May 20, 2024

Since my last entry there has been a change of plans. Unfortunately due to pressing family matters Peg is not joining us. We had a great time with her the last time she came and we’ll miss her. James and Bridget flew to the UK last Friday and are visiting with family. They’re meeting us at Shannon airport this Wednesday morning Ireland time. Morgan and I fly out tomorrow and meet in Newark NJ tomorrow evening. We take a late, as in red eye flight, out to Shannon.

I may post tomorrow, but if not, will pick up the thread upon arrival in Ireland.

May 22, 2024

I’m writing from 35000 ft. above the Atlantic 850 miles from Shannon Ireland. I don’t sleep much on these flights. I need to be horizontal to sleep, give me that and I can sleep nearly anywhere. Absent that, sleep is illusive.  One of the surprises of the day and trip has been my brother and bandmate Morgan has been with me the entire trip. You may ask, why is that anything special? Originally Morgan and Peg were going to be at a violin bow event in Brussels, Belgium. They were going to then fly together to Ireland  where we would all hook up. That trip fell through so Morgan had to book his tickets separate from me. James and Bridget left for England last Friday, visiting family and they are coming into Shannon about an hour after we land. I wasn’t thrilled having to fly half the trip on my own, Morgan and I were going to meet in Newark, but somehow we had the same flights which pleased us both. I was reluctant to check my Cittern through. Unfortunately in its protective case it’s too big to get in the passenger section. I was sitting next to the window above where they were unloading the cargo and saw my case come down the conveyor. It was handled carefully which made me sigh in relief. I’m still a bit apprehensive until I pop the case open in Shannon. Interestingly the plane we flew in from Seattle is the same one we’re in now. they removed my Cittern to get the other cargo out only to put it back in.

On the flight from Newark to Shannon I’ve been seated next to a lovely Irish woman named Irene who’d been visiting friends in New Jersey and New York. She lived in New York City between 1983 and 2012 and moved back to Limerick. We’ve had great conversations most of the night. Neither of us can sleep. She “gets” our love of the music and country and seems delighted to encounter someone who loves dropping into Ireland and savoring the experience, sharing the joy of music.

We’re driving down to Cork today and have one session we’ve been invited to. I became aware of a young Bouzouki builder named Macdara O’Faolin who lives in Cork. Morgan found a series of videos produced in Ireland on YouTube, In one he’s playing with concertina artist Edel Fox and fiddler Neil Byrne. He’s a very good musician and fine player. I’ve been corresponding emails with him, speaking of Bouzouki building approaches, talking shop. I shared with him that we were visiting and asked him to let us know if he were playing out so we could listen. Instead he told me of a session he and his wife conduct at The Corner House Pub in Cork city. He said “bring your instruments.” That’s on Friday, in Cork City.

We landed in Shannon about 10:30 IST, my Cittern traveled beautifully and one of the cargo handlers holding it in his arms walked it in to the oversized section and carefully handed it to me.. Going through Irish Passport control was the opposite of entering the USA. Our man was joking with people, bantering and having a good time while putting us at ease. We drove south into Cork and through an amazingly circuitous route on mostly tiny country lanes and arrived at our rental in Inchydony. The house looks across a bay full of water when we arrived but at low tide is sand or mud flats. Morgan remarked that there’s a lot of clams in those tidal flats. Hmmmm? I’ll elaborate more tomorrow and post photos as well. I’ve had about 2 hours sleep in the last 36 so sleep is calling.

Thursday, May 23

I woke up, grabbed my phone from the bedside table and saw 12:01!!! I rarely sleep in. For me a sleep in is 8:00 or 8:30am, the last time I woke at 12:00 was when I was a teenager. Morgan, James and Bridget had slept in as well, but I took the prize this morning.

Before we left Spokane we’d decided that while we were in Cork we wanted to visit Helvic Head. Helvic Head is a headland that juts into the sea with a small harbor for fishing boats, but what distinguishes it in our minds is the tune named after it. Helvic Head is a 5 part jig, one of the “mighty” tunes in the repertoire. What could be more satisfying than to go to Helvic Head and play the tune. After morning ablutions we hopped into the car and headed east toward Cork City. To do so we left County Cork and entered County Waterford, skirted south of Cork City and made our way to our goal. Helvic or Helvick is a Norse term possibly meaning safe harbor. You can learn more here, when we arrived it was clear and windy.

Looking across the bay toward Dungarvan I was impressed by the size of the harbor. The harbor was also the scene of this event, “In 1867, the Fenians in America sent a ship, Erins Hope, with weapons but failed to land them and returned to New York. Another what if scenario of Irish history.” See this for further information; After a little exploration we headed back and stopped at Mooney’s Pub, a nice local spot. We noticed the only stout on tap was Guiness and remarked about it to be told that that’s a Cork drink, some pubs in Waterford had it but not them. Guiness it is, but good sweet stuff, it is different in Ireland. We sat out front in the sun and James asked if they’d mind if we came inside and played a tune. We explained that we were wanting to play the tune Helvic Head at the spot of its origin. The tune is likely several hundred years old, it’s writer unknown and they’d not heard it. We tuned up and played it, to the delight of the staff and a handful of visitors. Mission accomplished.

On the way out of the pub Morgan engaged with a man sitting at the bar who had asked if any of us had a connection to Ireland. We took that to mean family. Bridget said she was the only one who was Irish and had a passport. James’s grandparents on both sides were Irish from Cork/Limerick area living in England. Morgan is Norwegian ancestry and I’m a mix of Ashkenazy, German, Italian and Scot. This man said “the bad news is your wrong, if you can play the music like that.” A lovely compliment.

James and Bridget told us that we were having a meal at Ballymaloe House, a favorite place of James’s late mother Ann. It was one of her favorite places in Ireland, from the time she was young. When we arrived we drove down a long wooded driveway with purple rhododendron scattered through it to the site of a magnificent old estate. It serves as a hotel and restaurant, admirably we would add. From wine through dessert everything was beautifully prepared. I had, for the first time, oysters on the half shell. As a kid I used to watch my parents slurp them down at a favorite spot of theirs in Wilmington, North Carolina and it grossed me out. I’d been averse ever since but last night I found out what I’ve been missing. We finally pushed away from the table after four hours, noted it was close to 10:30, made our 90 minute drive back home and played tunes til 1:45am. What a great day!

Friday, May 24

I awoke at 10:30 and added the notes for yesterday. Today we’re going to check out the local beach here in Inchydony and tonight we’re going to Cork City. We’ve been invited to a session at the Corner House Pub, led by Macdara O’Faolain and his wife Victoria. I became aware of Macdara as an instrument maker, he builds Irish bouzoukis, very beautiful ones. To view his work go here, He and I have exchanged emails regarding instrument making. More recently I became aware of what a fine musician he is. Raidiona Gaeltachta is a show on RTE, the Irish broadcasting network. The videos are posted on YouTube. The broadcast is in Irish Gaelic, no translation offered but it isn’t really necessary. I would recommend you to the show, there are some magnificent performances and Macdara is featured with Edel Fox, concertina, Neil Byrne, fiddle and Macdara on bouzouki. It’s a great performance by all three. Macdara is the youngest and plays beautifully, for a young man he is already very accomplished. It will be a pleasure to play alongside him.

Saturday, May 25

Yesterday was a lot of fun. We pulled ourselves together, drove into Clonakilty to exchange some money only to find out the banks no longer perform that service. On our way out to Akahista today we’ll have to stop by the airport at Shannon and exchange our money. The rates aren’t as favorable, but there’s no choice. We drove on to Cork City and arrived a little before 5:00pm. Here’s a little detail I’d forgotten in the 6 years it’s taken to get back to Ireland. It’s much further North than Spokane. It’s twilight at 10:30pm, so my feel for the actual time is offset by several hours. A five o’clock session at The Corner House pub felt like mid-day. When we arrived there were four players setting up. Macdara on fiddle, his wife Victoria on banjo, a guitarist named Conor and a young Japanese man Masato, with a flute and ourselves.

They greeted us warmly and we settled in, were given a complimentary pint of our choice, Murphy’s of course! Here’s a shout out for Shawn O’Donnell’s Pub in Spokane, the only place you can find Murphy’s Stout on tap in our region. It was a great, relaxed session with plenty of time between tunes to get to know the players around the table. James chatted with Masato and found out that he’s in Ireland for a year diving into the music. His parents offered him money to go to university or he could use the same money for his journey to Ireland. That’s how the music can infect you, university or tunes, university or tunes? Hmmm.

We mentioned to Macdara that we’d driven out to Helvic Head so we could play its namesake. Macdara chuckled and said that what he’d heard was that James Kelly was recording some of the tracks that became The Ring Sessions album at a pub named Tig Muirthe next to Helvic Head. He played the tune and whomever was keeping track of the tune titles asked him what it was called. He didn’t actually know, so said, “we’ll call it Helvic Head.” Oh well! There goes the romance!

So, here’s the rundown. What we will still call Helvic Head is also known as Jump Out Of It Hogan, Melvin Head, Walk Out Of It Hogan and Yellow Stockings. Take your pick. Regardless it is an old tune and shows up in O’Farrell’s National Irish Music Collection, dated 1797.

We played until 8:00, packed our instruments, said thanks and goodbye then made our way to the fish and chips shop Macdara and Victoria told us about. We were all hungry, we hadn’t eaten since breakfast and the “chippy” was very good. We were on an extension of Coburg Street, it was Friday evening and the entire street was one big party. Young men and women dressed to attract one another, it was roaring! Bridget noticed an inscription carved into the stone above a doorway next to us that told us that whoever had placed it there would not approve of the revelry.

Scenes from Cork, Macdara and Victoria, Aidan Coffey standing in the doorway of The Corner House. It’s a great album, I have it at home.

We came home, and played more music, our ability to refine our playing when we have no other distractions is wonderful. As we were playing James noticed the moonrise above the hills across from us. It was a fitting end to a great day.

Moon rise

Sunday, May 26

We think this trip is looking to become our best trip ever! It’s not always the big events but the small, random moments that are often what become memorable. We left Inchydory yesterday and drove Southwest to Skibereen, then Northwest toward Ballydehob. Morgan had met a young woman at a music camp last summer, her name is Hannah Collins and she plays piano and concertina. We love the sound of the concertina, it has a clear, simple sound that adds a sweet purity to a tune. Hannah sent Morgan the Google map coordinates for the farm where her family live. The numbers didn’t mislead us and took us to the farm without a hitch.

Hannah greeted us at the door and invited us in. Her mother, Margaret, greeted us and we chatted for a bit. Margaret offered us tea and oh so much more. The Irish generosity is second to none. Fresh made bread, farm made goat cheese, fresh pesto made of basil, walnuts and wild garlic and pot after pot of tea.

Great treats and conversation and then we played some tunes. Hannah is a very good player and of course she knows Macdara and Victoria, it’s a small island and despite its diversity and geographical regionalism we are always struck by the interconnectedness of musicians and families.

We reluctantly said goodbye to Hannah and Margaret and drove northwest toward Durrus and then we went southwest to Ahakista where our rental is. We unpacked and headed to a small restaurant, Arundels where we had a steaming bowl of fresh mussels in a delicious broth with fresh herbs.

The remains. We were too desirous to take a before picture.

You may or may not recall that during out first trip to KIlcrohane in 2016 we stopped in at Eileens Pub, where we played a few tunes. Through that we met Wayne Sheehy and Frank O’Mahony (pronounced O’Manny) who invited us to play the next morning for his friend Siobhan’s birthday. We decided to check in at Eileens. She was behind the bar, remembered us when we mentioned having played before with Wayne Sheehy and she invited us to bring our instruments in if we liked. The pub was as I remembered it and as we started to play more and more people came in. Wayne warned us that a large group of walkers and hikers were in the village and he was correct. We’re playing tunes and the pub is quickly filling to capacity. The hikers are in a walking/hiking club that are hiking the Sheepshead peninsula. They were quite enthusiastic, clapping and hooting. A young woman and older man came in carrying instruments, it seemed they were scheduled to play for the evening and here we were. We told them we were just finishing and would happily pack up so they could get to it. Unbeknownst to us there was some tension between them and Eileen. Eileen said something to Jemima, that’s the young woman, about not wanting them tonight, and that she wasn’t going to take care of them (read no free pints or money), we weren’t clear what the issue was, but instantly you could cut the tension with a knife. Eileen had given us free pints, that’s how publicans say thanks for the music, which we offered to Jemima and her partner which made Eileen angry “where’d ya get those pints” Jemima protesting loudly that we’d offered them and, oh shit! What have we stepped into? One of the hikers astutely started to sing Wild Mountain Thyme, which eased the tension and the entire pub joined in. As Morgan and I escaped to the outside, scratching our heads, the woman who started the song said to me when I thanked her. For her diplomacy, “I grew up in a large family”. Ah the Irish.

Jemima has the bodhran (frame drum).

Outside, Jemima and her friend, I’m going to try and get his name, explained that they have a difficult relationship with Eileen. Jemima was born in England and her family bought a holiday home in Kilcrohane when she was small. She more or less grew up in the village and now chooses to call it home. She and he have a little farm and it sounds like they’re eking out a living. He said “Eileen, she’s tender, like an Irish summer”, which had me laughing. They both look like hippies. He, a pretty crusty fellow, scaggly beard, head scarf, cigaret dangling from his lower lip while he sings with a voice that sounds like broken bottles. There seems to be a grudge of sorts between them and Eileen and I didn’t ask for details.

We felt poorly about the scene with Eileen and Morgan stepped over and gave Jemima 20 Euro so they had something for the nights outing. As we walked away Jemima shouted to us “thank ye, ye’s gentlemen and scholars”. I remarked to Morgan, “where else could you have an experience like this”? And so ends the evening of the third day in Ireland.

Sunday May 26

Sunday was more a catch our collective breath day. We woke late, when you fall into bed at 2AM you wake late, what can I say? I’m enjoying the vacation and lack of pressing problems to be solved. If you want to read a fantastic book on the wandering musician’s life read Ciaran Carson’s Last Night’s Fun. We wandered down to the village, we wanted to say hello to Frank O’Mahony, but he closes at 1:00 on Sunday, so we stopped in at Eileen’s, It was much more quiet than the night before, the hikers having gone to hike elsewhere, so we settled in with some tea, later some Murphy’s and played some tunes. There were a handful of locals and a couple of visitors. We met an American couple who are visiting out on the road. He’s heard us the night before at Eileen’s and had some questions about Irish music. He’s a musician as well from Wisconsin, named Terry Murphy, his wife Katy, He asked if he could sit in with us, wasn’t sure how to accompany the tunes, we gave him a few tips and he did pretty well for not knowing the repertoire. He kindly gave us each a CD he’d produced of his songs and we bid them goodbye.

We headed up the road to Arundel’s because Wayne Sheehy said he’d meet us there. He’s got a recording studio at his home on the North side of the Sheepshead on the other side of Kilcrohane. He’s in the middle of mixing an album of music created by African refugees, so only had time for a quick pint. We chatted for about an hour, spoke about the poor state of affairs in the USA, seen through an Irishman’s eyes, and agreed to meet Monday evening at Eileen’s for a session from 6:00-8:00. The start time is correct, who knows when we’ll end.

Tunes in Eileen’s

Wednesday May 29 (covering 27th and 28th)

This is a catch up day. Monday 27th and Tuesday 28th went by so quickly I had no time to sit and write. We just arrived in County Clare, near to Ennistymon, actually pretty much mid-distance between Ennistymon and Lisdoonvarna. Ennistymon has Cooley’s House, where we’ve enjoyed memorable sessions with Adam, Stefan, the Australian Bob’s and Paul Dooley and Lisdoonvarna where sits The Roadside Tavern, where we’ve had mighty sessions with Terry Bingham, Paul Dooley, Christy Barry and Seamus Hynes as well as Billy Baldwin, the publican, on bodhran.

So I ended the last entry with us expecting a session with Wayne Sheehy on Monday the 27th. We spent that day driving up to the next peninsula, The Beara, where we had some great adventures on our first visit in 2012. Bridget’s Dad’s mother’s family, the Healey’s, were from the island of Dursey which is on the southwest tip of The Beara. It’s approx. 4 miles long and separated from the mainland by a treacherous channel with powerful tidal races that flow through it. I’ve looked at the currents running through it and tried to imagine how the people in older times crossed it. It couldn’t have been easy. Much like The Blasket Islands to the north off Dingle they shed their population to where there are according to Wikipedia 3 or so permanent residents. I like the “or so”. Whomever they are they must value solitude. We were going to try and cross over to it on the cable car that runs from the mainland out to the island, Ireland’s only cable car, but there were too many people that day and it looked like the car only took about 6 at a time. We needed to be back in Kilcrohane at 6:00pm so we bid Dursey goodbye and continued the road to Laragh stopped in at Helen’s, what used to be Sullivan’s, and had some delicious fresh sea food for lunch. Helen remembered us playing there in 2012, it hadn’t changed much in 12 years.

Helens, Sullivans, back in 2012

We crossed over Healey Pass back to the south side of The Beara and got back at 5:30. Just enough time to freshen up, grab our instruments and meet Wayne at Eileen’s.

Wayne greeted us at Eileen’s and mentioned that we might have a musical legend show up. We were thinking maybe Damian Dempsey might be the person, Wayne was touring with him when we met him in 2016 and he’s from Cork, but he was keeping it close as to whom it could be. We settled into a corner, tuned up and played tunes. At first it was pretty empty but as we played and bantered more people arrived. At one point an attractive young woman came in with a friend and Wayne introduced us to Lisa Lambe. He’d mentioned to us that he was working with an amazing young singer, but I didn’t really know her work. Introductions went around and Wayne asked us to play a set. Lisa listened and seemed engaged with what we were doing. My wife Ally had texted me and wanted to know if we were going to be near Kilcrohane, which of course we were, just up the road in Ahakista. It turned out that a friend of ours in Spokane, Nancy, has an ex-sister in law named Sandy who lives in Kilcrohane. What are the chances of that? It’s Ireland, all sorts of wonderful things, connections and adventures happen for us here. I contacted Sandy and told her we were going to be at Eileen’s at 6:00 and she came and introduced herself. She’d been married to Andy, an old friend of ours and Nancy’s brother, and they were a duo, Andy on guitar and Sandy singing. At one point Sandy asked if we could back her up on a song, we asked her to sing a couple of bars, found the key and she proceeded to sing a wonderful blues, she’d heard it from Bonnie Raitt but it sounded a lot like an old Bessie Smith song. Sandy was warmly applauded and we asked Lisa to sing for us. Here is what she did.

To say we were stunned is an understatement. The song is in Irish in the Sean Nos style, but you don’t need to understand the lyrics to sense the longing and sorrow within it. We had tears in our eyes, with both the song and the beauty of Lisa’s interpretation. She’s a gifted performer and artist in the truest sense of the word. We sang a couple of songs with Lisa adding harmonies and at one point she started singing P Stands For Paddy to a melody we had started. The sense of joy and spontaneity was palpable. Bridget was sitting next to Lisa and at one point she leaned over to Bridget and said that we were “proper exceptional.” When you hear that coming from and artist of her calibre you can’t just “aw shucks” it away. We come to Ireland to soak up the culture and learn, to make new friends and strengthen the bonds we’ve made already. We’ve been self conscious about playing this music that we didn’t grow up with, but we love it and do our best to be respectful. Wayne understood our intent back in 2016. We approach the music and culture with respect and we bring to it what is in us. We hope it represents the music and us well.

Around 10:00pm Eileen gently asked us if we wrap things up. On Monday evenings she said she usually closes closer to 9:00. We weren’t ready to call it a night so stood under the little outdoor enclosure Eileen has and spoke politics, music and lots of other things that came to mind and finally said goodbye. It was a memorable evening.

Wayne Sheehy, Eileen and Lisa Lambe

The next morning we packed up and had a visit from our host at Hilltop House in Ahakista. We asked if our music was too loud and too late. She told us no not at all, they love the music. Her mother was in the hospital with a fractured back and Evelyn said she’d been at the hospital with her mam but that if her mam had been home she would have had a glass against the door listening in. Her Dad played box (accordion, usually buttons not keys) and had his own stool down at Eileen’s. He’d passed away not long ago. We also learned that musicians like Frankie Gavin, Alec Finn, Dolores Keane (she was once called the voice of Ireland) and many others had stayed there, so we were some more musicians who had been called in by Hilltop House. Honestly these things find us, we don’t plan that well!

We had a short visit to Wayne Sheehy’s home on the north side of The Sheepshead. We all like Wayne, he’s generous and welcoming and a very busy man. He is the proprietor of Ocean Studios, has played as a professional drummer for decades, toured with U2, The Rolling Stones and Damian Dempsey amongst others. He’s smart and witty, has broad musical taste and is currently producing some extraordinary music. He played us some tracks of an album featuring some gorgeous vocal work with a beautiful soundscape of keyboards, strings, cello, bass and guitar. We were blown away with the raw tracks he played us. The album has yet to find a home so I can’t be specific but I told Wayne that when it’s official I want to have it in my collection. We also listened to some tracks by some performers from Congo and Burundi that were really good. Wayne is a good sound engineer the product speaks for itself. He also offered an antique keyed flute to James. Wayne doesn’t play it, told us that it had been given to him and he wanted to pass it on to James if he could use it. It appears to be Swiss made, we’re guessing late 19th or early 20th century and despite leaky pads James can get some music out of it. He’s going to send it to someone who can restore it. We reluctantly said goodbye to Wayne and hit the road to Inch, Dingle to visit our friends Fidelis and John Foley, proprietors of Foleys Bar Inch.


Thursday, May 30

I’m still scrambling to get caught up, this happened the last trip and I never finished documenting the last week back in 2018. I don’t want that to happen this time. 

We drove north along the Sheepshead and crossed over The Beara and crossed over to Dingle. I have very little to report because I fell asleep for 90 minutes and missed the journey. We’ve been going to bed late, getting up late and drinking appreciation pints. Customers and establishments show their pleasure with the music by giving shots of whiskey or pints of beer. I’ve been doing my best not to over do but it’s not always easy.

When we arrived at Foleys a large tour bus was parked out front. We entered the bar side, it was shoulder to shoulder. Peeking in to the restaurant showed there wasn’t a table available. John and Fidelis were nowhere to be seen, drinks were being ordered, they were obviously doing well. Everything looked familiar but the level of activity was more than I remember. The Foley’s are a wonderful family. They’re generous, kind and took us in like old friends the first time we met them. We’ve stayed connected since 2014. Their oldest Katie, whom we played tunes with is now a mom of a lively 4 year old daughter and lives across the road in the old cottage that goes back 6 generations. The twins Brid and Aine are now 19, one studying psychology and the other becoming a special needs teacher. Everybody’s growing into their lives while John and FIdelis manage a very successful business that’s been in the family the 6 generations. They own two cottages next to the pub and another home a short walk up the road. It pleases us greatly to see that they’re all doing so well. They’ve worked hard for everything they have.

We were hoping to play some tunes with Katie but Grace was requiring some attention and Katie being a good Mom stayed with her. We set up in the bar and launched into some tunes. There were a raucous group of Australians and New Zealanders who were celebrating the wedding of a friend. A fellow leaned over to me and said that he’d just received news that his Dad in New Zealand had died. He was hurting and wanted to know if we could play something in his memory. Morgan launched into Neil Gow’s Lament and James sang Wild Mountain Thyme. Two sad pieces. Tears and sighs all around. Scotty, for that is the man’s name, thanked us. As Bridget said he was in a good place to grieve. It’s a culture that knows how to grieve. We had some interesting discussions about many things, I love the people we meet here, kindred spirits. We closed the pub, John and Fidelis kindly stayed up for all of us. Fidelis sang two songs, one that her mother used to sing when she wanted friends to end the visit and go home. We went to bed late, of course, and I crashed hard and woke around 9:30am. Katie is running her own little coffee stand next to the pub. I welcomed her skills. She had lived in Cork and got used to having good coffee. When she returned to DIngle she couldn’t find anything she wanted to drink or spend her money on. She invested in some good equipment and now has a brisk business. We left the Foleys, after hugs and promises to return and headed to Clare.

Friday May 31

I’m closing in on catching up with the posts. It’s difficult when you get behind and each day is full of memorable events. We arrived in Clare later in the afternoon, I’m still gauging time of day from the amount of light, thinking as I would at home. That’s a mistake as there is still twilight at 11:00pm this far North.

We arrived at our rental home, a nice spacious place, chose our rooms and put our things in them. We grabbed a quick bite to eat, got our instruments in the car and drove to Lisdoonvarna to see what was happening at The Roadside Tavern. We have great affection for The Roadside. We’ve played some great sessions there with Paul Dooley, Terry Bingham, Christy Barry and Seamus Hynes. The publican Billy Archibald asked if he could sit in with his bodhran which felt very validating. Our impulse to get to this establishment could be viewed similarly to fish returning to the spawning site. The first thing I did was walk up to the bar and ask if Billy Baldwin was there. The young man looked a little puzzled and then said “oh you mean Billy Archibald”, “oh yeah, that’s him” I fumble. I’m OK with names but I have to use them to really remember them. “Billy retired a few years back but he shows up with his bodhran when music’s going on.”We find out there’s an open session Thursday night, Christy Barry with Colin Nea Unfortunately not much was going on this night. A guitarist and fiddler playing quiet songs, we know better than to crash something like that.

So, into the car and down to Ennistymon. The home we rented is really close to both towns so really easy to toggle between both locations. We were looking for Cooley House, the sign of another memorable session. We arrive in Ennistymon, spot Cooley House, Bridget parks in front and we step in. The proprietor, Joan, is still there. She looks a little older, but she’s there and it’s good to see her. We remind her of our previous visits and she remembers us. We order pints which she brings over and we proceed to catch up. She survived Covid and shares that she actually enjoyed the time off, coming in to work was difficult, the government slowly added opening hours and eventually she got back to normal. There was no session tonight but she encouraged us to get our instruments and play. She said she wasn’t doing regular sessions because she can’t get staff on those busy nights. Musicians are coming in but it’s nothing official. The pub was nice and quiet and we thought we’d settle in for a few quiet tunes but within a few minutes of starting more people came in and soon it was a steady stream and within 30 minutes Cooley’s House was hopping. The customers seemed to like the music, a couple of young French men were particularly engaged and bought us half pints of Murphy’s. A party at a table next to us were nodding along, people leaving nodded recognition as they left. I remarked to Joan “see what we did to your nice quiet establishment.” We packed up to return to the house.

We are still relying on GPS to get us to our location. We’re in the countryside so it’s dark. James tells Bridget to take the next left and we head up this small road. The GPS shows a right turn that’s supposed to get us there, it’s even smaller. Soon we’re bouncing around on a rapidly narrowing boreen, the grass in the center is getting taller and the tree limbs are hanging into the lane. We’re nervously joking as we’re beginning to see boggy ground through the windshield. This road might lead somewhere, if you’re driving a 4 wheel drive, but not in our rental car. Bridget slows down and we urge her to keep the speed, we’re afraid we may get stuck. We finally see a spot wide enough, in front of an old abandoned cottage to turn around. I get out and guide her through the turn, jump in and we make our way back out to the road. Morgan mutters about finding a paper map the next day, our faith in GPS is shaken. We finally get back to the house pour some whisky and play more tunes.