish jumped into the net of their own accord.

Fiddler`s Green

Paddy lay back

This call-and-response chantey was usually sung at the capstan. A skilled chantey man could make up lyrics on the spot, altering the song to be about the crew and the adventures of their particular ship. The lyric "Take a turn around the capstan, heave a pawl refers to the "pawls’ that were hinged metal pieces at the base of a capstan. They would prevent the capstan from spinning backwards by settling into a series of holes around the capstan's base.

Les mer her

Paddy Lay Back

Away to Rio

This song was used as a capstan or windlass chantey, usually for taking in the anchor. It was often the first song sung as the ship was getting underway, which is reflected in the lyrics. You can picture the sailors’ lady friends standing on the pier listening as the sailors sing “Goodbye to all of you ladies of town...”  The Rio Grande they are singing about was not the river in Mexico, but the "Rio Grande do Sul" in Brazil.

Les mer her

Away to Rio

Strike the bell

The lyrics of this tune refer to the practice of keeping "Bell Time." The sailor's workday was divided into shifts of 4 hours on duty and 4 hours off. Every half-hour the mate would mark the time by ringing the ship's bell, adding one more strike with each half hour. This culmi-nated after four hours with eight bells being rung, signaling the shift change, a moment the sailors waited for enthusiastically. This was the sailor's version of a 19th century music hall song called "Ring the Bell Watchman," by Henry C. Work, a popular song writer of the time.

Les mer her

Strike the bell

Leave her Johnny

The "her" being left is not a woman, but the ship. This shanty was 
traditionally sung when the ship was at port after it had docked. The 
shanty was also known as "Leave Her Bullies", "Time for Us 
to Leave Her".

This song was used at the pumps, but it also served 
the purpose of the seamen airing their grievances (hence it being 
done at the end of a voyage).

There were also several vulgar versions directed 
at the food and the owners which cannot be printed here. 

 

Leave her Johnny