The Auld Triangle
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"The Auld Triangle" is a song whose first public appearance was in the play The Quare Fellow(1954) by Brendan Behan. The song was rumoured to have been written by Brendan's brother Dominic Behan, but Dominic never credited the song to himself on any recordings he made of it, and Brendan never attributed it to anyone but himself. Other rumours suggest it was a prison song to which a Behan added verses, but the fact that Dominic never credits himself with writing the song suggests that the true authorship is at least not his. The song was later made famous by Luke Kelly, Ronnie Drew and The Dubliners in the late 1960s.
The song is used to introduce the play, a story about the occurrences in a prison (in real life Mountjoy Prison where Behan had once been lodged) the day a convict is set to be executed. The triangle in the title refers to the large metal triangle which was beaten daily in Mountjoy Prison to waken the inmates ("The Auld Triangle goes Jingle Jangle"). The triangle still hangs in the prison at the centre where the wings meet on a metal gate. It is no longer used, though the hammer to beat it is mounted beside it.
The song has taken on a sort of life of its own and has gone beyond its identity as a song in a play, developing into a modern Irish anthem.
As with many Irish ballads, the lyrics have been changed with each passing cover. For example, the Dropkick Murphys recording condenses the structure into a three-lyric section song with a chorus based on the last two lines of each stanza in the original.
This song has been recorded by:
- The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem on Ain't It Grand Boys (recorded 1964, released 1995, as "Royal Canal") and The Bold Fenian Men (1969, as "The Old Triangle")
- Liam Clancy as "Royal Canal" on his self-titled 1965 album (reissued with additional tracks in 1999 as Irish Troubadour)
- Ian & Sylvia as "The Royal Canal" for their Four Strong Winds album in 1963
- The Dubliners, on the 1992 album "30 Years A-Greying"
- The Pogues
- Ewan MacColl
- The Doug Anthony Allstars
- U2 Live Cover at Croke park Dublin 24th July 2009 '360 tour'
- Dropkick Murphys on the 2005 album The Warrior's Code. Their version was also included on the compilation Vans Off the Wall Volume VII.
- The High Kings on The High Kings (2008)
- Bob Dylan and The Band also recorded a rendition of the song during their Basement Tapes sessions in 1967. This recording is available on bootleg recordings but does not appear on the official Basement Tapes album released in 1975. It finally appeared in 2014 on the official release, The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11.
- Lifvens Vänner Swedish band recorded this song to their album "Lifvs Levenes", released 1997.
- Bert Jansch for his 2006 album The Black Swan
- Jeff Tweedy on his tour DVD Sunken Treasure: Live in the Pacific Northwest
- The Oysterband for their now-deleted 'Alive and Acoustic' recording.
- Eric Burdon (retitled "The Royal Canal")
- Glen Hansard, lead singer of The Frames, and Damien Dempsey, to raise funds for the charity Society of Saint Vincent de Paul.
- Patrick Clifford, on Chance of a Start
- Chris Thile, Chris Eldridge, Marcus Mumford, Justin Timberlake, and Gabe Witcher, for the soundtrack to the Coen Brothers' 2013 film Inside Llewyn Davis.
- Cat Power for her 2008 EP Dark End of the Street
It was sung in the short film, "Macbeth Retold", starring James McAvoy, one of the three part ShakespeaRe-Told film produced by the BBC during November 2005.
The Swell Season have included the song in their live performances.
The Frames performed it as the final song of a two-hour concert at the Vic Theater in Chicago on November 23, 2010. They performed the song live on RTÉ television's The Saturday Night Show on December 18 of the same year. Bono joined lead singer Glen Hansard on May 8, 2012 in New York City's The Living Room venue to perform the song.
At the Ceiliuradh (celebration) at Royal Albert Hall on 10 April 2014, it was sung by a collection of performers including Glen Hansard, Lisa Hannigan, Elvis Costello, Conor O’Brien (of Villagers), Paul Brady, Imelda May, John Sheehan, Donal Lunny, Andy Irvine and The Gloaming.
- "The Frames". 2010.theframes.ie. Retrieved 2013-11-10.
- "First Listen: Soundtrack, 'Inside Llewyn Davis'". NPR. 2013-11-03. Retrieved 2013-11-10.
- "Glen Hansard w/ Bono "The Auld Triangle" on Vimeo". Vimeo.com. 2012-05-08. Retrieved 2013-11-10.