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Sails and Sounds Festival, Portaferry, 4th-7th August 2022

We met The Selkies (from Portaferry) on Rathlin Island earlier in June, where we received an invitation from Moira Ritchie to perform at the August Portaferry Sails and Sounds Festival; needless to say we were delighted to accept the invitation and we were mighty glad we did too. We travelled up from Waterford by car on the Friday and the Strangford Lough area was looking good as we arrived; none of us had been up in this part of the country before so it was a new experience and a welcome one at that. Moira met us at the ferry and brought us to our accommodation beside The Fiddlers Green pub. Once we had settled in we headed down to the Sailing Club premises, a fine building on the seafront, where we enjoyed some refreshments and a hearty meal. Then we gave a lively performance followed by more liquid refreshments but we retired at a reasonable hour as it had been a long day, especially for the drivers.

We were up early on the Saturday and after breakfast we strolled around before heading to the Market House for tea and cakes in aid of the air ambulance. What an array of delicious cakes were on offer and of course we had to sing a song for all those enjoying the event. So much so that we were asked if we would sing two more songs outside in the square at the country market and we were only too happy to oblige. We had a stage performance at 2:45 but we were there early to hear The Selkies perform (a good performance it was too!). We were at the Recreation Hub in the Sailing Club for another performance at 7pm and that went down well. We were then treated to a magical performance by The Knotty Pine String Band, a group of blue grass musicians from Omagh, well known in Dunmore East for their regular visits to the Bluegrass Festival. We adjourned to the bar after 10pm for more singing and a good rousing session.

We went off for a stroll again on the Sunday morning after breakfast, but in the other direction before our stage performance at 2:45, where Nick Blackburne of Irelandscapes recorded us singing some songs, one of which, A Rovin, was soon up on YouTube extolling the delights of the Irish coastline, its people and its places. After that we went to Dumigans pub, the smallest pub in Northern Ireland apparently, where we had to sing our few songs just outside the door as the pub, not unexpectedly, was packed and where Nick was on hand again for another recording, this time of Billy O'Shea. We went then for dinner in The Port Hotel, and naturally we had to sing a song there too. We went back to The Sailing Club and, as we had an hour to spare, we practiced our set of songs in the upstairs room, a wonderful location as the acoustics there were superb. We went downstairs to sing a song or two in the bar before the ladies 1500m race in the Commonwealth Games where a local girl ran a great race to win the silver medal. Then we threw in several more songs to a very appreciative audience who sang along with most of the songs. We departed soon after that leaving the patrons to be entertained by a local group. We had one final drink in The Port before heading home for an early night (but not before watching Match of the Day, for the first weekend of the new soccer season: luckily, Joe was over-ruled as he wanted to watch the camogie final highlights which Kilkenny won by a point).

After breakfast in Café Therese, we got the 10:30 ferry to Strangford, followed by a pit-stop at Applegreen in Lusk and from there on to Waterford and home.

So once again thanks to Moira Ritchie for inviting us and for all her help over the weekend. We would also like to thank all the people we met, particularly at the Sailing Club, for their hospitality and kind words. It was much appreciated by all of us and we hope to see you all again next year.

Dunmore East, Sunday 26th June 2022 at the Naming Ceremony for the new lifeboat

It was great to be invited by Margaret Barry to perform at the Naming Ceremony and Service of Dedication of the Shannon class lifeboat, the 13-41 William and Agnes Wray, which took place on Sunday 26th June 2022, down at the Nimmo Lighthouse in Dunmore East. Apart from the wind, it was a beautiful day, with bright sunshine to warm the big crowds gathered on the quayside for the ceremony. We sang four songs at 1:45, just before the official ceremony at 2:00. We were delighted to support and complement the children of Realt na Mara National School in Dunmore East who sang Home from the Sea, ably led by Ciara McSweeney. We did a couple of more songs as the Lifeboat headed out for some manoeuvres just off the sea wall (and just before the Rescue Helicopter arrived). We adjourned then to the RNLI Building for some refreshments and later then to Powers for more refreshments. A great day, for the lifeboat, the crew, the organising committee, Dunmore East and for us too!

Wild Atlantic Shanty Festival, Rosses Point, Sligo, 17th-19th June 2022

The Wild Atlantic Festival began 11 years ago as a fund-raiser and support for the RNLI. We were delighted to appear there for the first time in 2022 where we had a great time. It was a mighty weekend of music, song and the bit of craic (and the creamy pints were lovely too!). We arrived in time on Friday for dinner at Rosses Point Golf Club, just a few minutes away from the Yeats Country Hotel where we were staying for the weekend. There was plenty of time too for a pint or three and a chat among ourselves and with other participants at the Festival. Luckily we had the first session in Harry’s at 9pm, which gave us time to set ourselves up in the convivial surroundings of that iconic house and to an appreciative audience. There was great music after us as the bar filled up and we enjoyed listening to the other participating groups. After a night of music, song and pints we went back to the hotel for more music, song and pints into the early hours of the morning.

We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast on Saturday, followed by a stroll and a chat, before performing outdoors at Austies in the afternoon. A big audience enjoyed a good selection of songs from several groups in wonderful sunshine. We also broke off to perform at the Driftwood Restaurant and that was very relaxing as the diners enjoyed lunch in wonderful settings. It was there too that we had our evening meal. We were performing later that evening, again at Harry’s and the place was heaving so we gave it a right lash to thunderous applause. We murdered The Auld Triangle as our final song, which echoed around the rafters for a while afterwards. After another night of music, song and pints we went back to the hotel for – yes – more music, song and pints into the early hours of the morning where we were again joined by the Dollymount Drifters and Monkeys Fist. Wonderful.

Sunday was a repeat – more or less – of Saturday, except that we got drounded wet just before we adjourned to the Golf Club for coffee. We performed well too at Austies in the afternoon, by which time the sun was out, and where we got a chance to hear The Buoys of Ballisodare, followed by dinner in the Golf Course and then the closing ceremony in Harry's where all the groups roared out Leave her Johnny. There was more music there that night, but we were whacked at that stage and just delivered Roseanna as we departed for the Yeats Country Hotel where we once again enjoyed a few quiet but wonderful songs. Early to bed meant early to rise and we were on the road promptly on Monday for the long journey back to Waterford in wonderful sunny weather.

All in all it was a mighty weekend and we were wondering on the way home why we left it until now to participate in the Festival. We would like to thank Hugh O’Neill of the organising committee for all his support and assistance leading up to and during the Festival and to Willie Murphy and Paul Bewick, who started the Festival, and who were also a great help over the weekend.

Rathlin Island, 3rd-6th June 2022

We left Waterford sharp at 10 on Friday 3rd June and after parking in Ballycastle we headed for a well-deserved pint in Tessies before loading up all our gear on to the 5 o’clock fast ferry for Rathlin. It’s only a 20-minute journey but we had time for a song or two and a wee girl and her mammy also gave us a few tunes on a tin whistle. Luckily, the Manor House is right opposite the ferry terminal, so we didn’t have far to walk to our base where Mary O’Driscoll, our host for the weekend was waiting for us and it was great to see Mary again, and her husband Ciarán too.

Thereafter it was music, chat and laugher for the whole weekend in glorious weather conditions while those we left behind shivered and donned the rain gear in what was a miserable weekend weatherwise. Not that we cared: we sang everywhere and anywhere…in the Manor House, in McCuaigs, at the ferry as passengers arrived, at the craft shop, on the road, outside houses, high up on the mobile platform that Paddy built (which we christened the High Nellie!), on the boats and if anyone asked where we were from we sang for them too (“way down south where the cocks do crow” was always our answer). We sang on the replica Viking longboat as the crew rowed her around the harbour and we sang inside and outside of a beautiful Dutch barge boat where we met Brian McGuinness, who knew Dunmore East well, and all the fishermen there. And when we weren’t singing (mornings mostly), we went walking and there are some lovely walks on Rathlin, with great views and lots to see (trying to prevent Joe from walking on the spotted orchids was a challenge!). The eider ducks and the black guillemots around the marina were easy to see too.

While there might have been just the three of us we compensated by singing loud and clear: it was really a special occasion, all very casual and informal and it was great too to break out after all the Covid issues of the last two years. We have to thank Mary for inviting us and to Mary and Ciarán for all their hospitality over the weekend and the staff of the Manor House who were very welcoming and who fed and watered us well. Only one word could describe it: wonderful. We are already looking forward to next year.

Saturday 26th February 2022: All gathered at around 1pm at the Waterford Golf Club at Ferrybank to sing at a private function. We sang a few soft songs before lunch was served, we sang between courses and then we sang again after lunch, 13 songs in all, and we finished off with a lively French song as people started to leave (around 4pm). It was great to be back singing again and we sang well and enjoyed it. And we were fed and watered for our efforts.

We are looking forward to singing with gusto at several events over the summer and into Autumn. Yipeee!

All aboard

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