Christy Moore – Viva La Quinta Brigada

Ten years before folk singer Christy Moore saw the light of morning, the Irish Socialist Volunteers were fighting in Spain. Moore wrote this song as an ode to their struggle but mistakenly pronounced the Spanish ‘quince’ as ‘quinta’. The Irish volunteers actually fought in the XV International Brigade. Poetic licence aside it is still a good song.

Verses one and two honour the Irish volunteers who fought against the fascists in Spain.  Frank Ryan of the IRA was their leader.

Verse three features the fascists. I admire Moore for mentioning this. Ryan’s nemesis Eoin O’Duffy was a Free Stater in the Irish Civil War and leader of the fascist ‘Blueshirts’. He rallied 700 Irishmen to fight for Franco out of Catholic solidarity. Only 277 fought in the International Brigades.

The final verse is name dropping. While it may seem tedious, one must remember these were real men who fought another people’s war out of ideological conviction. The utterance of their names bears weight.


Ten years before I saw the light of morning
A comradeship of heroes was laid
From every corner of the world came sailing
The Fifth International Brigade

They came to stand beside the Spanish people
To try and stem the rising fascist tide
Franco’s allies were the powerful and wealthy
Frank Ryan’s men came from the other side

Even the olives were bleeding
As the battle for Madrid it thundered on
Truth and love against the force of evil
Brotherhood against the fascist clan

Viva la Quinta Brigada
“No Pasaran”, the pledge that made them fight
“Adelante” is the cry around the hillside
Let us all remember them tonight

Bob Hilliard was a Church of Ireland pastor
Form Killarney across the Pyrenees he came
From Derry came a brave young Christian Brother
Side by side they fought and died in Spain

Tommy Woods age seventeen died in Cordoba
With Na Fianna he learned to hold his gun
From Dublin to the Villa del Rio
Where he fought and died beneath the blazing sun

Viva la Quinta Brigada
“No Pasaran”, the pledge that made them fight
“Adelante” is the cry around the hillside
Let us all remember them tonight

Many Irishmen heard the call of Franco
Joined Hitler and Mussolini too
Propaganda from the pulpit and newspapers
Helped O’Duffy to enlist his crew

The word came from Maynooth, “support the Nazis”
The men of cloth failed again
When the Bishops blessed the Blueshirts in Dun Laoghaire
As they sailed beneath the swastika to Spain

Viva la Quinta Brigada
“No Pasaran”, the pledge that made them fight
“Adelante” is the cry around the hillside
Let us all remember them tonight

This song is a tribute to Frank Ryan
Kit Conway and Dinny Coady too
Peter Daly, Charlie Regan and Hugh Bonar
Though many died I can but name a few

Danny Boyle, Blaser-Brown and Charlie Donnelly
Liam Tumilson and Jim Straney from the Falls
Jack Nalty, Tommy Patton and Frank Conroy
Jim Foley, Tony Fox and Dick O’Neill

Viva la Quinta Brigada
“No Pasaran”, the pledge that made them fight
“Adelante” is the cry around the hillside
Let us all remember them tonight

The Massacre at Mỹ Lai

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50 years ago, on the 16th March 1968,  100 American GIs of the 23rd Infantry Division slaughtered 500 men, women and children in the village of Son My, South Vietnam. The soldiers herded the unarmed civilians into ditches and opened fire. Others went from house to house gang-raping the younger women. Houses and granaries were burned, the water supply defiled and bodies scalped and mutilated. Not even the livestock were spared.  Despite the death toll no weapons were seized and no Americans killed. The perpetrators claimed they were ‘just following orders’.

Son My, or ‘Pinkville’ to the US military, was a network of rural hamlets in the contested Quang Ngai province, a Viet Cong stronghold and the presumed base of operations for the notorious 48th battalion. Whilst the Saigon government controlled the cities of the south and benefited from US armaments and military support, the Viet Cong fought from the jungles and rice paddies of the countryside, drawing supplies and recruits from sympathetic villages like Son My.

The US strategy was ‘search and destroy’. Mobile helicopter-based squadrons sought out enemy hideouts, destroyed them and retreated to friendly territory. Success was measured by ‘body count’.

The 23rd ‘Americal’ Division was tasked with regaining the advantage lost in the Tet Offensive of January 1968. In the leadup to My Lai, Charlie Company lost 28 men, mostly to land mines, booby traps and sniper fire. They itched for revenge.

When Charlie Company assaulted the hamlets of My Khe and My Lai 4 they were expecting to engage the 48th battalion. Captain Ernest Medina, informed his troops that, with all innocents supposedly at the market, those who remained would be ‘either Viet Cong or Viet Cong sympathisers’.

Colonel Barker, the task force’s commander, gave orders to ‘neutralize the area’; destroy the houses, food supplies, wells and tunnels. No mention was made of the village’s inhabitants.

At 7.30 AM, first the artillery and then the gunships opened fire on My Lai 4. The first recorded ‘hostile’ casualty was an old man running from his home, arms waving. By 8.40 the ground troops had landed and were forcing the villagers into ditches. Overhead, the gunships rained death upon anyone who dared an escape. By 9.40 the reported kill count ended at 138 dead ‘Vietcong’. At 11.00 the task force stopped for lunch then continued the slaughter.Image result for my lai massacre

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Although not every soldier in Charlie Company partook in the killing, not one reported or attempted to prevent it.

A division chaplain noted:

“I became absolutely convinced that as far as the United States Army was concerned there was no such thing as murder of a Vietnamese civilian. I’m sorry, maybe it’s a little bit cynical. I’m sure it is, but that’s the way the system works.”

Image result for hugh thompsonNoticing the plumes of smoke, Major Hugh Thompson of the 123rd Airborne division landed his helicopter at the scene. He witnessed corpse-filled ditches and Captain Medina shooting an unarmed woman at point-blank. Thompson threatened to open fire if Medina’s men continued the killing. Reluctantly they complied, and he evacuated the survivors.

Knowing it would reflect badly, the division command covered the incident up and instead touted it as a victory.

Image result for seymour hersh 1970Journalist Seymour Hersh broke the story to the American public. His 1969  New Yorker piece exposed the full horrors of the massacre and the men responsible.  He heard of the event from GI Ronald Ridenhouer, who had pieced together the evidence independently reported it to the Pentagon. Hersh extensively interviewed the soldiers and officers of Charlie Company. His story won him the Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism and contributed massively to the antiwar movement.

Because he testified, Hugh Thompson’s comrades shunned him as a traitor and departed mess halls at his entrance. The US military did not recognize his heroism until 1998, 30 years later, when he and his two crewmates were awarded the Soldiers Medal. Thompson lived the rest of his days plagued by substance abuse and PTSD.

A single officer, Lieutenant William Calley, was quietly charged with the murder of 22 civilians and sentenced to life imprisonment. 69% of the public believed Calley was unfairly scapegoated, however, and President Nixon intervened. He reduced Calley’s sentence to three and a half years of house arrest. 26 other soldiers, including Captain Medina, were court-martialed. All were acquitted the following year.

Garry Crosley of Charlie Company:

“We didn’t believe this would be such a publicity stunt. We felt this was happening many times before, and it had probably happened many times since.”

See Also:

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri | Fox Movies

Disclaimer: The following is a summary of this film with no spoilers. If you are the type of person who prefers to see films completely blind, however, I would not recommend reading.

This is the film that should have won best picture at the Academy Awards. It was written and directed by Martin Mcdonagh, a British-Irish playwright-come-director who brought us ‘In Bruges’ (2008), another favourite of mine. Witty, suspenseful, vulgar and violent, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri is one hell of a film.

While driving along the American interstate 10 near Vidor, Texas in 2000, Mcdonagh passed a strange billboard. Pictured below, it condemned the local police’s failure to solve the case of Kathy Page, who was killed nine years earlier.

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The event inspired Three Billboards. In it, Mildred Hayes, a bereaved mother of a murdered girl, rents three billboards along a little used road outside town. By keeping the case of her murdered daughter in the public eye she hopes to increase the chance of it being solved.

The billboards read:

Raped while dying

And still no arrests?

How come, chief Willoughby?

Chief Willoughby, played by Woody Harrelson, is Ebbing’s head cop and a pillar of the community. For seven months his men have failed to turn up any evidence over the Angela Hayes case. His popularity puts the town at odds with the billboards and the woman who put them up.

Frances Mcdormand, wife of Joel Coen, plays Mildred Hayes in one of the the best performances of her career. Foul mouthed and abrasive, her determination to see justice for her daughter makes her a perfect antihero.

Sam Rockwell plays Jason Dixon, a moronic and uninhibited police officer with a violent temper who lives with his equally hateful mother. Fanatically loyal to Chief Willoughby, he takes personal offence to the billboards and launches a vendetta to see their removal.

Despite losing the Oscar for Best Picture to Guillermo Del Toro’s Shape of Water, Three Billboards was still an Academy Awards favourite, nominated for:

  • best picture
  • best original screenplay
  • best film editing
  • best original score (Carter Burwell)

and winning:

  • best actress (Frances McDormand)
  • best supporting actor (Sam Rockwell)

Additionally Three Billboards won four Golden Globes and five BAFTAs. Both included best picture, best actress and supporting actor and best screenplay.

Image result for three billboards outside ebbing missouri characters

The film is intense. Its plot is turbulent and themes heavy: police brutality, grief, cancer and nihilism to name a few. Racism is touched on too, though somewhat clumsily. Like much of Mcdonagh’s work it couples dark comedy with deep emotional resonance. Few films have made me go from laughing out loud to hovering at the edge of my seat so much in a single sitting. Though the plot relies a little too strongly on coincidental encounters, at no point was it predictable.

Three Billboards was not without its share of controversy. Tim Parks of the New Yorker describes it as “a film so empty of emotional intelligence, so devoid of any remotely honest observation of the society it purports to serve”. Parks’s main criticism is that Three Billboards reduces complex social issues to a struggle between individuals and that it reinforces familiar stereotypes of the conservative Midwest. What he seems to forget, however, is that a film can only be so long, and exploring social issues and themes through characters is not transgression but the nature of narrative.

Another, more pressing criticism of Three Billboards is the handling of one of its main character arcs. Revealing more would call for a spoiler warning so I will stop short here. Suffice to say, I recommend you watch it first and come to your own conclusions. I will be happy to discuss mine in the comments below.

Verdict: 5/5


Christopher Tin – Baba Yetu

This song is the theme for the 2005 computer game Civilization IV. American composer Christopher Tin took the Swahili Lord’s Prayer and set it to his own tune and orchestration. Baba Yetu means ‘Our Father’. The song was officially released in 2010 and won the Grammy for Best Instrumental Arrangements with Accompanying Vocalists, the first piece of video game music to do so.

Sung variously by Stanford Talisman, Angel City Chrorale and Prime Vocal Ensemble, the Soweto Gospel Choir sang it on Tin’s Grammy-winning debut album ‘Calling All Dawns’. This is the version I have linked. The video is tacky, but it’s the music that counts.


Baba yetu, yetu uliye

Mbinguni yetu, yetu amina!
Baba yetu yetu uliye
M jina lako e litukuzwe.

Utupe leo chakula chetu
Tunachohitaji, utusamehe
Makosa yetu, hey!
Kama nasi tunavyowasamehe
Waliotukosea usitutie
Katika majaribu, lakini
Utuokoe, na yule, muovu e milele!

Ufalme wako ufike utakalo
Lifanyike duniani kama mbinguni.