Thursday, June 6

James still isn’t feeling well, we’re all feeling uneasy with James’s inability to shake off his chest infection. He saw a doctor in Ennistymon who prescribed an antibiotic and steroids but he’s not feeling any better. Fionn and he drive into Castlebar to the area hospital emergency room looking for answers.

Bridget, Zeke, Amy and I drive down the hill to Westport for lunch. A quick digression. I need to speak about the home we’ve rented. We chose this home because we were having Zeke, Amy and Fionn staying with us. It looked good in the rental site and has not been a disappointment. It sits high on the side of a hill looking down to Clew Bay and over to Westport. It’s spacious and comfortable. It’s the biggest splurge we’ve made on a trip here and has been worth it. The weather hasn’t been great but we don’t really come for the weather.

So, we headed to Westport and stopped in at Christy’s Harvest, a small friendly café in the heart of Westport. The food was good, and prices reasonable. We’ve been getting reports from James, they’re running tests to determine what he’s dealing with.

The plans we had made were to have a quiet visit with Jackie Small at the Wyatt Hotel, join him for another session at The Porter House and a late night session at The Grainne Uaille in Newport. We finally hear from James and Bridget, the hospital wants to keep him for observation, they’re not sure what the cause is at this point. So now we’re without our brother, looking at going to sessions without him. It doesn’t feel good or right. We came to do these things with the three of us, not just Morgan and I! Fionn is driving the rental car they have so he kindly drives us in to meet with Jackie.

Morgan and I meet Jackie for a delightful hour. We talk about how everything changed with Covid, his confinement to home, he drove out right after the initial response not having heard the news, and ran into a roadblock. He was told to go home and stay there. The occasional call out to the market to have groceries delivered was all he could do for weeks. We spoke of how we unintentionally make enemies of people we don’t even know with innocent choices we make. Jackie mentioned how when he first got into the music some of the artists he supported and liked offended some of the staunch purists. We spoke of our dismay at the need humans seem to have to claim superiority, make people they don’t understand “others” and many other things. Jackie doesn’t ring his own bell but he was one of the founders of ITMA, Irish Traditional Music Archive, he was there before it was anything official and stayed on as an archivist until a few years ago, he’s been involved in Fleadh’s, festivals, all over the country for decades and has tutored many young musicians. As Mick Mulcrone said last night, “Jackie’s famous.” I/we feel honored that such a man has taken us in so warmly.

Jackie needed to get Brian Duffy and take him to the session, we told him we’d see him at the session. Morgan and I walked with our instruments to The Porter House and staked out the corner we play in. There were people sitting at the table but they happily relinquished it, it was marked “Reserved for the musicians”. Our old friend Maggie McGing comes with her friend Tom to listen. Several people asked if we were going to play and we told them we were waiting for Jackie and Brian. They arrive, as does Jim from last night. We greet one another and take out instruments and put cases away. All the preliminaries handled we sit down to tunes. The people in the pub are more quiet than the night before, the session feels more intimate and we have a wonderful two hours of tunes and visiting. Meanwhile James is doing this.

Bridget comes to pick us up at 8:30 and shuttle us to The Grainne Uaile in Newport, a nearby community. Between going to visit James and shuttling us around Bridget is doing an inordinate amount of driving. She’s uncomplaining and we offer her an out but she insists on taking us. Usually the session here attracts some of the best players in the area, it’s always been great. Maggie, Morgan and I arrive just in time get a meal ordered before the kitchen closes. Julie comes as does Tom Doherty, Gary Leahy, Mick Mulcrone, John McHugh and a few others. I rush through the last of my salad while Julie grabs my Cittern case and finds me a place to sit. Mick Mulcrone with his bouzouki and flute is on my left and Siobhan (sounds Shavon) with fiddle on my right. We launch into the first set and it’s immediately cooking! Morgan and I can’t get the grins off our faces. Julie and Maria, bouzouki, are sitting together, they know how to read one another so well. We hear someone playing whistle back in the kitchen? Siobhan gets up abruptly and leaves. I’ve no idea what’s happening. Not long after that I sense someone joining and look up to see Brian Lennon. Brian is an amazing musician, if you’ve read the past blogs you’ve encountered him. He’s an M.D. and part of a musical family, truly a dynasty. His father Ben, who died in 2020 at 91 is considered one of the great masters. Charlie Piggott put it this way.

“If ever there was a grand gentleman of Irish traditional music, the honour should be his.”

Vallely & Piggott, 2008, p. 113

Brian plays flute, low whistles and fiddle. He’s a fabulous flutist and sitting next to him was a treat. I was nursing a pint, trying to keep it to one but Brian insisted on getting me another. When I told Morgan and Bridget of Brian’s gesture Morgan’s comment was, “I want Brian for my doctor”!

We had a fabulous session, the level of play in that group is up with the best. It’s an honor to be invited to sit in with them.

We received good news from James. The official diagnosis is environmentally triggered asthma attack. He’s still not been released but we’re hoping it’s later today.

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