English folk singer Ewan MacColl remembered


This music video from England says about itself:

Ewan MacCollDirty Old Town

The original and best with Peggy Seeger (MacColl’s wife)

Photographs of Salford in 1950s and 60s – the original ‘Dirty Old Town’ where MacColl grew up.

By Karl Dallas in England:

Monday 18th May 2015

Ewan MacColl: His Life, His Words, His Music Peel Hall University of Salford 3/5

SALFORD is the “dirty old town” where James Miller — the folksinger better known as Ewan MacColl — was born in January 1915 and it was the scene of this joint celebratory event by the University of Salford and the Working Class Movement Library.

In a packed hall, four readers and a solo singer took the audience through his life and work, in which extracts from his somewhat sanitised autobiography were interspersed with just a few songs.

It was a rather prosaic event, with no drama and precious little of the great man of the theatre’s histrionic impact upon British culture. One could’t help wondering what the Theatre Workshop founder might have made of it.

Of course, MacColl was such a polymath that anyone would be hard put to it to cover his life adequately. “There are quite large bits of his life that we have had to leave out,” the show’s producer Royston Futter said in his introduction. “The first run-through of all the material we wanted to present would have had you struggling to catch the last bus, despite our afternoon start.”

There were the expected songs — Dirty Old Town, Tim Evans, Manchester Rambler, The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, — and songs from the radio ballads — Freeborn Man, Hot Asphalt, Shoals of Herring, Come Me Little Son — and his elegiac 1986 farewell The Joy of Living, recorded in only three years before his death. But this was a programme of readings interspersed with the songs, rather than songs with interpretive prose.

What did come across was Ewan’s love of the landscape, echoed in the words of that lovely, final song:
“Take me to some high place of heather, rock and ling,
Scatter my dust and ashes, feed me to the wind,
So that I will be part of all you see, the air you are breathing.
I’ll be part of the curlew‘s cry and the soaring hawk,
The blue milk wort and the sundew hung with diamonds,
I’ll be riding the gentle wind that blows through your hair,
Reminding you how we shared
In the joy of living.”

This great poet of industrial Salford was also at one with the countryside around his dirty old birth town.

This music video says about itself:

Joy Of Living – Ewan MacColl

This is one of MacColl’s last songs and his farewell to the world. In it, a dying hiker says goodbye to all he holds dear: the hills, his wife and his children (Black And White – The Definitive Collection, trk#20, 1993, Green Linnet Records, Nashville, Tennessee); and (Black And White – The Definitive Collection, trk#18, 2000, Cooking Vinyl Records, London, UK).

We Shall Overcome and United States folk singer Guy Carawan


This music video from the USA is called Joan Baez: We Shall Overcome. March on Washington, 1963.

By Karl Dallas in Britain:

Obituary: GUY CARAWAN singer and activist, 27.07.1927-02.05.2015

Thursday 14th May 2015

THE LEADING US folk singer and civil rights activist Guy Carawan, who died on May 2 at the age of 87, will go down in history as the man who gave the world the anthem We Shall Overcome — though the song was much more of a collective effort than the popular perception of it.

In the late 1950, London was full of US expatriate folk singers, some of them exiles from McCarthyite persecution, others seeking out the British roots of the American tradition.

Some of them, like Carawan and Peggy Seeger, were on their way to the sixth world youth festival in Moscow which attracted 34,000 participants in 1957. While in Britain, Carawan had a minor hit with the single Michael Row the Boat Ashore, backed by Vern Partlow’s anti-nuclear talking blues Old Man Atom, with the memorable lines : “I hold this truth to be self-evident/That all men may be cremated equal.”

This music video from the USA says about itself:

“Old Man Atom (Talking Atomic Blues)” is sung by Ozie Waters on Coral 64050.

The song is by Vern Partlow (1910-1987) and Irving Bibo. Ozie Waters was a Colorado musician active in the 1940s and 1950s in the country and western field.

“Talking Atomic Blues” (aka “Old Man Atom”) was composed in 1945 by California newspaperman Vern Partlow (1910-1987). He was inspired to write the song after conducting interviews with nuclear scientists for an article he wrote for the Los Angeles Daily News. First recorded by Sam Hinton for ABC Eagle Records in 1949, it was covered by a number of artists, including Ozzie Davis and the Sons of the Pioneers. The song became one of the most popular novelty records of 1950 until the United States government’s War on Communism prompted record companies to withdraw the recording from circulation.

Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Alamogordo, Bikini

I’m gonna preach you all a sermon
About Old Man Atom
I don’t mean the Adam in the Bible’s Adam
I don’t mean the Adam that Mother Eve mated
I mean that thing that science liberated
The thing that Einstein says he’s scared of
And when Einstein‘s scared,
Brother, you’d better be scared.

If you’re scared of the atom, here’s whats you gotta do
You gotta gather all the people in the world with you
Cause if you don’t get together and do it
Well, first thing, you know, we’re gonna blow this world plum to [hell]

Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Alamogordo, Bikini

Now life used to be such a simple joy
The cyclotron was just a super toy
And folks got born, they’d work and marry,
And “atom” was a word in the dictionary
And then it happened.

The science boys from every clime
They all pitched in with overtime
And before they knew it
The job was done
And they’d hitched up the power of the God-durn Sun
And put a harness on Old Sol
Splittin’ atoms
While the diplomats was a-splittin’ hairs

Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Alamogordo, Bikini

But the atom’s international in spite of hysteria.
It flourishes in Utah as well as Siberia,
And whether you’re black, white, red, or brown,
The question is this, when you boil it down
To be or not to be–that is the question.
The answer to it all ain’t military datum
Like who gets there first-est with the most-est atoms
No, the people of the world must decide their fate.
They gotta get together or disintegrate.

We hold this truth to be self-evident:
“That all men may be cremated equal.”

Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Alamogordo, Bikini

Yes, it’s up to the people
Cause the atoms don’t care.
You can’t fence me in–he’s just like air.
He doesn’t give a hoot about any politics
Or who gets what into whichever fix.
All I want to do is sit around
And have my nucleus bombarded by neutrons.

Now the moral is this, just as plain as day,
That Old Man Atom is here to stay.
He’s gonna stick around, that’s plain to see,
But, ah, my dearly beloved, are we?
So listen folks, here is my thesis:
Peace in the world or the world in pieces

Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Alamogordo, Bikini

The Karl Dallas article continues:

From Moscow, Carawan and Seeger were invited to travel to China. It was a journey strictly forbidden by the US State Department, who summoned them home to answer accusations of disloyalty. Seeger avoided extradition by acquiring British citizenship through marriage but Carawan went home to face the music.

Ironically, by taking away Carawan’s passport, the US establishment concentrated his musical work on his homeland, resulting ultimately in his popularising the anthem forever associated with him, We Shall Overcome.

Carawan didn’t in fact write the song because, like many other militant songs of the US south, it had gospel origins. The word “overcome” first appeared in the lyrics of We’ll Understand It By and By, composed by the Reverend Charles Tindley of Philadelphia in 1903: “When the saints of God are gathered home,/We’ll tell the story how we’ve overcome.”

This mutated into I Will Overcome— still on a gospel theme —but, during the 1946 strike of several hundred employees of the American Tobacco Company in Charleston, a woman called Lucille Simmons changed the words “I will overcome” to “We will overcome.”

The strikers visited the Highlander folk school in Tennessee which, as well as training union organisers and leaders in 11 southern states from 1932 onwards, also pioneered desegregation in the trade union movement.

Simmons taught the song to Zilphia Horton who, in turn, taught it to Pete Seeger, who published it as We Will Overcome in the first People’s Songs Bulletin— which is where Carawan learned it.

Oppression by the US authorities fed into Carawan’s life. It didn’t cause him to keep his head down and hope he’d be left alone. He became even more of a singing activist.

He had already visited Highlander before his trip to Moscow and Beijing and he went there again in 1959 and a year later taught the song to 70 young activists, following which they and he went to the founding conference of the Student Non-Violent Co-ordinating Committee (SNCC), who took it and made it their own.

The SNCC Freedom Singers, Rutha Harris, Cordell Reagon, Bernice Johnson Reagon and Chuck Neblett travelled the country singing on college campuses, in churches and community centres, raising funds and awareness. The rest is history. As the New York Times described it in in 1963, We Shall Overcome became “the Marseillaise of the integration movement.”

But the song, and Carawan’s part in making it an international anthem of struggle, tell us something we need to remember about individuals and their relationships with the communities for whom they become the voices. Carawan never gave up.

Joe Hill, a previous singing agitator, told us on the eve of his execution: “Don’t mourn. Organise!” That would be a suitable response to Carawan’s death at a time when the forces of evil seem to be triumphant throughout the capitalist world.

‘We Shall Overcome’ folk singer Guy Carawan dies


This music video from the USA is called Guy CarawanWe Shall Overcome [Live].

From Associated Press in the USA:

Folk singer behind popularity of ‘We Shall Overcome’ dies

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The musician and folk singer who promoted the song “We Shall Overcome” and is credited with helping it rise in popularity as an anthem during the civil rights movement in the 1960s has died.

Guy Carawan’s wife, Candie, said Friday that he died May 2, at his home in New Market, Tennessee, after suffering from a form of dementia for years. He was 87. She says a private funeral service is planned.

For years, Carawan was a leader of the Highlander Research and Education Center in New Market. It served as a gathering place for social justice activists. Visitors included the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks.

The Carawans marched with King in Selma, Alabama, and made recordings to preserve the civil rights movement.

Carawan spent much of his time collecting and preserving folk songs.

New Zealand musician Jordan Reyne interviewed


This is a music video series by Jordan Reyne.

By Len Phelan in Britain:

Jordan Reyne: Strong enough to be different

Tuesday 7th April 2015

In her other life, JORDAN REYNE produces excellent podcasts for the People’s Assembly. But, as she tells Len Phelan, when she isn’t engaged in that vital work she’s busy carving out a career as an innovative musician with a radical, feminist edge to her work

CURRENTLY touring Europe with Slovenian legends Laibach, Jordan Reyne is about to release a new EP entitled Maiden, which follows on from her previous records Mother and Crone.

Described as a goth-folk artist, and with a growing legion of fans in Britain and on the continent, Reyne grew up in an isolated spot on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island.

Cape Foulwind is a wild place,” she says, “where the nearest city is three hours’ drive and the sea never tires of hurling itself on the jagged roots of mountains. Almost no-one lives there and what little space there is between mountains and waves is often filled with rain.”

It’s a place where you can’t help but fall in love with folklore, the stories of men and women from England, Ireland and Wales who came and lost their lives there, she explains.

As a child, she found “odd ways” to amuse herself: “My habit of hollering back at the sea while banging bits of old iron was not what my parents called musical,” she says. “They made me learn to sing and play, to spare themselves the torment.”

Such early experiences shaped the music she makes today. “It’s a blend of fact and folklore — found tales and found sound from the cast-offs of coal mines and factories to homemade drums and farm implements. It’s a coming together of stories told in Celtic-style melody and hypnotic tribal beats.”

But the trilogy of EPs she’s produced tell stories which are not simply fable. “I wanted to do a project that spoke of the experiences of women at different life stages or the tales of how others see them,” she says. “Growing up in such an unusual environment made me very aware of how people’s expectation of my behaviour seemed to come from somewhere I hadn’t been.”

The EP project began after talking to her mother about her experience of old age.

She told her of what it’s like to feel the same self she’s been for her entire life but, looking incredulously in the mirror, thinks: “Who the hell is this old woman? Is that seriously me?”

How certain “kinds of people” are or should act — assumptions based on age, race, gender or religion — is an issue that exercises Reyne. “Old age invokes certain ideas on how and who one is meant to be,” she stresses. “If we have wrinkles, we are expected to be a different kind of character than if we don’t.

“If we don’t feel old — and my mother is certainly one of the most alive people I know — then our inner ideas of who we are come into conflict with what we are led to believe the facts of our physical age imply. We feel that in being ourselves, people get confused and walk away.”

Alluded to in advertising, film, popular culture and fiction, the images of the maiden, the mother and the crone have been passed down through time with certain character attributes pre-assigned and, says Reyne, “they limit our understanding of a person — we don’t let them just be.”

To counter those assumptions the songs on the EPs, reflecting three life stages, are real stories set into folkoric form, “where women battle with, or conform to, expectation. Or where others comment on how they think those women should behave.”

Her mother’s experience of being deemed invisible has a positive side, she feels. “It gives you a certain amount of leeway. As an inherently shy person, my mother often bottled what she felt, for fear of being told it was not acceptable to disagree.

“Nowadays, she has a new-found confidence to say whatever the hell she thinks. Loudly. Being outside ‘the gaze’ in everyday encounters, she can voice opinions she didn’t dare utter before.

She’ll tell the local politician on the election hustings that he’s failed to address the issues, or the pompous ex-lecturer in her book club group that he should stop imagining he is the only one in the room that knows anything. All things she would never have done before.”

The Crone EP coincides with Reyne’s adoption of “the hag” character on stage, a horned horror backed by pagan rhythms built up live with loop machines.

“The hag not only sings but screams when she feels slighted. She is political, irascible and passionate — because, for once, she gets to say what she thinks. Despite the fact that she may not be listened to.”

The maiden on the final EP of the trilogy is the innocent whose nascent sexuality is as alluring as it is corruptible.

“When I left the place I grew up, living in the city was as exciting as it was scary,” Reyne says.

“There were so many eyes and so many pictures, slogans and broadcasts that seemed to want to help you be these things that fit what was wanted from young women.”

But, she points out, the real seducer is capitalism itself, with its overwhelming messages of polarised gender, narcissism, consumption and trappings of glamour which are often pushed their way. “It is dedicated to the quirky girls — those who are strong enough to be different,” Reyne says.

And that pretty well sums up this intriguing and adventurous artist who dares to challenge the stereotyping of women so persuasively.

The music from all three EPs is being toured throughout Europe, including Britain, until November this year and the Crone EP is released on April 27, details: jordanreyne.com.

Scottish composer Ronald Stevenson, RIP


This music video says about itself:

Ronald StevensonPassacaglia on DSCH“, Mark Gasser: Piano (Live in Australia – 2012)

21 September 2012

The Passacaglia on DSCH is a large-scale composition for solo piano by the British composer Ronald Stevenson. It was composed between 24 December 1960 and 18 May 1962, except for two sections added on the day of the first performance on 10 December 1963. The composer presented a copy of the score to Dmitri Shostakovich, its dedicatee, at the 1962 Edinburgh Festival.

The work takes the principle of the passacaglia or chaconne – namely, strict variations on an unchanging subject, usually a ground bass, and applies it across a very large single-movement structure that divides into a cumulative design of many different musical styles and forms. It is based on a 13-note ‘ground’ derived from the musical motif D, E-flat, C, B: the German transliteration of Dmitri Shostakovich‘s initials (“D. Sch.”). (Shostakovich used these four notes as a musical ‘signature’, for example in his Eighth String Quartet).

Stevenson’s work takes more than an hour and a quarter to perform and may be the longest unbroken single movement composed for piano. It is extraordinary in its scope, the range of its reference to historic events, and the musical influences absorbed. The work includes a Sonata form first section, a suite of dances (incorporating a Sarabande, Jig, Minuet, Gavotte and Polonaise), a transcription of a Scottish bagpipe Pibroch, a section entitled To Emergent Africa involving percussive effects directly on the piano strings, a section resonating to Lenin’s slogan ‘Peace, Bread and the Land‘.

The penultimate section is a huge triple fugue over the ground bass, the first fugue on a 12-note subject derived from the bass, the second combines the DSCH motif with Bach’s monogram BACH (B-flat, A, C, B), and the third, on the Dies Irae chant, is inscribed In memoriam the six million (a reference to the victims of the Holocaust of World War II). The work ends with a series of variations on a theme derived from the ground marked Adagissimo barocco and organized on the principle of Baroque ‘doubles’, with the basic unit of metre halving with each variation.

Plan of Work

Pars Prima Sonata Allegro
Pars Prima Waltz In Rondo-Form
Pars Prima Episode 1. Presto
Pars Prima Suite. Prelude.
Pars Prima Suite. Sarabande.
Pars Prima Suite. Jig.
Pars Prima Suite. Sarabande.
Pars Prima Suite. Minuet.
Pars Prima Suite. Jig.
Pars Prima Suite. Gavotte.
Pars Prima Suite. Polonaise.
Pars Prima Pibroch (Lament For Children).
Pars Prima Episode 2. Abaresque Variations.
Pars Prima Nocturne.
Pars Altera Reverie-Fantasy.
Pars Altera Fanfare.
Pars Altera Forebodings. Alarm.
Pars Altera Glimpse Of A War Vision.
Pars Altera Variations On ‘Peace, Bread And The Land’ (1917).
Pars Altera Symphonic March.
Pars Altera Episode 3. Volante Scherzoso.
Pars Altera Fandango.
Pars Altera Pedal Point. ‘To Emergant Africa‘.
Pars Altera Central Episode. Etudes.
Pars Altera Variations In C Minor
Pars Tertia Adagio. Tribute To Bach
Pars Tertia Triple Fugue Over Ground Bass: Subject 1. Andamento
Pars Tertia Triple Fugue Over Ground Bass. Subject 2. Bach.
Pars Tertia Triple Fugue Over Ground Bass. Subject 3. Dies Irae
Pars Tertia Final Variations On A Theme Derived From Ground (Adagissimo Barocco).

By David Betteridge in Britain:

RONALD STEVENSON, composer, pianist and writer March 6 1928-March 28 2015

Wednesday 8th April 2015

FOR many reasons, the name of Ronald Stevenson, who died on March 28 at the age of 87, should be more widely known.

He composed the epic Passacaglia on DSCH, one of the longest works in the piano repertoire, which is a comprehensive survey of a whole world of music and includes homages to Dmitri Shostakovich, Johann Sebastian Bach and an anonymous drummer whom Ronald once heard practising on a home-made percussion set in a South African township.

That 80-minute single movement work, once heard, is never forgotten — as is the case with many other works forged in Stevenson’s creative furnace.

These range from a violin concerto commissioned by Yehudi Menuhin through choral works — including a group of peace motets and his more recent Praise of Ben Dorain, performed at a Celtic Connections concert in Glasgow — to a rich body of piano works, where the long tradition associated with such giants as Franz Liszt and Ferruccio Busoni is furthered in a novel way.

There was too a cornucopia of songs, settings of Scottish folk songs and works by Hugh MacDiarmid, William Soutar, William Blake and other favourite poets, among them the pure gold of A’e Gowden Lyric to words by MacDiarmid, a friend and collaborator.

This miniature, in the words of one critic, constitutes a sort of gift from Scotland to itself.

Ronald leaves a huge gap in the lives of an international network of “comrades in arts,” as he called them, with whom he corresponded over many decades, as well as in the lives of his family and close friends.

Any comrades-in-arts who made their way to the door of his house in West Linton, on the flanks of the Pentland Hills south of Edinburgh, were certain of a kind welcome both from Ronald and from his lifelong partner, his wife and archivist Marjorie Spedding.

As in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, this was a latter-day “house of the interpreter,” where the visitor is shown “excellent things, such as would be an help to me in my journey.”

One such fellow traveller was Percy Grainger, the Australian-American folklorist, composer, and pianist. The letters that they exchanged, recently published by Toccata Press, take the reader on an intricacy of fascinating journeys, notably the life and work of Walt Whitman, whose embrace of the world in all its contradictions was a big influence on both men. Like Whitman, Ronald could have said: “I am large, I contain multitudes.”

Born into a working-class home in Lancashire in England, settled in Peeblesshire in Scotland and a wandering scholar and sometimes professor on several continents — he worked in Cape Town, Shanghai, New York and Melbourne — Ronald was an advocate and precursor of world music, along the lines of Goethe’s world literature.

Here, east and west meet, folk traditions and classical traditions inform one another and all barriers of genre and style and class and ethnicity are removed in an open conversation.

In a book that he wrote half way through his career, Western Music: an Introduction, Ronald nailed his colours to this democratic and peace-loving mast.

In his closing chapter, he envisaged a kind of music “which is created by a musician aware of the unity and conflict of the different musics of different nations,” and which, while conscious that “conflict is the law of divided society,” is aware also that “unity is equally a law of that great harmony which is music and which one day will reflect the reality of society united.”

Unsurprisingly, this mountain of a musician was for a while vice-president of the Workers’ Music Association where, along with his friend Alan Bush, he pursued through music the causes of peace, social justice and internationalism.

He is survived by his wife Marjorie and by his daughters Gerda, a playwright, poet, singer, actor and theatre director, Savourna, a clarsach player and composer and by his son Gordon, an instrument maker and repairer.

His funeral will be held at the Warriston Crematorium in Edinburgh on Tuesday April 14 at 1pm.

Irish music, war and history


This music video from Ireland says about itself:

30 November 2010

Wolfe TonesCome Out Ye Black And Tans

Words by Dominic Behan, music traditional

I was born on a Dublin street where the Royal drums do beat
And the loving English feet they trampled all over us,
And each and every night when me father’d come home tight
He’d invite the neighbours outside with this chorus:

Oh, come out you black and tans,
Come out and fight me like a man
Show your wives how you won medals down in Flanders
Tell them how the IRA made you run like hell away,
From the green and lovely lanes in Killashandra.

Come let me hear you tell
How you slammed the great Parnell,
When you fought them well and truly persecuted,
Where are the smears and jeers
That you bravely let us hear
When our heroes of sixteen were executed.

Come tell us how you slew
Those brave Arabs
two by two
Like the Zulus they had spears and bows and arrows,
How you bravely slew each one
With your sixteen pounder gun
And you frightened them poor natives to their marrow.

The day is coming fast
And the time is here at last,
When each yeoman will be cast aside before us,
And if there be a need
Sure my kids wil sing, “Godspeed!”
With a verse or two of Stephen Beehan‘s chorus.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Bloodied at the hands of the Black and Tans

Thursday 26th March 2015

PETER FROST remembers an Irish republican ballad that echoes events that happened 95 years ago this week

OH, come out you black and tans/ Come out and fight us like a man/ Show your wives how you won medals down in Flanders/ Tell them how the IRA made you run like hell away/ From the green and lovely lanes in Killeshandra.

I first learnt Dominic Behan’s fine song from the man himself in the pubs of what many locals in the mid-1960s called County Kilburn.

Kilburn in north-west London had a huge and proud Irish community and the traditional music nights were said to be as good as anything you might hear in Dublin, Belfast or Derry.

The song was always a favourite with me and my wife Ann. We both have some Irish blood in our respective families. Much later we would discover that the subject matter had direct relevance to Ann’s own family history.

We would also, later in life, on some of our many visits to Northern Ireland, explore those lovely lanes in Killeshandra. The town was once an important centre of the linen industry. Today its setting in beautiful lake country has made it is a popular centre for fishing, walking, wildlife and eco-tourism.

Dominic Behan’s song, written as a tribute to his father Stephen — and ironically set to the Orange march Rosc Catha na Mumhan, or Battlecry of Munster — brings alive the hatred of the brutal British troops who arrived in Ireland 95 years ago this week.

After the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916 the execution of Irish leaders including Patrick Pearse and the dying James Connolly led to huge public outrage. This soon turned to support for the revolutionary Sinn Fein movement.

In the 1918 general election Sinn Fein won 73 out of 105 seats. In January 1919 the First Dail — the Irish parliament — declared an independent Irish Republic.

In the same month, the republican Irish Volunteers, fast becoming known as the Irish republican Army, began the guerilla campaign that would become the Irish War of Independence. The main thrust was to attack the hated Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) posts, police stations and barracks.

By 1919 the British administration, horrified by the low morale in the RIC, closed down and outlawed the Dail.

Westminster clearly needed new initiatives and the British government knew just what to do. In January 1920, the government started advertising in British cities for men willing to “face a rough and dangerous task in Ireland”.

Post-WWI unemployment and austerity meant there was no shortage of recruits, many of them veterans home from the trenches of Flanders.

By November 1921 about 9,500 ex-soldiers had joined. This sudden influx of men presented a real problem. There were not enough proper RIC uniforms to go round. Instead the new recruits were issued with war surplus khaki army trousers and dark green RIC or old blue British police tunics.

This sartorial odd mixture gave rise to their nickname, the Black and Tans. The name came from a famous pack of foxhounds from Limerick who wore similar colours. The title would stick even after the men eventually received proper green RIC uniforms.

The new recruits were given only three months’ hurried basic training, and were rapidly posted to RIC barracks, mostly in Dublin, Munster and Connacht.

The first Black and Tans arrived on March 25 1920 and immediately generated hatred and further resistance.

The government also raised a further unit, the Auxiliary Division of the constabulary. This group was made up of ex-army officers. The Black and Tans acted with the Auxiliaries and both were ordered to break the IRA by any means possible.

One of Ann’s relatives was murdered by members of the Auxiliary around this time. One of republican leader Michael Collins’s group, he was arrested and taken to Dublin Castle for questioning.

Just before nine o’clock in the evening he and a friend were released only to be immediately re-arrested for being on the street after the nine o’clock curfew. It was an old Auxiliary trick.

Dumped in the back of one of the Black and Tans’s notorious Crossley Tenders, they were driven to Phoenix Park and each had a bucket put on their head before they were shot at point-blank range.

The Auxiliary executioners were court-martialed but instead of any punishment their commanding officer offered his congratulations.

Black and Tans were paid 10 shillings a day, a substantial wage in those days — and they also got full board and lodging in special barracks.

With minimal police training, their main role was to strengthen the guarding of RIC posts. They worked as sentries, guards, escorts for government agents and as reinforcement to the regular police.

It took no time for them to gain a reputation for awesome brutality.

Black and Tans had little discipline. Deaths of Black and Tans at the hands of the IRA were often repaid with arbitrary reprisals against the civilian population.

In the summer of 1920, the Black and Tans burned and sacked many small towns and villages throughout Ireland.

One of the worst atrocities was the massacre of 13 civilians at Croke Park on Bloody Sunday November 21 1920.

Black and Tans and Auxiliaries opened fire with armoured-car-mounted machine guns on the crowd.

The Black and Tans justified the attack as revenge for Michael Collins’s assassination of an undercover RIC murder squad earlier that day.

In November 1920, they besieged Tralee, also in revenge for the IRA abduction and killing of two local RIC men. They shut the businesses in the town and let no food in for a week.

On the night of December 11 1920, they sacked and burned Cork city.

In January 1921, a commission set up by the Labour Party produced a report on the situation in Ireland. It was highly critical of the government’s security policy.

“Forming the Black and Tans,” it said “had liberated forces which it is not at present able to dominate”.

Since December 1920, the British government had sanctioned official reprisals in Ireland. The Black and Tans burnt property of IRA men and any suspected sympathisers.

Altogether 7,000 of them served in Ireland in 1920-22. More than one-third of them died or left the service before they were disbanded, along with the rest of the RIC, in 1922.

Today, nearly a century after the Black and Tans’ war crimes, these British bully boys are still remembered and still hated in Ireland.

“Tan” is still a term of abuse in Ireland. And in a delicious irony there is a medal, awarded by the Irish government to IRA veterans of the War of Independence. It bears a ribbon with two vertical stripes. The colours? What else but black and tan — just a tiny reminder of the colours of the still-hated enemy.