The area of the North that we’re in is the Glen’s of Antrim. It’s an achingly beautiful region, each glen has a unique character, all lovely. We also are piecing together that this area is a heavily Catholic part of the North. What that means is if you’re used to Republican sentiments, i.e. believe that Ireland is one country, artificially divided and should be united then you’re in a comfort zone. There are very little overt displays of this, but if you’re looking you’ll find signs of it. In Cushendall James found two placards on the side of a building to the memory of Civilians Murdered By British Crown Forces in 1922.
Next to it is a placard In Memory Of Those Who Died On Hunger Strike In The H-Blocks of Long Kesh 1981. There are 10 names the oldest being 30 the youngest 23. Below that… And Their Comrades Who Died While On Hunger Strike In English Gaols, 2 names, one aged 34 the other 24. There’s a quote at the very bottom, “Our Revenge Will be The Laughter of Our Children” attributed to Bobby Sands who was one of those who starved to death. Speaking for myself my sympathies are always for those oppressed by any colonialist power, any bully be it an individual or a nation that believes it has the right to decide for others what choices they have in their own home and land deserves to be bloodied.
We made it known to our hosts that we were looking for a session and Sean told us that there was music at J. O’Connors Friday-Sunday which was the same thing we’d heard from a fellow washing windows in front of said pub the day before. We told Sean and Carmel that we would take our instruments and head down there. We stopped at the new Fish & Chips shop and ordered dinner. James and his family were meeting in Bushmills for a family dinner, so it was Morgan, Jack and I. The Chippy was crowded with customers, the staff were bravely cooking fish and chips, it was a long wait but worth it. When we arrived at J. O’Connors there was no session to be had. We stuck around hoping some other musicians would show, but no go. The fellow behind the bar opened a back room for us to play some tunes (Morgan appealed to him) and we saw Sean, Carmel and her sister and their friends Philip and his wife. They followed us into this nice space and so did this very noisy party of people from Belfast. We played two sets and disgustedly put our instruments away. Morgan and I were touching knees and Jack was nearly that close and I could barely hear them. The Belfast crowd definitely found partying the priority and the music an inconvenience. We apologized to Sean and Carmel, we could sense their disappointment, and told them we were going back to their place, and our rental, and they were welcome to join us. Morgan put a CD on their table and said “if you want to hear what we sound like you can listen to this.” So, back up the hill to Cushenden where we sat in the kitchen. There was a knock at the door and it was Sean and Carmel. We welcomed them in and they were soon followed by Carmel’s sister and husband as well as Philip and his wife. Soon we had a full on party going, a bottle and a half of whiskey was gone, the beer everyone brought with them was disappearing and we were having a very merry time. This is what we love about Ireland, the spontaneity. James came in expecting to pick up a couple items only to be confronted with a roaring party. He tried to beg off, but we weren’t going to let that happen, soon Ceilan and Harry, Zeke and Fionn were in the kitchen, declaring that they weren”t in any hurry so James surrendered. Chairs were procured from other parts of the house and we were all crowded into the kitchen. Sean was begging to hear James’ pipes (the Uillean variety) and soon we were playing tunes and singing songs. We’d managed to have a session after all! Our new friends were welcoming and made us feel easy and at home, Irish hospitality is second to none.