Forgotten Irish get a voice on new Chieftains album
HOLLYWOOD actor Liam Neeson has joined forces with The Chieftains to tell a little-known story about Irishmen in the US army on their new album.
'San Patricio' describes the Saint Patrick's Battalion, who fought as part of the Mexican Army against the United States in the Mexican-American War of 1846 to 1848.
Led by John Reilly from Clifden, Co Galway, the Irishmen were considered deserters from the US army, with 48 of them hanged after the Mexican defeat at the battle of Churubusco in August 1847.
However, Paddy Moloney of The Chieftains considers The San Patricios heroes. "These were Irishmen who ended up in the US army straight off the boat," he said.
"The last place they wanted to be was in Mexico, killing their fellow Catholics. The fact it was a big country, America, beating up on a smaller country, Mexico, reminded them of the situation between Ireland and England. That made them sympathetic to the Mexicans."
The 71-year-old traditional musician first heard the story of the San Patricios 25 years ago but it wasn't until last year he decided The Chieftains should record an album telling their tale.
Their long-time friend, Ballymena-born actor Neeson, was happy to pitch in to voice some of the monologues.
Other collaborators on the album, which Moloney wanted to be a mix of Mexican, American and Irish music, include Ry Cooder, Moya Brennan and Linda Ronstadt.
The Chieftains plan to showcase tracks from the new album in Dublin this month.