Remembering Dropkick Murphy, the fighting doctor hailed by drunks and punks

Published date25 May 2023
Publication titleIrish Times: Web Edition Articles (Dublin, Ireland)
"In the main slambang of the evening, it was a rough performance, for Danno is no longer the good-natured Celt of his first appearance in this country," went one report. "Considerable hair-pulling, strangling and what-not kept Lloyd Stewart, referee, diligently employing himself as human crowbar to pry Danno from the rough stuff. Danno took the first fall by the Irish whip but the dear doctor won the second with a dropkick. The Irish whip again prevailed for the ex-world's champ in the third and rubber session."

Danno will be known to Irish fans, one of those quasi-mythical, sepia-tinted names from the sporting long ago. A giant from Ballydehob, he sailed to America, was sold to the public as a broth of a boy and returned in triumph as heavyweight wrestling champion of the world in 1936, brandishing a diamond-encrusted championship belt supposedly worth $10,000. Like so much about wrestling then, that value was no doubt exaggerated. As for Dropkick Murphy? Well, you might have heard his name mentioned far more recently. In a very different context.

There was something of the WWE pantomime about the way President Joe Biden strutted on to the stage outside St Muredach's Cathedral in Ballina last month. Making his ring walk to the stirring strains of the Dropkick Murphys' I'm Shipping up to Boston was clever theatrics and smart politics. For a man battling legit concerns he's too old to run for re-election, being soundtracked by an Irish-American folk-punk anthem took years off him. Not to mention just about everybody watching had heard this stadium staple at some sports event or other over the past two decades.

Ken Casey composed the song, inspired by an unpublished fragment of a Woody Guthrie lyric. He has also written the foreword to Dropkick Murphy – A Legendary Life, Emily Sweeney's evocative new biography of the true original from whom his mighty band took their name. Christened plain old John Eugene Murphy by his parents, Jimmy, a gas fitter, and Cicelie, a tobacco stripper, in blue collar Medford, just north of Boston, in 1912, he gained enduring fame through his various monikers and fascinating second life, all of which is detailed in this book.

What's on your rider? Ken Casey of Dropkick Murphys

Labelled Dropkick for delivering two-footed shots to opponents' faces before landing in an upright position, the honorific of doctor was appended because he used wrestling to pay his way through medical school during the Great Depression. The money was so...

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