Sligo Fleadh Triumph.
I am not very knowledgeable on music festivals nationally or internationally but the annual All-Ireland traditional music festival that is Fleadh Cheoil must be one of the finest in the world. The Fleadh has been going now since the early fifties and we in Boyle had two memorable Fleadhs in 1960 and 1966. For a good while after coming to Boyle in the early seventies when I told people I was ‘from’ Boyle in say Dublin or wherever through the country, a regular reply was ‘I was in Boyle once …at one of the great Fleadhs there in the sixties’. Each year it repeats itself and one has to go back some distance to suggest that a Fleadh that was a poor one.
All the evidence points to this year’s event in Sligo being another triumph. I do not know how they come up with estimates of numbers of people attending but they are huge. Of course Sligo and the region which includes North Roscommon and Leitrim has a great traditional music reputation so the number of local musicians attending, performing and competing was impressive. One of the elements that one senses immediately at successful events is that imponderable ‘atmosphere’. I was there on Friday evening and one was immediately struck by ‘the atmosphere’. The friendliness exuded from car park attendants, stewards, police and volunteers, all intent on making Sligo a memorable experience for the visitor. Music rang out from pub doorways and indeed from any doorway that provided a kind of stage or recess for exponents of whistles, fiddles, flutes, accordions, bodhrans and instruments that might challenge a person to name. From time to time these tunes inspired impromptu dancers from Sean Nos to just expressions of pure joy.
My friend and I took different routes to explore what was on offer planning to compare notes later. I headed for Foley’s bar and found there a happily settled group of Boyle friends. (A habit I noticed when I first came to Boyle was the practise of Boyle migrants to Dublin or wherever that they sought out their own town compatriots more so than other areas might). While there was no music just then it did not take long before musicians arrived and of course ‘room was made’ for them and the banjo and accordion music filled the air. It paused respectfully as a funeral of a highly regarded Sligo resident passed the front door. And then it was off again with Sligo tunes like the Kesh Jig, The Boys of Ballisodare and the Sligo Maid to the fore. The word ‘atmosphere’ keeps jumping into my mind. My friend returned as arranged with tales of ‘great music’ in other venues and so we hit the streets again. There was TG4 setting up outside Foleys and further along a stilt walker like a Gulliver casting a red eye on all life under him. Getting through O’Connell Street was a challenge meeting up with people we regularly meet at Fleadhs and may not meet again until the next one. In an archway three old timers sang their songs in harmony accompanied by a harmonica and it was obvious that they have been doing so for a long time. The Glass House Hotel was a buzz of layered sessions and a view over the Times Square of Sligo. Bernie Carty is there fresh from his Lough Key Forest Park sojourn with his specially decked out car and contributing to the welcome for the Roses of Tralee visit to the park including Pat Flanagan’s grand-daughter.
We heard that the former All-Ireland-winning Ceili Band, the Dartry, would be on the ‘Gig-Rig’ from ten o’clock. We knew most of the members of this band so we headed to the Riverside arena. We weren’t on our own as many more had the same idea. A one-way system obtained crossing the river and a large crowd fronted the stage but with experience one might not be stalled by the initial crowd and eventually we got near the front. It was evident from the music of the band that they were in fine form and were going to give it their very best. It was obvious they were enjoying it also. The music rolled out with Sligo tunes and songs to the fore. Fiddle player Mossie Martin son of Tom from near Keadue was a major contributor. Mossie was in St. Mary’s College in Boyle in the 90s’, played soccer with Boyle Celtic, Gaelic with St. Michael’s and Roscommon minors and is a good friend of ours. He is as Sean O’Dowd refers to such people ‘one of the good guys’. In the background on the piano is another ‘good guy’ Kevin Brehony from Castlebaldwin, another St. Mary’s College alumni. On concertina and harp, originally from Monaghan, is a musical maestro and composer Michael Rooney. There are two ladies Noelle Carroll and June McCormack with Philip Duffy, Declan Folan, Cian Kerins, Damien McGuinness and Mayo representative John Kilkenny. In the enthusiastic audience I bumped into John and Anne Nicholson enjoying the festival. Along with the music came the Sligo songs ‘Down by the Salley Gardens’ and ‘Isle of Innisfree’ which brought back memories of great Fleadh goers of yore Tess and Jimmy Flaherty. The band leader remembered a great Leitrim/Sligo musician who passed away in March of this year, Kevin O’Brien. Indeed the spirits of those former great Sligo musicians, like Coleman, Morrison, Killoran, Finn, Horan and many more seemed present as their tunes echoed along the rippling waters of the Garavogue river. A dancer too came to the apron of the stage and knocked sparks from the floorboards as I envied his athleticism, artistry and energy as the electric ‘atmosphere’ (there’s that word again) lifted the happy crowd.
Micheal O’Callaghan wrote a post Boyle ’66 Fleadh account in the Roscommon Herald which could apply to most of these great traditional Fleadhs and Sligo in this instance. It went thus “the memory of it is still fresh in the minds of the thousands, and what memories they are. To try and sort them out is almost impossible for they come crowding into the mind in a confusion of sounds, faces and incidents that prevents the pictures from coming sharply into focus. The skirl of the pipes, the lilt and lift of the dance tunes, the ballad singing and dancing on the pavements, the laughter and noise of the happy laughing crowd seemed to hang over the streets of Boyle.”
There are ripples emanating from the ending of the John Evans period as manager of the Roscommon Senior team. I listened to a radio interview he gave last Tuesday night the 18th on the RTE Radio ‘Game On’ programme and he talked about a canvass against him by a number of people and the lack of support from the Vice-Chairman (incoming Chairman) of the County Board. Interestingly he presented some scoring statistics showing that the scoring averages had increased significantly during his tenure. There was no mention of the emergence of talented scoring players and their role in this. These players are a product of the work being done at under-age level in the clubs and in the county with development squads in recent years. I was not aware of any orchestrated effort to remove Mister Evans. In a sense of course it could be said that since he had not been appointed to the extra term it was technically wrong to suggest that he was being removed. Club delegates attending the County Board meeting, where Mister Evans was going to be recommended for another year by the board executive, would correctly have sought the opinions of their club membership. In it all people are entitled to an opinion. That is the democratic process. The delegates could hardly have gone against the majority views, where that obtained, on whether John Evans could be endorsed or not. Apparently the views from the general club membership were not in line with that of the county executive and I imagine the board executive became aware of this. Subsequently on social media it is said that a player, in endorsing the manager, suggested that the clubs opposed to the reappointment were making a mistake. The clubs would not have been aware of the feelings of the players, as little of what happens within that group or how they actually feel emerges into the public domain. While the promotion to Division One is an excellent achievement, the nature of the championship defeats at Sligo and Enniskillen were a significant set-back in terms of the Roscommon GAA project. The appropriate procedure now is to move on with another appointment and not become engaged in a recriminatory tussle with Mister Evans, but to wish him well.
On my way to the bog on Saturday I called to my local shop to get a bottle of 7 Up to help lubricate a dusty throat in prospect. Next to the 7 Up was a flagon of Cidona and for old time’s sake I took it instead as it reminded me of sunny happy days saving hay on the sloping hill fields of Fuerty from where it was said that on a clear day You could see Croagh Patrick.
Last year I referred to the decline in the number of corncrakes but heard some of them later on Inishbofin Island. The same applies to me thinking that rabbits were in decline as mentioned about their demise on Bull Island in Dublin Bay. This summer I am thinking that a couple of other species are hardly visible at all and those are bees and butterflies. The bee situation is a very serious one as apart from honey their main role is pollination which is hugely important. Butterflies are indicators of a healthy environment and healthy ecosystems. They are a beautiful insect and I hope that I am wrong in my observations.
The Electric Bill
I notice an interesting letter in this week’s Roscommon Herald, page 47, regarding the increases in the cost of electricity from Cllr. Des Guckian of Dromod in Leitrim. He sees it as ‘a sly, secret imposition of charges, for a vital service, which must be opposed by all users’. I have always found my bill to be pretty exorbitant considering that I would be diligent enough about its usage. I am also aware that there are different providers but I have not investigated this in depth. Sticking with a provider that one has become accustomed to is an Irish trait but I think that might be costly.
The death took place recently of the actor George Cole whose character Arthur Daley was a favourite of mine in the TV series Minder which ran through the eighties. In this he played a roguish Cockney wheeler-dealer with a sidekick played by Dennis Waterman. A bit like the Trotters in ‘Only Fools and Horses’ Arthur’s dodgy projects all seemed to misfire but the character was never too phased by that. The character’s Cockney phrases became legendary. Amongst them were; ‘He must be on them stair-rods’ ‘Stand on me’ instead of Stand by me. To him a ‘Gregory Peck’ equalled a cheque. He carried a ‘Doctor on Call’ sign for his parking requirements and referred to his unseen wife as ‘her indoors’. His most famous one was his encouragement to an up-and-coming ‘entrepreneur’ with ‘The world is your lobster my son’.
I wish to congratulate two friends of mine who got engaged recently, Triona Mullaney –Dignam and Brendan McQuaid.
In referencing the girls Sean Daly Cup- winning team of last week I omitted one of the mentors responsible for the progress of the side, that is Eugene Sheeran.
Thrills of Week-end Games
At last we got a cracker of a game to light up this dull summer with Galway’s victory over Tipperary. I listened to the second half on radio so lost some of the visual thrills of the final minutes. I had it taped and it is the game of the summer. Galway have invariably cause Kilkenny bother and could do so in the final. Kilkenny are the not the Rolls Royce team of recent years. So the final could be another great game and Galway have every chance.
The reason I missed the TV coverage of the second half of the hurling was that I was on my way to see Boyle play St. Croan’s in Hyde Park in the senior championship. This was a real roller-coaster of a game. On the front of this week’s Roscommon Herald Sport’s Section there is a fine picture of two Boyle subs looking very relaxed during this topsy- turvy game in which Boyle were in winning position a number of times only to be somewhat lucky to emerge with a draw. For the neutral it was the game of the week-end but for Boyle supporters were not as cool as the two subs pictured as it provided a good few hands-over the-eyes moments. The team’s final game, against Strokestown, looks very much like deciding who will qualify for the quarter-finals from the group with Castlerea.