Craic with the ‘Ceol’, 20 years down the road
TWENTY years ago they were a bunch of youngsters on a song and dance tour across Australia and at the weekend they got together again to catch up on each other’s lives, reminisce about their eye-opening time on the road together and, of course, to play a few tunes.
They were the members of Ceol Chiarraí who lugged their instruments and dancing shoes to Shannon on April 15, 1995, flew to London, onwards to Perth and then embarked on a gruelling bus and plane schedule that brought them across South Australia, via Adelaide, Canberra and Sydney to Brisbane. There followed a stop in Singapore and another in Dubai, where they played at a Rose of Tralee selection night, before they got back home, a month older and years wiser.
The tour was organised by Ceol Chiarrai founder Micheál Carr, now based in Ballybunion and coincidentally currently organising a Ceol Chiarrai-style summer residency in Killarney’s INEC, It was a tough month of interminable travel, rehearsals, sound checks and gigs at venues ranging from major theatres to lost community halls.
On Friday night in the Shamrock Bar in Newcastlewest they remembered the craic, the banter and the late night escapades that helped forge life-long friendships. They remembered being constantly wrecked and especially they recalled the warm hospitality of the host families who provided accommodation and home comforts along the way.
With the exception of teacher Maura Walsh from Lixnaw, music is no longer a full time occupation for the members of that Ceol Chiarrai outfit - but it does remain a passion in their lives.
Diarmuid O’Brien from Glin, now living in Newcastlewest and working as a Garda sergeant in Clare, was a champion fiddle player as a teenager; he still is and demonstrated that on a CD he released a couple of years ago. His fellow Glin natives, Pa Foley and Matthew Reidy, work as dairy farmer and quantity surveyor respectively but the box and banjo are never far away. Deirdre Scanlon from Monagea, Newcastlewest, lives in Corofin, works as a Garda in Ennistymon and is still the songbird she was 20 years ago. Con Forde, from and still living in Millstreet, is now a painter. He doesn’t play the pipes much these days - except for weddings and funerals. Caroline Daly from Newcastlewest sees a lot of the world as a British Airways air hostess. She dances ‘now and again’; Friday night in the Shamrock was one of those occasions. She hasn’t lost it!
The Kerryman was invited by Micheál Carr to send a reporter on that trip to Australia - it was the junket of a lifetime that turned into something of a job as a roadie along the way. Right and proper then to join the reunion. Not everybody could make it, given family commitments and so on, but the gathering was representative of the group. As expected, the craic was mighty and the tunes extended into the night. Nobody got much sleep on this occasion either!
Caroline Daly (left) and her sister Leeann with parents Breda (originally from Knocknagoshel) and George (originally Cahersiveen).
Box player Pa Foley from Glin and (right) together again at the Ceol Chiarraí reunion in the Shamrock Bar, Newcastlewest on Friday night. Back from left: Declan Malone (The Kerryman), Con Forde, Caroline Daly, Donal Lacey and Diarmuid O’Brien. Front: Deirdre Scanlon, Matthew Reidy, Pa Foley and Maura Walsh.