Jolyon Jackson and ‘Choughs’

(Allen Moore, Mannin Branch Celtic League, goes in search of endangered birds and recalls some ‘rare’ Irish musicians – here’s the story):

“One of the challenges about researching that most Celtic of birds, the chough, also known as the red-billed or Cornish chough, is that the species’ range and numbers decreased markedly over the last two centuries, although with improvements in some parts of the species range more recently. Thus, choughs themselves and those of us who study them are dotted about in southern and western Europe.

“I met many other chough researchers when I represented the Manx Chough Project at the Chough Congress in Segovia in Spain in October (mentioned in “Carn” 175, out now). After the Congress dinner on the last night we had a bit of singing, both in Spanish and English, the latter including songs by Jimmy Crowley of Cork. One of those present was an ornithologist from Madrid called Oscar. I mentioned to him that his name appears in Irish folklore, Oscar having been the son of Oisín. I also said that I remembered a piece of music called “Oscar and Malvina” which had been played on RTÉ many years ago and which I thought was by Jolyon Jackson.

“Paddy Glackin, a member of the famous Irish group, the Bothy Band, worked with Jolyon Jackson on their 1980 LP “Hidden Ground”. Glackin played the fiddle and Jackson played all the other instruments on the LP, including wind and string instruments, bodhrán, synthesizer and keyboards. Back in 1980 this use of electronic instruments struck me as exceptional in Irish music, very experimental! The first track of the LP, “The Long Note”, was used as the theme tune of the great RTÉ music programme of that name.

“Jolyon Jackson worked with many other musicians in Ireland during 1975-1983. These included playing piano for Jimmy Crowley and Stoker’s Lodge on “Johnny Jump Up”, a song about a particularly potent cider produced in whisky barrels in Cork City in World War I which was included on the 1977 “The Boys Of Fair Hill” LP. He also played the cello on the Chieftains 1979 LP “Boil The Breakfast Early”. That LP included the “March From Oscar And Malvina” which, I suppose, is how the Jolyon Jackson connection with that tune entered my memory many years ago. Other work was with Christy Moore and on the Sonny Condell solo LP.

“Jolyon Jackson died of Hodgkin’s lymphoma on 18th December 1985. He was 37.

Allen Moore, Mannin Branch Secretary Celtic League (20 December 2019)

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