Tuesday, June 4 & Wednesday June 5

On Tuesday Bridget, Zeke, Amy, Fionn and I went out to the Aran Islands. We traveled specifically to the large island of Inis Mór, Inismore. Here’s the Wikipedia page on the islands if you wish to learn more. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aran_Islands.

They are low lying Islands inhabited for at least 3,000 years. Once you’re out there you can see that they are made of the same limestone seen all over this western part of Clare called The Burren. There is no soil to speak of, potatoes are grown in a mixture of sand and seaweed. This method has created the meager top soil that you see between the many walled fields. Grasses take root in the created soil which allows for sheep, horse and cattle. Originally it would have been a very meager life but the early inhabitants were driven there by that maniac Oliver Cromwell. Thousands fled his bloody march across Ireland, many of them to the Aran’s.

We took a tour bus out to a small village, had some lunch, shopped for some sweaters and then started walking back towards the ferry. Amy loves to cold water swim and had a little dip in some gorgeous colored water. As she was getting ready to jump in I muttered “you’re really going to do this?” Yes she did! On the walk back Amy, Zeke and Fionn made friends with a couple of horses by feeding them hands full of sweet grass. A shuttle bus stopped and asked us if we wanted a ride back to the ferry. We were hoping to walk all the way back but it became apparent we weren’t going to make the 4:15 which was the last one back to the mainland. Joe Gill stopped and drove us back. He’s Aran born and I believe he said he’s lived his life there. The wind had been blowing all day, on the mainland and the islands. I asked Joe if it was always this windy and he said no, it could be calm. We had a sit down in the local pub and then walked to the ferry and had a much smoother ride back with the following sea and prevailing wind. We were glad we made the journey.

Today we pack up and head north to Westport, County Mayo. We’re going to stop in and visit Tom and Fintan Cussen at the Clareen Banjo workshop. Fintan and Tom are going to lend me a guitar for the sessions up in Westport. I’d like to have it just in case there is a smaller session and too many bouzouki’s and also so I can sing songs to it.


Wednedsday, June 5

Jackie Small and Brian Duffy, The Porter House, Westport, Mayo

On our drive up to Mayo we made a stop at Poll na brón an ancient megalithic site back in The Burren. It dates back at least 5,000 years and is a protected national monument. The entire site lies on limestone known as karst. It feels lonely, rather bleak and beautiful.

We made our way to Clarinbridge to visit Tom and Fintan Cussen. They make banjos under the name Clareen and are justifiably famous for their work. When my wife/partner and best friend Ally and I visited her brother in England back in 2016 we visited Ireland for a week. Tom kindly loaned me a guitar to play while there and has offered to do so again. It had been nearly 8 years since we last saw one another but it didn’t feel like it. Tom told us that their number of banjos sold have gone up steadily and half their sales are in the USA. Tom more or less retired at 72 and Fintan runs the business now. Tom admitted that Fintan has better business acumen than he and also has more exacting standards. “Where I would have let some little things slide in building a banjo Fintan won’t.” Those little things had to have been very small because I’ve never noticed what I’d consider flaws in any of the instruments I’d inspected. It was great to catch up with Tom and Fintan and Tom told us he really wanted to spend some time with us and play some tunes. We’ve arranged to meet back in Clarinbridge Monday evening.

We stopped at Paddy Burke’s in Clarinbridge for lunch. While looking at my messages I saw one from Padraig McKenna, one of our good friends in Westport. He told us that there’s an early session at The Porter House, led by Jackie Small and Brian Duffy. Jackie is one of our favorite people, a kinder soul you’ll never meet and as a musician he’s forgotten more music than we’ll ever learn. He was music archivist at ITMA, Irish Traditional Music Archives, is now retired and can be found in the Mayo area at sessions and festivals. He’s been an active part of the Irish Music scene since the 1960’s.

I texted Padraig and told him he’d brightened up our day with that news and we’d see him there at 6:30. We drove straight to Westport found the beautiful house we’re renting and had 45 minutes to get our stuff out of the car, grab a cup of tea and get to the session. Down the hill into Westport we go, find a place to park and into The Porter House where we find Jackie, Brian, Jim and a fellow who’s name I didn’t get. They’re taking a break so we find some stools, get instruments out and settle in. It’s pretty noisy in the pub. It looks like a lot of tourists and a few locals. I say tourists because they’re talking through the songs. Most people who grew up doing this know you don’t talk through the songs. You can talk through the diddly aye (music) but not the songs, that’s considered poor etiquette, but if you don’t know better……..well you don’t know what you don’t know. About a half hour in I look and see Padraig and his wife Els. It’s great to see them. He gets out a mandolin and banjo and soon he’s rolling with the rest of us.

We spend about two hours playing tunes, Jackie leaning across the table and signaling when he wants Morgan to start a tune, or add another. He asks me for a song. He winks and smiles and is disarmingly his gentle self. Padraig starts some sets on banjo. With Jackie everyone gets to start. After a good set and we break, he puckers his lips and hoots his delight. Jackie knows how to enjoy himself and share it with the rest of us. Jim sings a beautiful song in Gaelic that he learned from Mícháel O’ Domhnaill. Mícháel was a beautiful singer and guitarist who played with sisters Triona and Maighread in Skara Brae, his sister Triona in the Bothy Band, with Mick Hanly he released Celtic Folkweave, considered one of the seminal albums of the Irish folk revival. He also performed as a duo with Kevin Burke from Bothy Band. He had an ethereal quality to his voice and his guitar playing was sublime. Jim handled the song well. The session broke up around 8:30 and we had a dinner date with the rest of the family. Amy is 30 years old, so this is a big one! Jackie sets up a tea date for tomorrow. We agree to meet at The Wyatt Hotel at 5:00 Thursday. We’re looking forward to some quality time with Jackie.

After dinner we strolled over to Matt Malloy’s to check out a session that Padraig told us about. Padraig is there and signals me to come in. It’s noisy, there’s a fair number of musicians crammed into the corner and it’s not what I’m looking for. Morgan checks it out as does James and we’re in agreement that we’d rather go home. Here’s the thing, sessions like this are tough. For me I get overwhelmed with the sheer level of background noise, everyone talking loudly. Add then the music, the talking gets louder, it’s harder to hear the other musicians, I don’t find it at all pleasurable. There was a time, back in our earlier trips I would have thrown myself into a session like this like a punk fan into a mosh pit! I loved it and wanted the experience, give it to me, pour it on and rub it in, I couldn’t get enough. That’s changed. Our favorite sessions so far have been the kitchen session with Hannah Collins, our meet up with Macdara, Victoria, Conor and Masato in Cork. The small session at Eugene’s with Christy and Christy’s session at Cliffs of Moher Hotel. All of those were a delight. They were relaxed, you can focus on what you’re hearing and respond. I can still push myself into a big session, I can grab my guitar and play as loud as the rest of them, make myself be heard, but to paraphrase Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon “I’m gettin’ too old for this shit”!

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.

Friday, June 7

I hadn’t remembered that today the kids were leaving, needing to get back to their lives in England. We’ve been enjoying their company and have shared some wonderful moments. They’ve liked observing us going about on our musical adventures, Amy has especially found it fascinating, it being so different from her life as a Communications Specialist. I didn’t understand what her work entailed until one evening we were talking about what it would take to create a charitable event. Amy was able to see possibilities and ask questions that led to some creative solutions. She kept spinning different scenarios and seeing various prospects, she’s an amazing problem solver and a very intelligent woman. Zeke works IT in the Investigative section for the British Guardian news organization. He’s a very bright young man. The Guardian has seen his skills and promoted him recently to that position. Fionn is looking at the possibility of working for a new Nature School that’s being developed. He’s great with young children, he has a real gift for reaching young minds. He’s recently moved over from New Orleans where he’d been since finishing college there. Among his studies he learned music recording production and has helped us with our last two albums.

We’re waiting to hear from James and we start receiving texts. He’s feeling much better but is still waiting for some test results, he’s hoping to be released but hasn’t gotten an affirmative yet. A little later we hear that his blood work shows no infection and the x-rays show no lesions or masses, so what is the issue? An hour goes by and James writes, “Environmentally triggered asthma attack. Called it. Basically my body over reacted to some trigger, maybe pollen, mould or dust and the body went into histamine overdrive. The usual drugs couldn’t get the message through.” Finally, late afternoon the hospital is satisfied with his blood oxygen levels and releases him.

James says he’s up for going to the session that Jackie Small and Mick Mulcrone are leading at the An File pub in Westport. We make a quick dinner and get ourselves ready. Bridget wisely chooses to stay home for a night, she’d been driving back and forth to Castlebar and taking Morgan and I to sessions and needed a night off. Off we go down the hill to Westport. There’s a Bluegrass festival but Westport seems fairly quiet. We find a place to park close to An File and stroll in. There’s Mick and Jackie as well as Padraig and some young players we’ve not seen. It sounds really good. It turns out that the youngsters are up for the Bluegrass Festival. Two of them are American, one from Chicago and the other is from North Carolina. There’s another fiddler who sounds Irish and the other young man playing guitar sounds French. If I have it right, they’re studying Traditional music at Limerick College. They are all skilled players and wanted to get in, as they put it, some Trad before they joined up to play with a Bluegrass band from Eastern Tennessee State College. Our old friend Paul Bordiss came in and sang one of his wonderful songs. We met Paul on our first trip here in 2012. The young group left after about an hour and it was the six of us old guys playing for and with one another.

We all took turns choosing tunes to start. Jackie liked The Bright And Hollow Fog that Morgan chose to play. He said it was a very old tune, he being the archivist, we trusted that. Apparently it’s also known as the Foggy Dew. Jackie added that someone had written a modern song using the melody and this morning I received a text from him with a link to that song. Building Up And Tearing England Down. A rather sad song about the Irish workers who re-built London and other parts of England after WW II. We played until 11:30, are you seeing a pattern here?, and came home where we had a little shot of whisky. James was feeling tired and said goodnight, Bridget followed and Morgan and I talked until 2:30. Another day in music paradise.

Saturday, June 8

View from Gary Leahy’s front door.

We went to visit a colleague of Morgan’s and a man who’s become a friend for all of us. His name is Gary Leahy and he makes violin family bows, as does Morgan. Gary also plays fiddle and we’ve sat in sessions together. Gary lives outside of Newport, down a small road and out into some very pretty countryside. Gary and Morgan talked shop which I was able to follow in part. The three of us are in the musical instrument trade, their skills specifically directed to bows for the violin family. Mine is fretted strings but there’s some overlap, we all use wood, specialized tools, varnishes, etc. We luthier’s love to geek out together. Bridget and James even found some of it interesting.

Gary, the inside and outside of his shop.

We chose not to go out for the evening. We’ve had a lot of sessions and late nights and thought it might be a good idea to get to bed at a decent hour. We’ve invited friends to come over tomorrow night and share some food and music and we need to shop and prepare the house for guests. We missed a concert with Julie Langan, Freda Hatton and Declan Askins. That caused some regrets but we can’t get to everything going on. It’s reconfirmed what we knew already, Westport is a hot house of music and we’re going to have to dedicate more time here the next trip.

Sunday, June 9

Our last full day in Westport and we’re regretting that we didn’t allow more time here. We have the most friends and certainly the greatest musical activities available. Westport has sessions and music going everyday. The next trip we’ll plan differently.

We’ve invited friends over to our rental home. The view is magnificent and we thought they would enjoy seeing the view of Clew Bay and Westport. The only problem is it’s been raining since we woke and shows no sign of stopping soon. We head into town to buy a few ingredients to lay a table out for our guests. We invited Julie Langan, Jackie Small, Padraig and Els, Maggie and Tom, and Gary Leahy. Gary is bringing a salmon he smoked, we’re looking very forward to that. We do a bit of last minute shopping for family and go back up the hill.

Julie wasn’t sure she could make it, her oldest is having an 18th birthday but she surprises us and shows up a little before 4:00 with her twin girls who are now 10. They were four last time we saw them and they are proper young ladies now. We sit down in the kitchen and play tunes with Julie for over an hour, a real joy and a generous gesture to us as we know how busy she is. Julie has to get back home so she and the girls bundle up and head home. A little after 5:00 Jackie shows which makes us happy indeed. Gary arrives, then Maggie and Tom and we’ve a nice gathering of friends. We chat and visit then sit in the living room looking down at the view. Jackie notices the old cottage that we’ve all been wondering about that’s down below. He thinks it could be the last remnant of a pre-famine village and might ask a historian he knows for details.

Possible remains of a pre-famine village.

We played until 10:00 and thought we should get down to The Cobbler and say hello and goodbye to Johnny Fadgin and Dan Delaney. We glimpsed Dan at a couple of session we didn’t jump into and thought this might be our only opportunity. We hadn’t seen Johnny at all, which wasn’t the case when we were last here, but that was six years ago. Both of them are fixtures in Westport. When we arrived the curtains of the pub were closed but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something going on. That’s the custom, close the curtains but keep going! Sure enough we open the door and the session is going grandly. Dan and Johnny are on the bench behind the table with a handful of players. I spot Tony Reidy as well, just like old times! Johnny and Dan greet us warmly. Bridget and I settle back to watch. I’ve played a lot in three weeks and didn’t feel any loss at sitting this one out but James and Morgan grabbed their instruments and settled in. The two of them lead a fun session, a mixture of Trad and Americana. After the session’s officially over we visit in the smokers courtyard, catch up on some of life’s details, Johnny’s a grandfather of a 3 1/2 year old girl. I could tell by his eyes he’s smitten with her. All of us are shaking our heads that it’s been six years since we last saw one another. Dan tells us he was in London at 12:00 noon that day and caught a quick shuttle back so he could play tonight. He laughed as he told us that he caught some kind of protest with what he estimated to be a couple hundred cyclists riding into traffic, all of them stark naked! He was on the bus trying to get to the airport and was held up. We say good night and go back home. Unlike our recent habits we head to bed soon after we get back. We have to pack up in the morning, tidy the home and head down to Gort.

Session at The Cobbler

Monday, June 10 & Tuesday June 11


We left Westport around 11:30 and did a little sight seeing. We wanted to see if we could find the last home that Grace O’Malley, Grainne Uaile, lived in. It’s on an inlet of Clew Bay. Fortunately for her home but unlucky for us it was undergoing renovation and very little of it was visible. This is what it looks like (below).

Grace is sometimes referred to as the pirate queen. She had enough pull with the English Court, that after her two son’s and half brother were taken as prisoners by Richard Bingham the appointed governor of Connacht, she sailed and had court with Elizabeth who granted her request for release of her family but she had to end her piracy of English ships and war against the English Crown.

This is what we saw. Perhaps we’ll see it better the next trip.

We then visited an old Abbey that was destroyed in Henry VIII’s reign. It must have been beautiful because the remains are still impressive. It was an ecclesiastical center known as Burrishoole.

After that we head south to Gort. We’re wanting to see our old friends the Neilan’s, Tommy, his wife Maureen and their daughter Martina. We arrive at our rental house that belongs to Martina’s sister in law, Helen. We’re dismayed to open a message from Helen telling us that Tommy and Maureen both have Covid, Maureen’s not suffering many symptoms but Tommy’s in the hospital with pneumonia. The reason for these two days in Gort were so we could visit the Neilan’s and now that ‘s not possible.

Tom Cussen organized a small session for us in Clarinbridge 30 minutes North of Gort. It’s going to be at Jordan’s Pub, a spot we’ve played several times. We like playing there. We settle into Helen’s home, have a light dinner and head up to the session. We arrive on time and Tom’s there with his Shaskeen bandmate Johnny. We told Tom we’ve been enjoying the smaller sessions and it looks like he’s honored that. Aside from the three of us there are Tom on banjo, Johnny on Boddhran, Gerry on box, Alan on guitar and Bridget’s cousin Martin on guitar. It was a fabulous small session. Tunes were played and songs sung. John Riley proved to be a popular song in sessions this trip. The history of John Riley and the San Patricios is well known in Ireland and Mexico. He’s a national hero in Mexico and considered an Irish patriot in Ireland.

Our last day we drove to Kinvarra and had an early dinner. The steamed mussels were delicious. We did get a short visit in with Martina and Maureen. They thought Tom was going to be released the next day but too late for us to see him. We went to bed early 12:00am, our hours were musicians hours and we rarely got to bed before 2:00-3:00am. James and Bridget had an early flight out of Shannon so we all were up by 5:00am. We got to Shannon turned in the car, Morgan and I bid farewell to Bridget and James who were returning to England, they’re staying in Europe another month, and parted sad to see it end but happy we shared the experience.

Saturday, June 15

Summary and another Farewell to Ireland

Reflecting on our most recent trip I’m astounded at how much we packed in to three short weeks. This journey had so many adventures that looking back, well…. I’m surprised we could do it. Bridget deserves a huge thanks for being our designated driver, humorist and helper. She’s easy to travel with and doesn’t mind being with the guys. Yes, it’s true that many pub clients appreciate good music and show that appreciation by buying the players pints of their preferred beverage. For us it’s always the regional stout. In Cork and Kerry we always order Murphy’s or Beamish, once you get out of the South it’s usually Guiness. It’s also true that these beverages are better closer to the source. Bridget taking on the roll of D.D. allowed James to enjoy the pleasure of appreciative pints with Morgan and I. The downside of that activity is I’m going to be avoiding beer and rich food until I drop the pounds I put on in three weeks. James was correct back in 2012 when I remarked one early morning when we were driving back to our rental in Fahy, after a particularly wild session at the old Bould Biddy’s in Westport, that I could get used to this. His response was “you’d be dead in a year.” Living like that is a young man’s game and I’m no longer that young man.

Bridget sat down with us on our last day and asked us to name our top ten takeaways from the trip. Starting from the beginning of our trip in County Cork, but not particularly in the correct order here’s what we recalled . The trip out to Helvic Head and playing its namesake Jig in a local pub, Mooney’s. Eating a terrific five course meal at Ballymaloe estate, in memory of James’s mother Ann. Ann had visited Ballymaloe many times and once there we understood why. Thank you Bridget and James for that delightful evening. The session we shared with Macdara O’Faolain, his wife Victoria, Conor and Masato. It was an honor to play with such young and talented musicians. Our house session with Hannah Collins at her family home. Such a talented Concertina player and pianist and her Mother served us a mid-day meal as if we were family. Our sessions at Eileen’s in Kilcrohane, her pub has been magic for us more than once and the session with Wayne and Lisa Lambe ranks as one of our most memorable. Lisa is a wonderful singer and generous human being. Wayne has been a supporter since our first meeting. A talented and generous man who deserves all the success that comes his way.

Clare started off disappointingly. We found out that County Clare, due to its proximity to The Cliffs of Moher, the Aran Islands and the wild beauty of The Burren has become a tourist hot spot. The sessions we enjoyed at The Roadside tavern in 2016 and 2018 were a thing of memory. We never saw Terry Bingham, Seamus Hynes or Paul Dooley. All people with whom we were excited to reconnect. The one night that Christy Barry was there he was surrounded by a gaggle of musician’s that, quite honestly, were less than he deserved, so we never played with him either. Seeing the man himself, the barkeep at The Roadside, retired after 29 years, Billy Archibald was a pleasure. That he remembered us was gratifying. The discovery of Eugene’s Whisky Bar next to Cooley’s House in Ennistymon was the big surprise. To find out that we were the first live music allowed in Eugene’s establishment in years surprised the hell out of us. Eugene’s expectations of decorum are apparently well known to those who live in the area, but we came in cold and somehow passed muster. Meeting Christy McNamara at Eugene’s and being invited to his session at The Cliffs of Moher Hotel next night made Clare worth the trip.

Seeing the Foley’s in Dingle, for the first time in 6 years was lovely. They’re thriving and we are so pleased that their hard work has paid off.

The trip to the Aran Islands Bridget and I took with Zeke, Amy and Fionn was memorable. For the five of us it was our first time out in the Aran’ and we were all taken by their wild beauty. Wind swept rocky islands in the North Atlantic, starkly beautiful and very isolated. We had the luxury of crossing in a high speed ferry from Doolin, the waters were treacherous and I can’t imagine how dangerous the crossing was with sails and oars.

Westport was and is good to us. So many friends and choices. We all looked at one another and realized we blew it when we scheduled a mere week. It’s simply not enough time there and we won’t make that mistake again. Our rental, Headford House was the most luxurious stay of the trip. High upon a shoulder of a hill that transitions up to the tallest point in Ireland, Croagh Patrick, aka The Reek, we had stunning views of the magnificent Clew Bay and many of its islands. Just below us was the remains of what Jackie suspects was a pre-famine village. Looking out of Headford House’s windows while playing music was a sensory feast. Connecting with one of our favorite friends, Jackie Small, was a delight. Before the trip he was high on our list of must see’s. To share not just one session but several was more than we expected. We see Jackie as a benefactor, a font of knowledge and a living treasure. To have his friendship is an honor. Julie Langan was another must see for us. She’s stayed in touch with us over the years. She’s a gifted musician, mother and partner to Graham, he a talented builder of Harps and occasionally fiddles. We can’t wait to play with Julie. The session she and Tom Doherty lead at Grainne Uaile in nearby Newport was another highlight. It always is. To have Brian Lennon sitting to my right, Mick Mulcrone on my left Maria across from me playing her bouzouki, John McHugh and his friend spinning off sets with Julie on fiddles, what a night!

We were disappointed that we had so little time with Julie. We know she’s really busy with family and projects and we hoped she’d come to our house party. Her oldest Eoghan, was having an 18th birthday and Julie had to prepare for that. She couldn’t promise she’d be able to come, which made us rather sad. The day of the party, a little before 4:00 a car comes up the drive as we’re preparing things. I told everyone that someone was very early. I look out the kitchen window and it’s Julie with her twins. Julie carved out and hour from her very busy life and spent time talking and playing tunes with us. A generous gesture from another we’re lucky to call a friend. Seeing Johnny Fadgin and Dan Delaney on our last night, visiting them in their element at a session in The Cobbler. Two great Westport characters that always have a place in our hearts.

Visiting Gary Leahy was fun and having him come to our house party was icing on the cake. His home smoked salmon was delicious. Maggie and Tom came. We’ve known her from our first trip in 2012. She’s visited all of us in the USA. She’s another one we’re lucky to call a friend. She’s been a loyal supporter since we met her. I still remember her defending our version of Raglan Road at the now regretfully gone Boul Biddy’s, gawd did we have some wild sessions there. Apparently Raglan Road was always sung acapella and we had instruments playing with ours. Maggie had heard our version and quite vociferously assured everyone listening that it was quite good. With her help we won them over.

The last session with Tom Cussen. Alan, Gerry, Johnny and Martin was a joy. It capped our trip. To share it with Tom, one of our early contacts was an honor and to meet his friends, a pleasure. Tom has been another generous benefactor, always willing to help and advise, share his knowledge and instruments and cheer us on.

Finally our friends the Neilan’s in Gort. Unfortunately Tom was ill, in hospital and we couldn’t visit him. We did see his wife Maureen and their daughter Martina. We met them back in 2014 and they’ve been friends since. We’ve always been treated as family by them. Tom and Maureen lived across from the place they built for friends and sessions. It was an old cow shed they converted into a beautiful stone two story, with a large bottom floor for sessions. That’s where we used to stay but Tom and Maureen moved into it when they couldn’t negotiate the narrow stairs of their home. Martina lives there now. We pray that Tom recovers, Maureen stays strong and we’re able to visit with them both our next time over.

It was a great trip. For my readers, I hope you enjoyed following our adventures and I look forward to reporting more the next time we return to Ireland. We can’t imagine not visiting again.

A Documentary You’ll Want To See

I believe you’ll find this worthwhile. While in Clare we were told of a new documentary that was filmed in West Clare and environs. Christy McNamara speaks of loss of language but not the music in the trailer. The handsome gray haired gentleman in the opening still is Christy Barry. I recognize a great number of musicians we’ve met and/or played with.

We were told that the documentary was done by some very young film makers who knew nothing of the subject but were open minded and learned while filming. What I’ve seen in the trailer looks really good.

Here’s the link to the official trailer. https://thejobofsongs.com/home

As of this date it is streaming on Amazon Prime free if you subscribe. It’s streaming on a number of paid platforms and a couple of free ones.