A Day In the Sun and The Festival At Allihies

Time to catch up. Yesterday was a changeable day as far as weather went. Windy, cloudy then sunny, then windy, cloudy, etc. into which we sallied forth. We headed to a lake that Morgan had stayed near years back called Glanmore. It’s just up the road from us and it proved to be a picturesque lake surrounded by hills and small mountains of such character. Much of the geology in these parts is sedimentary strata that is all folded and twisted into hills, mountains and beautiful valleys and Coombs. We took lots of photos and one band shot with us in front of a beautiful little boat house.

Then we took off for a park we’d seen called Gleninchiquin. We drove quite a few kilometers in on a narrow little road only to find out that it cost 5 euro per person to get in and that it isn’t a public space but private. As soon as we got into the parking area the proprietor came over and inquired as to our intentions and James put on his diplomat hat and told him we were lost and looking for a farmer who sold cheese, which was partly true, but James was right in knowing that telling him we didn’t want to spend the money would have been insensitive. We understand that everyone here is scrambling for a living. We have a running joke going that since the O’Shea’s up the road told us about the park they all are colluding and so if we tore out our undercarriage on the road to the park we’d find O’Shea body works to fix it or O’Shea towing to get us! Not true at all, but it was a good story. James stayed with the story about cheese and the park owner gave him directions back to where we wanted to go and we left him with the impression that we might be back. So off to get more cheese, driving back to Peter’s on the tiny rutted lane only to make a turn and find a bunch of hikers lying in the road getting some sun. We indicated that we were turning right and not to get up and they smiled and waved. We headed up to Peters place to be greeted at the bottom of the drive by a German who was part of the hikers telling us that Peter wasn’t there.

Damn! We wanted more cheese and James wanted to try the C set of pipes out.

We took a short hike up the hill hoping he’d come back while we were there, but nope, no Peter. So back to Lauragh and the cottage. We grabbed naps knowing that we would be up late for the festival in Allihies and once we were all up we practiced some tunes, made dinner and headed to Allihies. I was under the impression that with all the posters we’d seen that the place would be jammed, but when we stepped inside Jimmy’s Bar we were the first there. Martin Quinn, John Rynne and Laura Ugur were scheduled to play at 9:30 it was 8:45 where was everyone? Jimmy asked about us and we filled him in. “Where you from?” says he. “We’re from Washington” say we, “Ah D.C.” says he, no “Washington State” say we, “so, are you lost?” says he. God, the Irish have a wicked sense of humour. All good natured though. So we ordered pints and hung out waiting. Finally Martin comes in and orders a pint and then Laura and finally John. It’s all so casual that it hardly seems like a show, but it turns out it isn’t a show, just some phenomenal players sitting in a pub playing tunes. People are sitting cheek to jowl with them, putting drinks on their table pulling out instruments and playing along. A little different than the states! The music was great. John is this larger than life character, a huge personality and a jokester. Morgan and James met him outside for a smoke and some of the conversation as reported was hysterical. When finding out that James played flute he told him to join in. James demurred and John told him no he could join in and if he wasn’t any good he’d tell him so and he could put it back in the case! I think he was only half joking. When asking Morgan for his pedigree Morgan mentioned the Irish player who led the session that he used to attend in S.F. in the 70’s and John, recognizing the name said that oh you must be pretty good then cause he would have thrown you out if you were a wanker, or words to that effect. Great stuff. But John also has an obvious ego, a very large one and as James puts it, not the guy to walk into a room and be second to anyone in it.

Morgan heard an exchange between Martin and John that consisted of John suggesting a waltz, Martin making a face and suggesting a hornpipe and John dissing that and telling Martin that hornpipes are for wankers and homosexuals. When Martin compromises and suggests jigs instead John says that Martin’s jigs all sound like waltzes anyway. Whew!!

Anyway they played on and asked Morgan to join in and he did, but had to sit out quite a few tunes either because he didn’t know them or they were so ripping fast. That’s the level they played at. At one point James and I were standing in this little smoking area out beside the bar and John joined us. Joking about how he used to get distracted by the women at gigs and then he told us a joke that I can’t include here. Sorry. It was really good though. It was getting late so we left and found a woman with a chips stand and as we waited for our order met a properly pissed trio standing with us. They were damn funny and as Morgan observed drunkenness doesn’t seem to blunt the Irish wit. I overheard them discussing the austerity vote and I was curious. We’d been seeing signs on poles up and down the west coast saying vote no to the austerity program. They were put up by Seinn Fein. Apparently the vote passed, so only time will tell its effect. As our drunken friend put it, it’s like having your *&%$ cut off, and one of them stated that the country was sold out. I have to admit I agree with the sentiment and I’m waiting for the robber barons back home to pull a similar stunt at some point.

Trip To Ireland May-June 2024

I’m setting this page up for our next trip to Ireland. We’re going to spend our time in Cork, Kerry, Galway, Clare and Mayo. I’ve been texting or emailing our friends in Ireland who seem to be as excited as we are. Morgan and his wife Peg, James and Bridget and I will be the travelers. Don doesn’t tolerate the rigors of modern travel and has opted out. We’ve tried to twist his arm but he knows what he can handle better than us and we honor his choice.

Over the St. Patrick’s holiday our fans in Spokane got a taste of a change we’ve made in our sound. For those of you who may follow from afar I’ll bring you up to speed. My main instrument has always been guitar. I play some banjo, tenor guitar and percussion. A few years ago I was gifted, from a very dear friend a 5 course Cittern, it’s a magnificent instrument made in England by Stephen Sobell. It belonged to her husband who died unexpectedly, a man I knew and whose instruments I’d worked on over the years. I’ve been playing it more and more and on this trip it is the instrument I’m taking. I love playing accompaniment and the cittern requires a different approach than guitar. Outlining chords with arpeggiation, counterpoint, harmonization, snippets of the melody, it’s a less muscular style and allows the melody to float. My bandmates and I love how it’s transforming our sound. I still like playing guitar and our good friends in Clare, banjo makers Tom Cussen and his son Fintan are going to loan me a guitar to have on hand while in Ireland, but I’m likely to have the cittern in my arms most of the time.

I’ve been reading through all the Ramblings and Musings from 2012-2018. It’s been fun to read of our adventures and be reminded of events that have become a little less clear in memory. We’ve had some great adventures, met some amazing people, made great friends and all because we’ve followed the muse of music. Our dear friend Tommy Neilan described it best. He said sharing the music and culture is like having an invisible passport that gets stamped each time you sit down with strangers. Once the stamp is in your book your strangers no longer. One of my cherished memories was from a session in Gort. I’d pulled up a stool next to an older gentleman who was playing box. I sat next to him because he was so solid and clearly a fine musician. We played through some sets and he leaned over to me and said “you’ve a good ear for the tunes.” I floated out of that session and shared the pleasure of making music with a man I’ve not seen since, but I will not forget him. That’s the power of music, it’s a healing and unifying force and one you can share anywhere in this world.

We’re certain to spend time with so many of our friends in Westport and Newport, we’re going to visit with Wayne Sheehy down in Cork, we’ve not seen him in ages. Kilcrohane here we come! (See the post A Great Day In Kilcrohane). We’re also excited with the prospect of making new friends, sharing tunes and pints with people we’ll meet this trip. I wonder how young Patrick the banjo player in Sligo is doing? (See photo at top). He’s a young man now and if he’s still playing banjo he’ll be amazing. Also Niall in Galway, we met he and his brother and family in a session at the Neilan’s. Niall could hardly hold the flute level he was so small but last we heard he’d won all Ireland in his age group, he’s probably 17 or 18 now.