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As we crawled out of Big Mikey’s office, I’ll swear he was laughing; you couldn’t blame him. ‘ As if to put the Almighty’s seal on this bad bargain, the phone rang. Big Mikey would rather see an Orange Band up on that stage than a black leprechaun! When we added the leprechaun hat and the squeezebox, you could almost convince yourself that it really was Tony. ‘ ‘They’ll be out of sight on the sides of the squeezebox. And then we were on, to drunken applause and the occasional shout of ‘Hey, Bianco!

) We are yet another second-rate folk group, trying to make a go of it in the States, topping (and tailing) the bill at The Shamrock Bar in Chicago.

The mural in question is the backdrop to the little stage at The Shamrock; it shows Pearse and Connolly in vivid green tunics in front of the GPO in Dublin. Because the poster is curved around one of the pillars, there is not enough room for all of POBLACHT NA h EIREANN. ‘ Big Mikey, part-owner of The Shamrock, Irish-Italian patriot and all-round scum bag, has us over a barrel.

You could have skated on the permafrost that spread throughout the place as Toby addressed Big Mikey—‘Yo, Brother, Ah’ll be havin’ a point o’ gueeeness‘—in his best buttermilk brogue.

Before Big Mikey could get his considerable frame out from behind the bar, Seamus had managed to hustle them out the door.

It has that great Irish actor Sean Somebody Or Other in it!

‘ I could see Tony framing a suitable sarcasm: that would be Sean-as-Irish-as- the-bagpipes-Connery, perhaps? Boys, I want ya dressed up as leprechauns for Saint Paddy’s night. ‘ From under his Connemara marble desk he produced three elongated pork-pie hats in fluorescent green; on the front of each was a big ‘L‘ (presumably for leprechaun or was it for loser? We stared in stunned silence at the leaning tower of green.

Tony’s idea of relaxation was hanging out at a crosstown jazz club, the only white face there, if not in the whole neighbourhood.

By any odds he should have been mugged or murdered but the squeezebox was his passport.

I decided to get in ahead of him: ‘Yeah, Mikey, great show! Then Big Mikey said softly: ‘I’m making real good progress on those visas, boys.‘ Seamus reached over and took the topmost hat and solemnly placed it on his head. The Irish Boomerang had sold out for The Crock of Gold. There were also flimsy shirts of green paper, printed with horseshoes and shamrocks, and knee-length breeches of the same material. ‘ ‘It’s an old tradition that the leprechauns had very white faces.

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