Yesterday, my wife and I drove to Columbus, Ohio, for the annual Dublin Irish Festival held in the suburb at the northwest corner of the I-270 beltway around the Columbus metro area. It is a festival that lives up to its advertising, with all sorts of great Celtic music and great food (Irish and otherwise)—as well as all sorts of other attractions from Irish-themed arts and crafts to dog shows.
One of the musical headliners at this year’s festival was the prolific songwriter and acclaimed guitarist Richard Thompson. After first coming to international attention with the Scottish folk group Fairport Convention, Thompson performed for more than a decade as a duo with his wife Linda until they became professionally as well as personally estranged. Thompson’s songs have been recorded by dozens of well-known artists—from David Gilmour and Elvis Costello to R.E.M. and David Byrne, from Bonnie Raitt to Nanci Griffith to Los Lobos, and from Jefferson Starship to the Blind Boys of Alabama.
Last night, Thompson performed one of his most recent compositions, a song called “Fergus Laing.” The title character is an American real-estate developer with very little if any regard for Scottish history or culture or for the aesthetic integrity of Scottish landscapes. The characterization is wryly vicious and reaches its climax in this lyric: “Fergus Laing he builds and builds but his are small erections / Fergus Laing has a fine head of hair when the wind’s in the right direction.”
Thompson would not identify “Fergus Laing” by his real name, but he did say that “Laing” had recently taken a very big interest in politics.
A recording of “Fergus Laing” is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yi-Ff3YJPOQ. (I believe that the song title is, however, misspelled at that site.)