Skip to content

A Summer of National Treasures

August 25, 2015

Hi dee hiiii, Campers!

Well, it’s hard to believe the summer is gone. ‘Never really took up residence in Ireland this year, did it? Didn’t come driving up the lane with the grass in the middle, to the damp cottage; exhaust scraping the gravel, roof-rack laden with things that would blow half way down the beach; summer with an optimistic face on – dreaming of barbeques and the hurdy gurdies, periwinkles and 99s.

Nope. Didn’t happen.

And try as Weather People and others might to say Autumn only begins in September … well, we windswept lot on the last rocky outpost in what was once the known world … we KNOW that Autumn begins on August 1st.  The old Irish calendar was right, lads. It was bang on.

So, as I wake up to condensation on the windows in the early morning and that chilly feeling in my feet that says, Socks and wood in the stove, dearie, I think about the summer in a different way. In a  What larks, Pip! way.

And there were larks.

This wasn’t a summer for holiday breaks. I was still immersed in my radio work for the diploma and work placements that ran into this month. Holiday? not for me. But, I raided the piggy bank and took a Friday off in early July and dragged the mad aunt down to Bantry to see one Graham Norton at the West Cork Literary Festival .

Graham Norton, you ask? You see, you’re smiling already.

West Cork Literary Festival                                                Graham_Norton_book_cover

Graham was the interviewee for a change – ostensibly about his book The Life and Loves of a He Devil.  What was pure genius though, was having him interviewed by the Church of Ireland Bishop of Cork, Paul Colton. At last, as his Lordship said we could  ‘…hear what the actor said to the Bishop.’ Ahem.

Waiting for Graham - not QUITE the red chair  © Karen McDonnell

Waiting for Graham – not QUITE the red chair
© Karen McDonnell

Yep – it was that kind of night.  Right down to the mainly pink stickies that his Lordship used to mark pages in his copy of Graham’s book.

We’d barely started when a call went out for two cars to be moved immediately – a 141  reg Merc and a BMW.  ‘I’ve great demographic’, says Graham.

Well, the aunt said she couldn’t remember having so much fun in ages. We had pain in our faces from two hours of laughing – and who wouldn’t be the better for that?

There was plenty of time for questions from the audience – and that’s when we saw both Graham the pro and Graham the Corkman; comfortable in his own place. A woman called Caroline asked him how he managed to stay so nice (he IS nice. VERY nice). So he told us about the time he was talking to a group of kids in the local youth group in Bantry and one of them asked him what it was like being a celebrity: ‘Well, you know what it’s like, when you’re in Supervalu, and you see someone coming towards you and you think, no, gawd no, not today …? It’s a bit like that.’   And he beamed.

Then there was the story about his English friends coming to visit him at his holiday home out the road in Ahakista …

‘ ..and they asked me what we do… and I said, Well … there’s the regatta.’   And he just looked at us po faced and the room erupted.  How to explain that moment, that moment where we all knew exactly what we were thinking at the same time, and how no one … absolutely no one who wasn’t Irish would get the joke.   And when we thought our sides had finally split, he took us into his garden leading down to the sea and to the regatta and a photo finish: ‘Just when we thought, How sophisticated, a photo finish, the guy on the loudspeakers says ‘So, if anyone managed to get a photo …’.’

The next evening we drove out beyond Durrus. The aunt nearly crashed the car when we saw this –

Another photo finish? © Karen McDonnell

Another photo finish?
© Karen McDonnell

Graham Norton = National Treasure.  Simples.

Graham and the Bishop ©  (Photo: Tony McElhinney)

Graham and the Bishop
© (Photo: Tony McElhinney)


You’d think I’d be happy with one national treasure for the summer. Not a bit of it.

Lack of finances meant that I couldn’t get to the Yeats International Summer School this year – and boy did I miss it, especially in this 150th anniversary year.  The poetry workshop with Eavan Boland had been long booked-out, so I couldn’t even justify a weekend up in beautiful Sligo.

However, the next national treasure travelled to me – in the form of a brilliant concert in the local church in Ballyvaughan.  (No bishop around this time!)

martin hayes burren summer school                                    The Clare Memory orchestra

The Burren Summer School ended with one hell of a gig by the Clare Memory Orchestra and guests – one of whom was Martin Hayes.

Regular readers are probably aware that I consider Martin to be a National Treasure.  And one of the reasons is because of the time he gives to sharing music with other musicians and in mentoring young students.

The Clare Memory Orchestra plays without sheet music and presented work by one of its founders, composer and guitarist Dave Flynn. He was also accompanied by the Music Generation students from the summer school, some of whom we had the privilege of chatting to later. They were just magnificent. Parts of Flynn’s Clare Concerto were performed: ‘North Clare’ we paid special attention to, of course! One sequence was dedicated to the famous Droneys of Bellharbour, and up they went to play along with the orchestra … a hair-on-the-back-of-the-neck experience.  The orchestra performed the whole concerto in Glór in Ennis the next evening.  You can get a taste of what I’ve been writing about here on their website.

Martin Hayes clare memory orchestra

The conductor, Bjorn Bantock lead the orchestra through this programme:

Boléro – Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) 15′
(Arr. Dave Flynn 2015)*

An Irish Farrago –
From O’Carolan to Ó Riada  17′
(Trad. Arr. Hayes/Cahill/Flynn 2013)

Pachelbel’s Frolicking Canon in D – Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706) 5′
(Arr. Dave Flynn 2015)*

Music for the Departed (2006/2013) – Dave Flynn (b.1977) – 22′

The Clare Concerto (Excerpts) (2013) – Dave Flynn (b.1977) – 25’*

*Features Music Generation Clare Students


SO – a damp squib of a summer, weather-wise … but fun- and culture-wise?

As we’d say here in Clare, It was only ROASHTIN’!!


From → Uncategorized

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Michelines Three Conditions

micheline sheehy skeffington three conditions gender discrimination nui galway

Elliptical Movements

A blog by Billy Mills

Thoor Ballylee

Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society

Buachaill Busan: Busan Boy

An Irishman's guide to life in big-city Busan, South Korea.

O' Canada

Reflections on Canadian Culture From Below the Border

History at Galway

From fadó to not-so-fadó

Interesting Literature

A Library of Literary Interestingness

Comments on: About Móna and Ron

'Two loves I have, of Comfort and Despair' - Reading and Writing

Over The Edge

'Two loves I have, of Comfort and Despair' - Reading and Writing

The Stinging Fly

'Two loves I have, of Comfort and Despair' - Reading and Writing


'Two loves I have, of Comfort and Despair' - Reading and Writing

Medea999's Blog

Occasional writings

Celeste Augé

'Two loves I have, of Comfort and Despair' - Reading and Writing

Parlay-Voo Frawnsay?

The ramblings of an Irish girl in France


Writer and Journalist

%d bloggers like this: