By Dai Bando
“It’s an Irish trick that’s true
I can lick the mick that threw
The overalls in Mrs. Murphy’s chowder”
I dislike most of what I call “green beer” St. Paddy’s Day music, but this one is an exception. My dad used to sing “Who Threw the Overalls in Mrs. Murphy’s Chowder” on St. Paddy’s Day and also whenever my mom made her awesome white clam chowder. Coincidentally, the lady who lived across the street was named Mrs. Murphy and my dad had convinced me that the song was written about our neighbor. Why not?
Now, Mrs. Murphy was lovely, but her husband was a different cat altogether. I myself would have gladly thrown my overalls in that old geezer’s chowder. Never did I get even a ‘hello’ from Mr. Murphy, even when hand-delivering his Sunday newspaper.
The Murphy’s only child Margaret was a rare thing, “fine as a beeswing” as Richard Thompson would say. Even in grade school, she was ethereal and somewhat precocious. I remember once Margaret informed me that female kangaroos “have bosoms.” I think I was in 3rd grade and didn’t have the slightest clue what the fuck she was talking about. (I did know what a kangaroo was.)
Margaret died far too young, bless her soul.
Mr. Desautel lived across the street from the Murphys, and that old bastard was so mean, he made Mr. Murphy look like Fred Rodgers. Mr. Desautel once challenged the Ice Cream Man to a fistfight because a few popsicle wrappers had blown onto his lawn. (I did witness Dougie Neederlitz brazenly toss his popsicle wrapper, though I didn’t rat him out.) Mr. Scotti, our ice cream truck driver, would’ve volunteered to throw Mr. Desautel’s overalls into the chowder with Mr. Desautel still wearing them.
“Who Threw the Overalls in Mrs. Murphy’s Chowder” was written by George L. Geifer way back in 1898. Bing Crosby had a hit with it in 1945. I prefer the Maxwell Sisters performing the song in this short film (above) from the late 1940s.
And speaking of films – here are my Top 10 Irish movies:
Ryan’s Daughter” (1970 David Lean)
– Critics hated it, the cast hated each other. David Lean was so traumatized by the experience, he didn’t make another movie for 15 years. I love every fame, especially the ones featuring the Dingle shore. Maurice Jarre composed the soundtrack which featured the memorable “It Was a Good Time (Rosy’s Theme)”
“In Bruges” (2008 Martin McDonough)
– Great performances from Brendan Gleeson, Colin Farrell, and Ralph Fiennes. McDonagh’s dialogue is raw, often hilarious and sometimes pure poetry.
“I Went Down” (1997 Paddy Breathnach)
– This hilarious road movie was my first taste of actor Brendan Gleeson, who might be my favorite actor in the world.
“The Quiet Man” (1952 John Ford)
– On my first trip to Ireland, a bank teller in Dublin told me I spoke “just like John Wayne.” Though not at all true, this remains the best compliment I’ve ever had.
“The Commitments” (1991 Alan Parker)
– Maybe not the best of Roddy Doyle’s Barrytown Trilogy books (I loved “The Van”), it is certainly the best film adaptation mainly because of the amazing musical performances by a truly great soul band created for the film.
“The Magdalene Sisters” (2002 Peter Mullen)
– Excellent film on the subject of Catholic Church abuse in Ireland. Be prepared to become very angry.
“In America” (2002 Jim Sheriden)
– Beautiful biographical story of Sheriden’s immigration from Ireland to NY’s Hell’s Kitchen in the sixties. Two sisters age 6 and 11, Emma and Sarah Bolger, acting for the first time, steal the movie. The movie concludes with The Corrs singing “Time Enough for Tears,” one of my favorite Irish songs.
“The Butcher Boy” (1997 Neil Jordan)
An Irish “A Clockwork Orange,” complete with Sinead O’Connor as the Virgin Mary (Sinead sings a great version of the folk song of the title.) Very disturbing.
“Finian’s Rainbow” (1968 Francis Ford Coppolla)
Despite the talents of Fred Astaire, lyricist Yip Harburg, and Francis Ford Coppolla – this thing was a mess. Still, worth it if only for Petula Clark singing, “How are things in Glocca Mora?”
“The Banshees of Inisherin” (2022 Martin McDonough)
My choice for ‘Best Picture’ in 2022. Outstanding performances from Gleeson, Colin Farrell, Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan.
The Guard, Waking Ned Devine, Once, The Field, The Snapper, The Crying Game, My Left Foot, Cal, In the Name of the Father, Secret of Roan Inish, Philomela, The Van, The Boxer, Hear My Song, The General, Into the West