Last updated: June 23, 2016
17-20 June: We had a fantastic weekend in Cork, and particularly in west Cork, a beautiful part of Ireland, Europe and indeed the world. We left Waterford early for Cork where we recorded songs for an upcoming documentary on the Sacking of Baltimore by Algerian pirates in 1641. Frank Walsh provided guitar accompaniment for Joe's new song on the Sacking of Baltimore and that sounded nice too. We were also live on Life FM (we sang two songs and Olly talked about the group and our activities) and we recorded a few more songs, courtesy of Kathy O'Hare. We left around 2pm for Baltimore where a Pirate Festival was organised for the weekend, and well organised by Rianne Smith and her committee. It is a great family event and the kids loved it as it gave them the opportunity to dress up as pirates and look well. We were delighted to perform in the Baltimore Sailing Club (thanks to Rianne for inviting us and to John Murphy, our host for the weekend, for mentioning us to her), where we were preceeded by belly dancers! After some lovely grub and grog (the buffet was superb) we retired for a well earned few pints inthe Algiers Inn nearby.
We were performing on Saturday at the Ballydehob Maritime and Folk Festival and after watching Ireland suffer a bad defeat by Belgium in the Euros in France, we moved across the road to Levis's where our spirits lifted with all the lovely singing by various groups and individuals and where we contributed three songs, which went down well. After that we managed to get in some of the rugby game against South Africa, where our spirits took another tumble! We had three more performances in Ballydehob (in the Irish Whip, Vincent Coughlans and the Sandboat) after which we returned to our lovely accommodation in Baltimore (Ol stayed more or less dry for the day, which was very nice of him, even if it was painful for him to do so!!).
The weather on Sunday was poor and it rained most of the day but we managed to watch some hurling and soccer, some of us got to mass (we won't say who!) and we had a lovely meal in the Sibín pub in nearby Rath. We went back then to Bushes where two Connemara men were playing traditional Irish music. Later we asked if we could sing a song and the lads were only too delighted to take a break and hear some raucous shanties (and a few ballads too!). Sure a great night of singing and music followed with tit for tat songs across the room. It was wonderful and it was a great end to a great weekend. Mighty is the only word that would describe it! It turned out that the two musicians (Michael and Andrew) were part of a 5-man crew on a Connemara Hooker, the Mac Duach, owned by Michael, and were sailing for the Scilly Isles via Baltimore and Kinsale and they kindly invited us to have a look the Mac Duach the following morning before they set sail. That was special for us landlubbers (largely!). After a hearty breakfast we headed for Waterford, tired but delighted, though on the way we had to stop to let Timmy sit in a model T Ford.
Mighty is right!
27-30 May: We were delighted to be invited back again this year to Ballycastle on the north Antrim coast. And what a beautiful spot it is too, especially when the sun shines. And did the sun shine, all weekend in fact, which meant there were big crowds around, with all sorts of activities in store for them at this most vibrant festival.
We arrived on Friday evening having stopped for a rest and a coffee just outside Banbridge (it's around 420 km from Waterford to Ballycastle, almost a four hour drive so the break was welcome). After the opening ceremony we went offshore on the ferry run by Ciarán O'Driscoll (Mary's husband) where a wreath and carnations were cast overboard to remember all those lost at sea, and there was also the blessing of the flotilla of boats that had sailed out of Ballycastle. Ourselves and the Molgoggers (from Cobh) sang The Lifeboat Song which was fitting for the occasion. Back onshore we sang a few songs while people just returned from the sea enjoyed some refreshments. Off with us then to sing more songs in the Marine Hotel, The Harbour Bar and The Angler's Rest (or Tessies where we deposited ourselves for the rest of the evening). Some mighty songs were sung and a great night was had by all.
Mary O'Driscoll (who very kindly invited us to Ballycastle, and a superb organiser: a can-do person as Olly puts it) had a great idea: rather than the people coming to the singers, the singers should go to the people. And we did on Saturday morning: we sang in supermarkets, outside butchers, in a hairdressers (yes a hairdressers), a garden centre (we never sang in one of those before), in cafés, on the street....you name it we sang a song, often two and sometimes three where ever we went. And so did the Molgoggers (this was a joint event between ourselves and the Cobh group: we went our separate ways and sang and when we came together we sang too). At 1pm on Saturday we hopped on the ferry to Rathlin Island for an event in the recently restored St Thomas' Church there, where we listened to poetry, watched Irish dancing and heard of the poignant story of R J Capella who is buried at the back of the Church, one of several hundred people who were lost offshore during the Second World War when their ship was sunk by a German U-boat. We sang Lady of Autumn, which Pat dedicated to Tony and Colm, both of whom were with us when we were last here two years ago. We also joined the Molgoggers for a wonderful rendition of the Mingulay Boat Song (it was a superb place to sing in as the acoustics were fantastic). More singing then outside McCuaigs Pub nearby in superb weather and in spectacular surroundings. And of course more singing later on stage in the Marine Hotel when back in Ballycastle, where we donned our Viking helmets for a rendition of Portláirge followed by another late night in the pubs.
Sunday saw us in Church again, this time in Ballycastle, where ourselves and the Molgoggers joined the local choir to sing some hymns, Amazing Grace and two shanties (The Mingulay Boat Song and The Lifeboat Song). After that we sang a number of songs in a retirement home nearby and it was truly memorable and uplifting to see elderly residents enjoying wiry looking men singing shanties, and enjoying them no less for that. Then it was Spar Supermarket, O'Connors Bar and The Wine Bar across the road on our way back down to the harbour. We wandered around in the afternoon singing here and there for the crowds of people and we also sang Santiano for a group of French tourists on their way around Ireland on a Kavanaghs bus from Waterford, out near Callaghane, which went down well. In the evening we walked the superb sandy beach as the sun went down: we cast a stone each into the ocean in memory of our absent friends John, Michael, Colm and Tony, who were looking down on us from Fiddlers Green, and no doubt wishing us well, though we wondered whether Tony would have donned one of those viking helmets.. hmmm. We had a quieter evening after that in Tessies.
Monday saw us bright and early in the Bay Café, where we sang for our supper even though it was breakfast (on the house it was too) and what better song than the Cape Cod Shanty to end our time there. After some lovely Irish dancing we sang The Ship, Roll the Woodpile and Tomorrow in one of the marquees on the seafront, the Molgoggers sang three more songs and we came together for a final rendition of The Mingulay Boat Song. A great end indeed to a great festival. Amen to that! Wonderful.
Thank you Mary and Caroline, the people of Ballycastle and Moyle District Council.
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