"I saw a notice which said, 'Drink Canada Dry' and I've just started." - Brendan BehanThe first time I set foot in Ireland was in Belfast, just off the boat from Stanraer in Scotland. I was twenty, soon to be twenty-one, and my buddy - Brian - had just turned nineteen. It was the summer of 1988 and we had been backpacking and busking through Britain and noticed that the further we got away from London, the money, beer and quality of people improved exponentially.
When we arrived in Ireland the contrast was blinding; it was like a small town and we were stopped on the street, in pubs - wherever - to ask about what we were up to, where we came from, and of course, to "play a tune." On more than one occasion, the British Army searched my guitar case for any rifles I might have stashed away. We went for a stroll down the Falls Road, a major Catholic/Republican stronghold, and came across a gang of kids between six and eleven years old playing around the burnt-out shell of a car that had been set alight the night before. As we looked around we noticed soldiers perched up inside watchtowers peering down at us. Belfast was still a city under siege at the time.
When we crossed into the Republic the hospitality continued as the Guinness flowed. By the time we arrived in the west of Ireland I was thoroughly acclimatized and enamored with the Irish charm. In Sligo, Yeat's childhood home and final resting place, we got booked for two nights into Hennigan's Pub on Wine Street as "The Men Who Drank Canada Dry" after the Behan quote, and met up with Andy White from Belfast, who was touring at the time. I can proudly say that I got my first sunburn of the trip in Ireland riding my rented bike from Sligo out to Rosses Point in the middle of June. An Irish sunburn - how many people can say that? After I returned to Canada, I wrote "The Men Who Drank Canada Dry." Here's Yuko & I singing it as "The Folks Who Drank Canada Dry":
The Men Who Drank Canada Dry
Left our hometown for the open road
Guitar and backpack our only load
Saw all the sights that could be seen
Now it's time to be where we ain’t never been
Heave ho away we go, no more will we shudder a sigh
Today we leave and we say goodbye
We're the men who drank Canada dry!
Some are content with less than all
Some can't rise and some can't fall
We'll take it all with no regrets
When you hear this song us you’ll never forget
The Canadian beer is a watery brew
It ain't nothing like the Irish Guinness stew
We drank your towns empty, we closed them all down
And we're still standing with our feet on the ground
We'll sit with you one last time
A drink of draught for auld lang syne
Cheers to you my friend, if we see you again
You'll be pissed drunk in an East Van glen
(Copyright © AllDayBliss Music)