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
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
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
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.
May 1, 2001
Irish Chap-book Navigation
First Page | Previous | Next Page
| Last Page
| Canadian Vindicator