Liam Clancy: Navvy Boots On
Originally the term 'navvy' was used for the navigators who were the men who first dug canals and performed inland navigation in Australia. Skilled at moving rock and earth by hand they were also known as excavators, bankers, diggers, and occasionally as pinchers, blue stockings, thick legs or bill boys tradesmen. They were considered an underclass of people who had their own style of dress and way of life that lasted from the mid-18th century to about the 1940s. The term, though not well known in the U.S. is still being used in the U.K. but with changed meaning: now used for a laborer,usually Irish. Because of that change, it has led many people to believe that all navvies were Irish but they were not. In fact most were English.
Liam Clancy was the youngest and the last surviving member of the original Clancy Brothers. He passed away on December 4, 2009. Regarded as the most powerful vocalist in the group, Bob Dylan regarded him as the greatest ballad singer ever. Tom Clancy died on November 7, 1990, Patrick Clancy died on November 11, 1998 and Tommy Makem died on August 1, 2007. Of his status as the last survivor of the band Liam said: “There was always a pecking order, especially when you’re working with family. But they all died off, and I got to the top of the pecking order, with nobody looking over my shoulder. There’s a great sense of freedom about that”
Being a huge fan of the Clancy Brothers and the Irish-Folk genre in general I was deeply saddened with his passing. Thankfully, they recorded enough music to keep me smiling through the sadness.