Howth’s Martello tower is home to the wonderfully atmospheric Hurdy Gurdy Museum of Vintage Radio. The walls here are lined with ancient wireless sets, reminiscent of days when people would travel for miles to gather round the nearest device to hear Michael O’Hehir paint pictures with words on summer afternoons: “. . . and Tom Cheasty breaks through, with Kilkenny defenders falling around him like dying wasps.”
Waterford hurling glory and gigantic radios in art-deco teak cabinets are a rare breed now, but, as luck would have it, this was International Marconi Day.
In a dimly-lit corner of the room sat Tony, intently looking off into the middle distance and listening to a series of electronic dits and dahs floating in from overseas. Occasionally he responded by tapping out some rhythms of his own on the morse code keyer, all the while maintaining the attention of a wary doe who’s just popped her head up from grazing, ready to leg it if she hears so much as a hedgehog stubbing its toe.
Only last week, after Record Store Day, a mate and I debated dying media, the lure of nostalgia, vintage chic peak and the folly of rendering digitally recorded, mixed and mastered sounds onto an analogue format. All that rhetoric was made redundant by Tony tapping out his beats. Thankfully, some things are impervious to trends and technology, and blessed be the nerds who keep these fires brightly burning.
That same kink is rearing its head again this weekend. I’ll be at Vantastival in Co Louth, and there’s no way I’m missing Barrence Whitfield & The Savages at Kilkenny Roots Festival, but old habits die hard and on a bank-holiday weekend with over 40 festivals happening on our island, I can’t resist hitting a third. It should be Tinariwen at Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival in Belfast, or Duke Special playing at the atmospheric Islander Festival in the middle of Lough Erne, or even Marius Neset at Bray Jazz. But no, I’m going to a GAA pitch in Co Monaghan to witness Declan Nerney play at Inniskeen Countryfest. Would you believe me if I told you it was a form of anthropological study?
Safe travels, don’t die.