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31 January 2008 Edition

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Classic 1970's republican music albums re-released

Kathleen Largey’s spirit lives on in her songs


TWO classic republican music albums recorded by the legendary Kathleen Largey and The Flying Column are once again available having just been re-released.
Legion of the Rearguard and The Price of Justice contain many of the old republican classics recorded by the group in the early 1970s and with Kathleen’s voice ringing out as true as ever these albums are as inspirational now as they were when first heard.
All proceeds from the sale of the CDs will go to charity, particularly the Green Cross.
As a member of Cumann na mBan, Kathleen saw her singing as political activism and refused to accept payment so all money raised from her albums went to the Green Cross and the aid of the families of republican prisoners.
In the late 1960s and the early 1970s, the name Kathleen Largey would be heard the length and breadth of Ireland. Her fame captured the imagination of that generation of young nationalists who were mobilised by the events of 1968 and 1969 in the same way that the names of the leadership of the Civil Rights movement captured our imagination.
Kathleen Largey, however, became famous for her singing rather than any political activity that she was involved in on the streets of Belfast.
The headlines of the day may have been captured by John Hume, Gerry Fitt, Eamon McCann and Bernadette Devlin, but Kathleen Largey made her mark on the youth of the day through her songs.
The generation of young nationalists who were politicised by the Civil Rights protests, who witnessed the savage brutality meted out to peaceful protesters by unionist stormtroopers in the uniforms of the B-Specials and the RUC knew that the demands of the Civil Rights movement did not go far enough.
They knew, instinctively, that it was ‘a United Ireland or nothing’.
So when they went to hear Kathleen Largey sing with The Flying Column, which was formed by her first husband, Eamonn, in the late 1960s, they were listening to a republican whose weapons were her songs.
The Flying Column and Kathleen Largey made an indelible mark on the emotions of a generation of young nationalists who had risen off their knees and were prepared to challenge British rule in Ireland.
In their own right, the Largeys and The Flying Column were coming from the tradition of the bards and poets of Ireland who played an intrinsical part in the fight for justice and freedom.
As with the bards in the old Irish oral tradition who recited the epic tales of Ireland’s heroes and their fight against invaders, Kathleen and Eamonn Largey used their songs and poems to provide solace, comfort and hope for those who had taken up the gauntlet to fight for Ireland’s freedom.
Their songs complimented the courage and dedication of our Volunteers.
This was important as the struggle for the hearts and minds of the nationalist people was at its height.
The forces of both the British state and the 26-County Government set out to undermine the legitimacy of our struggle by portraying republicans as mindless thugs: “the men of violence”, they would say. In response, republicans used the meagre resources they had to counter the massive state apparatus that was pitted against them.
One weapon they used was music and Kathleen Largey played her part by singing the songs that carried our history.
Her voice motivated people because she was a republican and her commitment added weight and credibility to the words of songs that remembered past deeds and heroes who fought for freedom and justice.
Kathleen even sang in Carnegie Hall but, as Gerry Adams said, “Kathleen was first and foremost a republican and when she joined up with Eamonn Largey and they came together with some fine Belfast musicians as The Flying Column their rendering of patriotic and street ballads electrified audiences throughout Ireland.”
Kathleen didn’t restrict her resistance activities to singing. Her home was to be, as Gerry Adams put it, “a resting place for republican waifs and fugitives”
Gerry Adams recalled the days when the POWs burned Long Kesh Prison Camp to the ground.
“Famously, after Long Kesh was burned down, Kathleen emptied the contents of a friend’s clothes shop and transported them up to the jail so that within days of the place being reduced to ashes, out of the ashes arose a crowd of bogging dirty POWs kitted out in the latest and most fashionable flares and Showaddywaddy gear.”
It was through her work for the republican prisoners and their families that Kathleen met her second husband, Harry, after Eamonn died tragically in a car accident in 1973.
It was during this time that Kathleen was diagnosed with cancer and when she and Harry were married in June 1976 she had already undergone surgery. She refused to acquiesce to her illness and continued with a hectic schedule of prisoners’ welfare work. She also worked for The Comfort of Cancer Patients.
Kathleen succumbed to cancer in February 1979 but her resistance throughout her personal and political life left an indelible memory on those who knew her. Her haunting lyrics had an impact on many thousands more around the world.
The early 1970s was a time of great hope, a time when ‘The Risen People’ felt they could take what was rightfully theirs. ‘The People of No Property’ were not afraid to grasp the nettle of struggle and the voice of Kathleen Largey was heard above the clash of battle.
The Price of Justice and Legion of the Rearguard are now available in the Art Shop 51/53 Falls Road at £10 each. All proceeds from the sale of the albums goes to the Green Cross.

Legion of the Rearguard

Legion of the Rearguard
The Dying Rebel
Four Green Fields
Where is the Man?
James Connolly
Song of the Dawn
Only Our Rivers Run Free
Boys of the Old Brigade
Róisín Dubh
A Tribute to Kathleen








The Price of Justice

Ireland Live On
Patriot Game
Freedom Walk
Price of Justice
Where is the Man?
Boys of the Old Brigade
Our Lads in Crumlin Jail
Michael Gaughan
Sniper’s Promise
Only Our Rivers Run Free

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