In Belfast Town

Ray's solo show "In Belfast Town" had its Off-Broadway premiere at the Irish Arts Center in New York City in March 1986. Set in the docklands of Belfast City, the show is a social history of the York Street/Sailortown district told in story, song, and verse, with a wee bit of dancing thrown in for good measure. 
The show's finale,
"As I Roved Back to York Street",  would later become the title track of Ray's autobiographical album, "As I Roved Back..."

In praise of the show, Irish filmmaker/director,
Jim Sheridan said: "this is a masterful display of the enduring humour and spirit of the people of Belfast."
The show was directed by James Connolly's grand-nephew, 
Nye Heron.

as i roved back to york street 'round what's left of sailortown
to find again my childhood days 'midst the changes all around
i was met by rusted gantries stark berths lying bare
no surly gangers curses tore through the dockland air
where once my kith 'n' kin set out to sail the seven seas
there's desolation all around nothing but redundancy
now it's mobile pen, it's forklift truck, it's shovel bulk and block
with container box efficiency they've killed the belfast dock
no more wine nor whiskey in barney conway's pub
where casual dockers fought 'n' cursed and drank away their sub
the queens and joe mckibbens sure they have vanished too
there's nothing left here any more they've shipwrecked the whole bloody crew
where once my parent's parents lived just a stone's throw apart
a great big ugly motorway has ripped out the district's heart
'twas not the bomb nor bullet that ruined our docklands
but the callous rate of progress 
care-of city hall's heartless plans
you may think this sentimental just an old fool's dream
to keep harkin' back to the memories of the way things had been
but despite all the hardships and a hovel for a home
we were always rich in friendship it's all we ever owned

as i roved back to york street
'round what's left of sailortown


Ballad of Rinty Monaghan

in belfast town


in belfast town 

i was born

in the jubilee ward 

of a mid-march morn

to an existence

where the pains of love

meet damp huddled houses

in sleet drenched streets


the ballyhoo bark of scabby dogs

heralds a new dawn

a pot of thick sweet tea

bread ’n’ drippin’

slimy blistered eggs

in a cast iron pan of black-speckled grease

the racing form digested

a dole cheque


bottles ’n’ half'uns

gee-gees and pints

beaten dockets

the new day old already



night descends

upon suspicious day’s

nervous watch


it entombs


york street and sailortown

whiterock and milltown

clonard and woodvale

ardoyne and new lodge

crumlin and cliftonville

turf lodge and twinbrook

old park and skegoniel

lenadoon and ligoniel


bawnmore  ballysillan mount vernon  glencairn

dundonald dunmurry derriaghy duncairn


the falls and the shankill

andytown and finaghy

the markets

the 'murph

the village

the row 

the bone 

and tigers bay


drippin’…………………fried lard

  fegs……………. ………cigarettes

                                bottles ’n’ half-uns…….bottled guinness and whiskey

        gee-gees……………… horses

               beaten dockets……….. losing betting slips



first published in the NYQ poetry magazine issue #61  since revised
As a 15 year-old, Ray worked in this pub, then called 'Byrnes'. The premises did not have any draught beer at all but sold a wide selection of bottled beers and hard liquor. It was here that Ray honed his performing skills, regularly entertaing the customers with impromptu renditions from his wide repertoire of Irish folk songs and sea shanties. In memory of Joe Kennedy; friend, neighbour, and one of the best 'chanters' in Belfast. Joe taught me the bartending trade by shoving me behind the bar saying "you'll soon pick it up as you go along".....then he proceeded to sit in the corner lowering a bottle of Guinness and smoking a Woodbine cigarette.
More importantly he taught me a slew of Irish ballads.

"Slainte, Joe".  R.I.P.

The pub is now a 'Lunches to Go'!!!!