March 17 is St. Patrick's Day. So here's a story in honor of the Irish holiday, a tale of a seemingly innocuous pub sign which inflamed the blistering Celtic ire of a band at the Crystal Ballroom.
This is Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), possibly the most controversial figure in the history of the British isles. Depending on one's perspective on the Irish/English struggles, Cromwell is either considered an inhumane leader of mass genocide, a military dictator, or a hero of English liberty.
Fast forward a couple hundred years. Ansells Brewery Ltd was founded in 1858 in Birmingham, England, on the site of artesian wells. At some point, Ansells had a metal pub sign painted featuring a portrait of Cromwell, which one can then assume was proudly displayed at a pub selling their product. (They were English, after all.)
Fast forward another hundred-plus years. That Ansells pub sign featuring Cromwell found its way into our stash of antiques. And at some point, it was hung from the rafters in Ringlers Pub as a colorful piece of historic decoration.
Enter Flogging Molly.
This American-Irish, Celtic-punk-rock band was formed in 1997 in Los Angeles. Seventeen years later, they are still selling out venues with their raw, raucous sounds and lyrics that touch on subjects such as Irish history, politics, love, death and more.
Lead singer Dave King (originally from Dublin) said this in Alternative Press magazine: "There was a man by the name of Oliver Cromwell, who basically tried to wipe the Irish race off the face of the Earth. I started off with [song] 'Oliver Boy,' then it goes into what's going on in the Middle East right now -- when will the stupidity of conflict actually end? I started off with him, and I brought it to the present day, because things haven't really changed in that area of humanity: fighting over land and religion. Like, 'Oh my God, would you please stop?'"
So in March 2008, when King and bandmates happened to see the Cromwell pub sign hanging in Ringlers after playing a packed-house show at the Crystal Ballroom, what was their reaction? (See left.) They would never again play our venue.
Word of this filtered up to the McMenamin brothers. And what was their reaction? Paint the sign over.
Artist Lyle Hehn was called in to cover Cromwell's English sneer with the calm, loving gaze of national Irish hero Dominic O'Connor (1883-1935). O'Connor's deeds in support of the Irish Republic are celebrated in text, verse and song. After coming to Bend in 1922, Father Dominic lived a much quieter life devoted to serving the St. Francis Parish and helping to found the Old St. Francis School. Being a celebrated Irish Republican hero exiled by the British, O'Connor's arrival in Bend scared Oregon's KKK. This firmly established the Irish hero as an important figure within the history of Central Oregon. In 1957, 22 years after his death, his remains were returned to County Cork, Ireland.
After the new pub-sign portrait was complete, an image of it was sent to the band -- but no response was ever received. True to their word, Flogging Molly has not played our venue again since that fateful night in 2008.
Perhaps in the spirit of St. Francis and Father Dominic, the time for peace is upon us, once and for all? Perhaps Flogging Molly will cross our threshold again, when they learn the final fate of Cromwell (at least in our pub, anyway)?
Now, we leave this tale in the hands of our Crystal bookers, so that they may forge a new treaty with Flogging Molly – and to the bookers and the band, we say: May the luck of the Irish be with you. Slainté!