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15th Annual Solas Memorial Swim, 26th December 2022

The annual swim in memory of former crew member Michael Hearne (and now also in memory of Jim and another Michael) was held today off Lawlor's Beach, Dunmore East at 12 noon, the aim of which was to raise funds for all cancer victims. It was was a lovely bright day with blue skies, but cold, and there was no hanging about. So it was in and out of the salty ocean fairly promptly, and enjoyable it was too for all the participants.

Fair play to Siobhán Hearne for all her efforts on behalf of Solas. A worthy cause.


Thursday, 15th December 2022

For our final event of 2022, we sang at a private function in Odhrán Lodge in Waterford, where we provided the after dinner entertainment. We went down very well and we ourselves enjoyed immensely, as we have done in previous years. We were in party mode too and suitably dressed for the occasion. Many thanks to Lesley Power for inviting us.

It was a great end to a wonderful year. Roll on 2023!

In Remembrance, Monday 12th December 2022

We gathered in the cemetary of St Mary's Church, Ballygunner to remember our former crew members, and we sang a song for each: TonyLady of Autumn, ColmHealth to the Company, JohnThe Voyage and MichaelThe Mermaid, songs that they themsleves sang so well in their day.

St Mary's Church, Dungarvan, Sunday 4th December 2022

We were delighted to be invited by Ger O'Donovan, President of the Dungarvan Lions Club, to perform in this wonderful church, all in aid of the annual Lions Club Christmas Appeal. We were in good company too, with the Dungarvan Ladies Voice Over Choir singing some beautiful songs and David Power, the noted Uileann piper, playing some lively and haunting airs and tunes on the pipes and tin whistle. As for us, we sang six songs and finished off with a medley of Christmas songs which the appreciative audience joined in on. After the concert we adjourned to Merry's pub down the road for some refreshments and food, and where we sang Time Ashore before we left. It was another wonderful afternoon, and greatly enjoyed by all.


Ballycastle, Antrim, 4th-6th November 2022

We had a great weekend of music and song in Ballycastle over the weekend, where we met old friends and new in celebrating Ciarán O’Driscoll’s 70 years. Ciarán got a great shock when we launched into song just after he arrived in Tessies on the Friday evening hoping for a quiet drink. There was great singing later that night and the following day and night too. We also had time to remember absent friends and Colm and Tony in particular, who were with us on one of our many visits to Ballycastle and Rathlin. It was wonderful and we and everyone else enjoyed it immensely. Terence and Kate (in Tessies) were very supportive and thanks to Mary for inviting us and for all her hospitality over the few days.

Shackleton Autumn School, Athy, 28-30th October 2022

We got the 1:05 train from Waterford, on which we sang Time Ashore to a round of applause. Arriving in Athy Station at 2:30 we were transferred to Kilkea Castle by taxi at around 3:15. We had a couple of pints and dinner in the Club House where we met Joe and where we sang three songs.

After readying ourselves we got a bus at 6:45 to Athy for the official launch of the event at 7:30 in the Shackleton Museum. Before the official start of the Autumn School, we sang two songs, and after the event was launched by Seán Ó Fearghaíl, (Ceann Comhairle of the Dáil) and a book launch (ANTARCTIC AFFAIR) by Fergus O’Gorman, we went up to the podium and sang eight more songs. We then adjourned to an annex of O’Briens Bar for the launch of MAY WE BE SPARED TO MEET ON EARTH by Russell Potter, Regina Koellner, Peter Carney and Mary Williamson, a book of the letters of the lost Franklin expedition, and at which we were delighted to sing Lady Franklin’s Lament, which was appreciated by the authors and by all those present. We adjourned to the main bar to sing seven or eight more songs. After returning to Kilkea Castle we adjourned to the bar for several more songs. It was a great night and just when we were about to leave a group of Wexford ladies got out instruments for more tunes and ballads. Pat also sang The Rose of Allendale and Joe (not our Joe!) sang some Percy French songs. Wonderful!

Breakfast at 9:30 on Saturday allowed for plenty of time to attend Mensun Bound’s lecture on the Discovery of the Endurance and his interview by Lorna Siggins. Lunch in Bradbury’s was nice too and in the afternoon some of us went to the lecture by Sadbh O’Neill on what Shackleton can teach us about leadership and resilience in an age of climate crisis. We gathered at the break at 3:30 and sang two songs in the back foyer, an area blessed with superb acoustics, so the songs reverberated throughout the Museum. We went to The Barn for dinner, where around 200 people gathered for a wonderful meal in the atmospheric surroundings. After some presentations, a raffle and a bit of comedy (for example, is the great auk still extinct?) we rounded off the evening with four lively songs that went down well. Back at Kilkea Castle we started by singing some soft songs. It was also an ideal opportunity for our Joe to sing his new Shackleton song for Mensun Bound, his wife Jo and The Hon. Alexandra Shackleton. Joe gave a copy of the song to Mensun, who was delighted with the words and the flow of the song, and Mensun in turn presented Joe with a copy of his book, THE SHIP BENEATH THE ICE: THE DISCOVERY OF SHACKLETON’S ENDURANCE. There was no stopping us after that and we kept singing, mostly ballads with one or two Elvis songs thrown in for good measure, all of which were thoroughly enjoyed and particularly by an American family, a Dublin group and several others around the bar and hall area nearby.

After breakfast on Sunday morning, we went for a walk around the ample grounds of the Castle (itself a superb place). Our final song of the weekend was Billy O’Shea, sung to Laura at the train station before we left for Waterford, in appreciation of all she did for us over the weekend. And what a fabulous weekend it was too. Thanks are due to Olly Lupton for organising the invitation, and for taking the photos on Saturday night, and we will be eternally grateful to Jim and Joe for inviting us, for their wonderful hospitality and for affording us the opportunity to sing some sea songs, shanties and laments at this important annual event remembering Sir Ernest Shackleton, the prolific and heroic Antarctic explorer.

Cape Clear, West Cork, 19th–22nd August 2022

All six of us left Waterford at around 10:30 on Friday 19th August. We stopped for tea and desert as usual in Inishannon before arriving in Baltimore around 3pm, where we had a pint in the Waterfront Hotel. We were in plenty time for the 5pm ferry to Cape Clear, where Mary and Ciarán O’Driscoll were waiting to greet us and bring us and all our gear to our accommodation. Before dinner in Cotters we enjoyed a pint outside and sang a verse or two of Rollicking Randy followed by Billy O’Shea inside. After dinner we sang 19 songs in total and we were joined by Dónal O’Driscoll (Ciaran’s brother) who sang The Mary Ellen Carter, the last song of the evening, or so we thought! Shay did a haunting version of The Parting Glass followed by Shenandoah after a request from a Crosshaven woman for that beautiful song. It was a great evening but singing is hard work, so we had to have a wee dram when we got back to base before retiring for the night.

On Saturday we had breakfast in Cotters at around 10:15 (nice it was too). We then had plenty of time to organize our songs for the afternoon concert followed by coffee down in the harbour at around 2pm. Some of us went up to Ciarán Danny Mikes to hear St Fachtna’s Silver Band play, as we had missed them earlier in Cotters.

The Saturday concert in the Church started at 3:30. Mary O’Driscoll had several slots with different people contributing readings, poetry, tunes and songs, including Siobhán, Fiachra and Darach, Margaret, Mary (who joined us for Hard Times and later for Rathlin Island), and of course ourselves singing 11 songs over four slots. As usual, it was a great concert in aid of Church renovations (replacement of the windows is the priority now).

After the concert we adjourned to Cotters for a pint and we went from there up to Ciarán Danny Mikes where we sang five songs outside followed by another four songs inside when it began to drizzle. We went down to Cotters for dinner (and more drink), which we ate outside and while we were waiting we sang another four songs. After dinner it was back up to Ciarán Danny Mikes to sing for the evening, where we sang several more songs. Mary O’Driscoll also sang a few and Dónal joined us and did The Mary Ellen Carter again and a beautiful Cape Clear song. A girl also came up and played two trad tunes on Joe’s box, which went down well. It was another great night, in a packed pub where we got great order for the evening’s entertainment. Timmy produced a bottle of Indian whiskey later on (but the less said about that tack the better!).

We had an early start for Sunday mass at 10am where Pat and Shay sang Ár nAthair and Ag Chríost an tSíol during the mass followed by Céad Míle Fáilte Romhat during Communion. We sang two songs at the end before the congregation left the Church. The priest very kindly thanked us from the alter for our singing and thanked all those who contributed to the fund-raising efforts in aid of Church renovations. After mass, Mary prepared breakfast, which was much appreciated and enjoyed. After that we went off for a walk to South Harbour (Cuan Inbhir), followed by coffee in North Harbour (Cuan Trá Ciaráin). We were back in Cotters around 5pm, outside on the left of the front door where we sang ten songs while sipping a pint. After dinner there, we sang one more song at around 7:30. We gathered again there at around 9pm for a lovely quiet evening of song, including Mary singing three songs and another woman who sang Black is the Colour; all present very much enjoyed the singing and it was another wonderful evening in good company.

On Monday morning we were up bright and early to get the 9am ferry to Baltimore where we had breakfast in Casey’s, and from there back to Waterford.

It was a great weekend of music and song on a beautiful island which looked so well in the fantastic weather (any rain fell mostly at night). Anyone we talked to seemed very pleased with the singing and the songs and we enjoyed it immensely. Wonderful…roll on next year.

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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