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An Irish Chap-book
Stories, Poems, and Music


Jack, Charlie, Barry, Brian, and John Ward

These stories and poems were written over a period of eight decades by members of one family which had close ties to two Irish counties, Derry and Donegal. Jack, the father, and sons Charlie, Barry, and Brian, were born in Derry City, natives of the Bogside, an area that has become well known throughout the world as a result of its human rights struggle begun in the 1960s and continuing to the present day. John was born in the adjoining county of Donegal and, like his father and brother Charlie, became a journalist, or as he preferred to be called, a newspaperman.

Between them they produced a many faceted body of work for print in newspapers, magazines, and books, for radio and stage, and in the more recent past for the Internet in "A Home Page with an Irish Flavour."

Among those family members mentioned above is my brother Barry. He began his musical career as a concert violonist who had trained under Franklin of Sligo. During his other career as a typographer, starting in The Donegal Vindicator, and periods with the The Sligo Champion, Cork Examiner, and The Irish Press, he continued to play the violin with various Irish show bands and, at an age when most would have been content to slow their pace, he became a member of the Casterbridge Union, an Irish group who toured Europe, Canada, and the United States. As a pioneering ensemble they helped spark the world-wide popularity that Irish music enjoys today. They introduced Celtic Rock to new generations in America, and in return, influenced by the legendary Doc Watson, they strengthened the emergence of bluegrass in their native Ireland.

Their roots in traditional music were acknowledged by Ciarán Mac Mathúna, dean of Irish music critics, and former senior producer with Telefís Éireann, the National Television Service of Ireland, on which they made regular appearances.

All members of the group sang, and each played a varied selection of instruments. Barry, in addition to the violin, played harmonica and tin-whistle, and in a departure from the group's musical offerings commanded the attention of audiences with his readings of Irish poetry.

Dan O'Neill and Brendan O'Reilly, the founding members of Casterbridge Union, were musicians who valued music above all else, even to the sacrifice of early careers in other disciplines.

A fourth member was added in 1972 when Vincent Quinlan, bass guitarist, joined the group.

In a review of their first New York appearance, Malachy McCourt, of later literary achievement, wrote: "I was entranced by their musicality, spirit, and very subtle team work. It is fascinating to watch and listen as three very talented artists blend their music into a sound that makes you weep one moment and galvanizes you into dancing laughter the next."

Click for larger image

A reproduction of the cover of their first Casterbridge Union LP showing, in descending order, Barry Ward, Dan O'Neill, and Brendan O'Reilly.

Dan and Brendan happily are still performing as the Casterbridge Union, and are the hosts at The Olde Irish Alehouse and Restaurant near Boston.

Barry died in 1985. He would be eighty-five if still alive. I dedicate the offerings in this chap-book to Brandon, my grandson. May he find some merit in them when he grows up. And I wish to thank his parents, Nigel and Geraldine, for their assistance and technical support.

John Ward
May 1, 2001

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