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Just who Justin is, or whether there ever was an actual person named Justin remains a bit of a mystery. It is worth noting that the lyrics to "In The Days Before Rock and Roll" were written by Belfast poet Paul Durcan together with Van Morrison, and from the way they divide the song up, it was probably Paul who wrote the "Justin" references.

Hoping to solve the mystery, I went to an event billed as the "Poetry Bash" at the 1995 "Vancouver International Writer's Festival". The Writer's Festival is a great event, and the "Poetry Bash" is always a sell-out. I usually go, but this year I was particularly keen because Paul Durcan was one of the poets on the bill.

I printed out the lyrics, and planned to corner him to ask what the story was behind "Justin", who is mentioned in the song. At the reading he read several pieces (which were great - he has a very sly humour, and a kind of quiet, self-deprecating manner). And his voice was definitely recognizable to anyone who has heard the song (although I doubt that there were many people there who had made the connection).

At the break, I went up, clutching my lyrics. The person I was with had a book she wanted signed, which he did. When it was my turn, I asked about Justin, with visions of clearing up the mystery once and for all. But I'm afraid that the mystery remains. Paul Durcan answered as I'm sure most creative writers would have, to the effect that there was no one Justin that the poem referred to, that poetry didn't always have a "meaning" per se. Makes sense I suppose, but it would have been nice it he had been willing to go into a bit more about the creative process etc - how it was co-writing a song with Van Morrison for example. Maybe if the setting had been different: a pub perhaps...

To further fuel speculation, one Van mailing list member recently said that she believes Justin was a pirate radio operator in England in the 1960s, which would seem to fit the lyrics quite nicely. Another member speculates further in that vein, suggesting that "Justin" might be a reference to (or a pseudonym for) fellow Irishman Ronan O'Rahilly, Georgie Fame's first manager, and founder of the offshore pirate radio station Radio Caroline. Hence the last words of the song, "Come aboard".

It would be interesting to be able to confirm (or refute) this from some other source.

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