FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
SHow did Murphy’s Pigs come together?
On Paddy’s Day 2004, founding members, Peter and John, got together to provide guitar accompaniment for the Queensland Irish Association Pipe Band (QIAPB). This continued infrequently for about 18 months. In 2005, the QIAPB announced that it was going to the world’s largest Celtic festival, Festival Interceltique de Lorient, held in Brittany, France, in July/August 2006. Each year the festival celebrates a Celtic nation. 2006 would be the first ever ‘Year of Australia’ to be celebrated at the festival. Peter and John were keen to hitch their wagon to the QIAPB star so, in late 2005, a drummer, bass player and flute player were press ganged to enhance their accompaniment capabilities. In early 2006 the drummer had to pull out because of work commitments. Due to an administrative error (actually, a stroke of good luck) 8 weeks out from the festival, Murphy’s pigs learnt it they would be performing at the festival in its own right. They hastily put together a set of high-energy, Australian folk songs. And so, on 29 July 2006, a rough-knit, naive but energetic, four-piece Murphy’s Pigs was unleashed on the world, via Lorient, in their first professional performance. They received excellent reviews from the organisers, audiences and other performers. On their return to Brisbane, the band had no firm plans (prospects) to continue. The president of the Queensland Irish Association (Irish Club) in Brisbane, however, had seen them perform in Brittany and convinced the club manager to give them some gigs. They were offered three gigs, over three months, to ‘see how they would go’. The drummer jumped back in, the pipe major of the QIAPB put his hand up and a fiddler came on board. They did well, playing old favourites and standards that many contemporary groups no longer favoured. The band was offered a residency at the club and soon began performing at festivals and other events. Eventually they secured more musicians and, over time, unwittingly became Australia’s largest and best-dressed, Celtic-Rock Big Band.
Where did the name come from?
Peter coined the name. Peter and John thought that an Irish name for the band would demonstrate their connection to the QIAPB while, at the same time, distinguish themselves as a separate entity. The band name evolved from an expression where someone or something was deemed to be ‘as Irish as Paddy’s Pigs’. They would be ‘Murphy’s Pigs’. It had nothing to do with the fact that Peter and John were police officers. Because Peter came up with the name his contract stipulates that he can’t be sacked.
How would you describe Murphy’s Pigs music?
Big … and Foster and Allen, they are not. It’s sort of a chaotic mix influenced by The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem, The Dubliners, The Irish Rovers, Tannahill Weavers, The Corries, The Pogues and The Bushwackers. Their repertoire comprises mostly songs made popular during the folk revival period of the 60s, 70s and 80s but they also draw on the wonderful music from the French and Spanish Celtic groups such as Tri Yann, Carlos Nunez and Dan Ar Braz. They even throw some contemporary and original songs into the mix.
How many members are there in Murphy’s Pigs?
At present, there are 12 musicians, 3 dancers, and 2 crew. The current line-up has been together since November 2023. There have been 23 full time members (musicians and dancers) during the group’s existence, with another 44 musicians standing in, over that time, for members who were ill or otherwise prevented from performing. Or forgot to put the performance date in their diary.
How many police officers are in the band?
There are currently four serving and one retired – John (banjo, bouzouki & guitar), Peter – retired (12 string guitar), Dan (drums), Ciaron (keyboard & accordion) and Neil (bagpipes & whistles). They work in various departments within the service. All of them are rotating shift workers and this presents challenges when trying to juggle performances against rosters. The fact that there are police officers in the band has nothing to do with the band name. Peter and John were too slow to realise this at the time.
Who are the Piglets?
Following a string of successful collaborations with Cape Byron Celtic Dance (CBCD – located in Byron Bay) in 2014, John approached Karen Armstrong, the then principal, and begged her to supply a team of dancers for an upcoming concert at Tenterfield, in 2015. Five award-winning dancers were ‘voluntold’ to participate in the performance and a wonderful alliance emerged. CBCD is unique in that the dancers perform both Highland and Irish dancing not, like other dance schools, one or the other. This allows for an extensive repertoire and a greater variety of dance styles within a show. The dancers also perform dances from Celtic France and Spain to enhance Murphy’s Pigs tunes of the same ilk. The girls, themselves, insisted on using the name Piglets. Classy, right? The collaboration became permanent and ‘The Piglets’ are now considered to be part of the core group, and essential to any Murphy’s Pigs performance.
How often does Murphy’s Pigs perform?
Because there are four rotating shift workers in the band, time with family is important and managing to corral a large ensemble (stray cats) long enough to perform is not without challenges. Prior to COVID the band averaged about 3 to 4 gigs a month. At festivals the band might perform 3 to 4 times in a weekend, or well over 10 times during a week. Murphy’s Pigs averaged 40 gigs per year. Notwithstanding, since 2018 the band has been performing more at festivals, less time at pubs and clubs, and increasing the number of self-produced concerts – like their SwineSong Regional Concerts. They are currently averaging 20 to 25 shows per year.
What’s with the suits?
When the group first started the members were inclined to wear the apparent, obligatory jeans and shirt. Every other group performing in the genre wore the same. Some thought that kilts should be the preferred attire; especially since the music was Celtic. In 2007 John knocked a 1968 biography of the Beatles off his bookshelf and it happened to fall open at a photo of the Beatles, taken not long after their return from Hamburg. The lads were all wearing suits. John had an epiphany. This seemed like a perfect way to circumvent the ‘what should be worn’ issue and present the band in a unique and professional manner. The suits also made the band ‘non-Celtic-nation-specific’; not tying the band to any particular Celtic nation. It took a while for the members to warm to John’s enthusiastic solution but after a lot of sulking, threats and foot stamping John got his way. John also believes that black is slimming. You’ve got to admit – they do look stunning. And slim.
What is Celtic music?
Celtic music is a broad grouping of musical genres that evolved out of the folk music traditions of the Celtic people of Western Europe. It refers to both orally transmitted traditional music and recorded music and the styles vary considerably to include anything from ‘trad’ (traditional music) to a wide range of hybrids. So, ‘Celtic music’ means two things. Firstly, it is the music of the people identifying themselves as Celts. Secondly it refers to whatever qualities that may be unique to the music of the Celtic Nations. Even though the languages of the Celts vary widely, the music of the Celtic Nations have much in common. Common instruments, common structure and themes and even shared melodies. There is tremendous variation, however, between Celtic regions. Ireland, Scotland and Brittany have a living tradition of language and music and there has been a recent, major revival of interest in Wales, Cornwall, the Isle of Man, Galicia and Asturias. Use of the word Celtic in marketing music started in the early 1960s as part of the worldwide, folk music revival of that era with the term quickly catching on with artists worldwide.
What does the swirly, three-armed symbol in the band logo signify?
The triskele, or as often referred to by many as a triskelion, is a well-known, complex, ancient Celtic symbol and while there are many variations of the triskele, our particular version is the most popular in Brittany, Celtic France. The word is derived from the Greek word “triskeles” meaning “three legs”. Its earliest creation dates back to the Neolithic era (also known as The New stone Age – in Northwest Europe from 4,500 to 1700 BC). This version is popular in Brittany and was ultimately adopted by the band to reveal, clearly, that the band was Celtic in nature, and in proud recognition of their foundational bond to Brittany.
Which are the Celtic nations?
There are seven recognised Celtic nations: Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man, Wales, Cornwall, Brittany (western tip of France) and Galicia & Asturias (North West Spain). Australia, Canada and New Zealand are recognised as countries of significant Celtic heritage.
Who were the Celts?
The Celts were a large group of Caucasian tribes in Europe. They first appeared in the early Iron Age, around 1200 B.C. Their culture and genes spread through much of Europe, and by the time the Greeks and later the Romans started emerging, the British Isles and parts of western, southern and eastern Europe were Celtic – the most prominent Celtic tribes were in Gaul.
Celtic society and technology, although not as advanced as the Romans, was far from being primitive for its time. The Celts lived a way of life based on ethical codes and honour codes and had developed a culture of their own, full of unique drawings, sculptures, jewellery, folklore, and building designs and techniques. They were also skilled in blacksmithing, farming and diplomacy. By the mid-1st millennium, with the expansion of the Roman Empire and the Migration Period of Germanic peoples, Celtic culture and Insular Celtic languages had become restricted to Ireland, the northern and western parts of Great Britain (Scotland, Wales and Cornwall), the Isle of Man, and Brittany.
Between the 5th and 8th centuries, the Celtic-speaking communities in these Atlantic regions emerged as a reasonably cohesive cultural entity. They had a common linguistic, religious and artistic heritage that distinguished them from the culture of the surrounding polities.
Two well known Celts in history were Boudicca and Vercingetorix. Boudicca was the Celtic Queen of the Iceni tribe of modern-day East Anglia, Britain, who led a revolt against Rome in 60/61 CE. Vercingetorix (c. 75 BCE-c. 46 BCE) a Celtic chieftain, battled valiantly to keep the Roman army, under the leadership of Julius Caesar, from overrunning the territory of Gaul, as France was then called. Caesar defeated him at Alesia and Vercingetorix was forced to surrender.
By far, though, the most famous Celts ever to live were the indominable Asterix and Obelix. Just sayin’.
NOW, AREN’T YOU GLAD YOU ASKED?
Peter has been telling the same jokes at Murphy’s Pigs concerts for 16 years. Regular attendees at our performances are starting to notice.