'Elizabeth and Mary
Standing there side by side
Reflecting in silence
On the people who have died'
'She remembered our losses
She remembered her own
And in that moment
A seed was sown'
The new album wouldn't be his greatest, I would humbly submit. Compared to this songsmith's best work, some ditties on 'This New Morning' seemed, in their lyrics, to be a tad forced, with the heart on the sleeve overly overt - and I really am not a fan of his 'talking' songs. With 'A Seed is Sown' we have a classic Luka song though, one for the ages to rival his most loved. It relays his feelings, in subdued manner, on the first visit of a British monarch to the Irish Republic. It is his personal take on the import of Queen Elizabeth and President Mary McAleese being present, together, with heads bowed, at the shrine to the fallen of the 'Troubles'. In this new century the terrible history of the two countries has, as a result of that statement by the two nations' symbolic heads, been consigned to the dustbin of the past, along with all its mutual hatred and hostility
As related to his audience on a steamy Hobartian summer eve, Luka, a son of County Kildare, watched all this unfold from his Irish home. He related how his tears flowed freely viewing this historic moment, and then he sang to us of how Elizabeth...
'With dignity and grace
An eloquent silence
And softness in her face
She lowered her head down
And held the pose'As I scribe this down this sunny Tasmanian afternoon, it is not Luka's album that is gracing my music machine, but the latest from arguably his Australia equivalent. Listening to Archie's 'Into the Bloodstream' (probably not his best either), writing the above words, recalls for me a similar ceremony, a ceremony when the national leader said sorry to Archie's brothers and sisters. Elizabeth, still our nation’s queen, essentially did the same to the Irish people. I wonder if Archie knows of Luka; I wonder if Luka knows of Archie.
I, along with several hundred others, was squished tightly into the showroom of the local casino – Luka quipped he hadn't played in too many of those before. I was on my tod and uncomfortably sandwiched. The big, big guy on one side of me was Luka's greatest fan. This gave him permission to sing along joyously to every song presented by the Irishman up on stage, right into my left ear hole, and to yell out his take on Luka's every word to all those assembled, including the performer. It didn't entirely take away from my enjoyment of the travelling minstrel's sublime guitar playing and voice, but it didn't help. If that wasn't enough, his wife/partner/girlfriend/date/whatever set about proving that she was not going to be outdone; that she was Luka's second greatest fan. At the commencement of every tune she opened her mouth and emitted rapturous orgasmic yelps of the pure joy of recognition, and then smiled beatifically on all us lesser fans around her. Oh dear! Because of the big, big man I was skewered to the opposite side of my already narrow seating allocation, pressed hard up against a beautiful young maiden – and, what with the heat and all, I was acutely aware of causing offence to her olfactory sensibilities. Oh dear doubled! Despite all this Luka strummed and warbled, sang and regaled, giving his utmost to provide us with value for money. He sang songs known, songs unknown (except, obviously, to his greatest fans opposite), and when he stopped, those assembled stomped for more, so on and on he went.
When finally the singing was done he graciously returned to meet his fans. He did me the honour of signing a couple of his recordings, then I complimented him on his endeavour and asked to shake his hand. He obliged me.
'Ah Hobart in Tasmania. It still affects me that this is where so many Irish people were shipped to as punishment for petty crime .But here and now, it is full of kind and gentle people, going about their lives; walking pretty gently on the earth. And it is buzzing with all kinds of creativity. A fantastic city, very like home. And so beautiful. And I met a great crew last night, to whom I say thank you, and see you soon ,Luka '
Segueing this piece together, the next day I asked of Martin after Archie's heath, knowing this polished wordsmith had written about him many times. Archie had lost his beloved Ruby a few years back, and had been beset by various ailments in the times since. Martin threw what light he could on this subject, and we moved on. The exemplary journalist was in Hobs for the annual writers' festival, and had the role of introducing the remarkable Anita Heiss to another assembling of hundreds, this time in the Town Hall. By way of doing so he talked us through, in laconic style, the history of his relationship with the activist/writer, and spoke of their collective revulsion of the odious Andrew Bolt. As is his wont, Martin didn't mince words. As Martin writes beguilingly of the Emerald Isle, in his columns, and of its diaspora to this part of the world – I wonder if Luka knows of Martin; if Martin knows of Luka. It is probable, as the love of that land runs deep 'into the bloodstream' of both.
As with Archie and Luka, Martin is a hero of mine. I devour his columns in the Age, I devour his books on footy. After his duties on stage, and while Anita signed books, Martin wandered to the back of the room. I took the opportunity to saunter over and meet him by way of holding out my hand. He gave it a good shake. I asked him what he was working on and he responded that he was busy with a tome on Essendon icon Michael Long. We talked of that and his hopes for a documentary on Tom Wills that was also occupying his time. I indicated to him my shared fascination with the bedevilled life of the codifier of our national game. He was interested in my provenance and I told him of my connections to the Huon Valley. Being Tassie born and bred, this was not the first time he had come across a Lovell from the Huon. Our time together was short, but he stuck me as 'genuine', certainly as 'genuine' as his beautifully wrought and communicated yarns in newsprint and on page would indicate.
So in one weekend I shook the hand of two of my heroes. I have hopes that one day I'll get to shake the hand of Archie Roach as well. Shaking the hand of someone you respect does not qualify one to boast that you are on first name basis with that person, particularly if they are well known, but, as I am over sixty, I'm taking first name rights with Luka and Martin anyway. Both have shared their talents with me and enhanced my life as a result. I daresay the two will have little recollection of your scribe after a short time, but the two handshakes will live with me. So thank you Luka Bloom and Martin Flanagan.
Luka's redition of 'A Seed is Sown' to footage of the event = http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vq5_M6jsUxY