Toledo Irish: Is There Anything Better Than Live Irish Music…on St. Patrick’s Day?
By Molly McHugh
Is there anything better than live Irish music…on St. Patrick’s Day….after a year of lockdown? For anyone reading this article, I will venture to guess the resounding answer is, NO!
On March 17th here in Toledo, we were finally graced with live Irish Music again at the Maumee Bay Brewing Company, by none other than Toledo’s own, “The Men from the Bog”! The band plays rollicking, toe-tapping pub songs that energize their always large crowd of listeners. The performance was brilliant, as they would say in Ireland.
The Men from the Bog are an Irish folk band who mostly cover classic hits from the Dubliners and the Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem, among others. After the live session, I sat down with band member Robert McMahon to learn more about the them. It just so happens that Robert and I went to grade school together, but Men from the Bog were certainly not around at that time!
While talking with Robert, I found two pieces of information interesting: 1) how the band came to be and 2) how the band got its name. We will start with how the band came to be first.
“We were created out of necessity about five years ago,” says Robert. “The band that the Ancient Order of Hibernians booked for the St Patrick’s Day Festival had to pull out, so they needed music.”
An Irish Festival with No Music
How could you have an Irish festival with no Irish music! Band members Matt Cassidy (bassist), Jim Burns (guitarist) and Robert McMahon (whistle) were already Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) members, and they had played with Eric Hite (accordionist) and Betsy Grafing (banjo) at other events around Toledo for many years. Robert and Eric had also previously teamed up playing Irish music as a duet. At that point, “We figured, since we were all Irish and musicians, we should be able to give it a go. Luckily, Matt had the music for quite a few standard songs, and we were able to get started then.”
When I heard Robert speak of “giving it a go,” I felt a sense of warmth and familiarity; it immediately brought me back to my days of living and going to school in Ireland. If there was ever a time where I may have been apprehensive about something, whether it be going to a school function, meeting up with unknown classmates, or even deciding if I should walk to class, knowing it may start to pour rain, my uncle, who I was living with, would always encourage me by saying, “Ah sure look, Mol, give it a go!”
That’s all it took – four short words – “Give it a go,” stated with Irish perspective and reassurance; I knew everything would work out just fine. Evidently Men from the Bog felt the same way!
So how did the band settle on the name? Well, the first name they considered was “Bogmen,” but Robert thought “that didn’t sound quite right.” The next variation was “Men from the Bog,” and that stuck. I wonder, however, how Banjo Betsy feels about that name? I will have to ask her some day!
Interestingly, bogs in Ireland have been around for a very long time, and they are a type of wetland that accumulates peat, which has been used to fuel fires to heat homes for nearly a thousand years. It was not uncommon for the men of the family in Ireland to regularly go out to the bog to cut the peat for the fires. While these Men from the Bog may not be cutting peat, they know how to ignite a spark.
When I asked about the set-list for that night in particular, Robert said, “We try to play the sort of music that most Irish fans of all ages will know and enjoy. He has only been asked for one to be sung in Irish, and “everyone is thankful for that.”
I am thankful that Men from the Bog decided to “give it a go” five years ago, and were able to light up the stage with music that everyone can sing along to, and enjoy.
Check out Men from the Bog online or email Robert at [email protected].