Ireland is to receive a state visit by The Queen – the first by a reigning British monarch since her grandfather George V ventured across the Irish Sea in 1911.
George’s visit was very successful but it was followed a few years later by the Easter Rising and the war for Irish independence – not exactly what he had in mind when he waved to the cheering masses who lined the streets of Dublin.
The visit by Queen Elizabeth, at the invitation of the Irish president Mary McAleese, is likely to be less eventful but notable all the same. Political commentators say the visit has been made possible by the success of the Northern Ireland peace process and that, of course, has to be applauded.
The Irish Government is very keen on the trip which it says will further improve the very good relations between the two countries.
That’s all well and good but at Irish Music Forever we’re more interested in whether the royal visit will inspire the Irish to write any great songs – the kind that emerged after Queen Victoria’s visit in 1849 and 1900.
One of my favourite references to a royal visit to Ireland is to be found in that classic Dublin song, Monto, by George Hodnett.
Monto was short for Montgomery Street, a perfectly respectable area now no doubt but in the 19th century it was known as something of a red light district.
Hodnett’s song Monto celebrates the area in several irreverent verses including this one referring to the visit of Queen Victoria.
Now the Queen she came to call on us,
She wanted to see all of us
I’m glad she didn’t fall on us,
She’s eighteen stone.
“Mister Melord the Mayor,” says she,
“Is this all you’ve got to show to me?
“Why no ma’am, there’s some more to see, pog mo thoin.”
And he took her up to Monto, Monto, Monto.
He took her up to Monto, langeroo. To you.
Now if Queen Elizabeth could inspire Irish songwriters to pen verses as good as that then her visit truly would be a boost to Anglo-Irish relations, at least from a musical point of view.