Song of the sea summoned old boat to the quay
YOU needed to be there, but I’m going to tell you anyway – last week, at the world famous Cruinni na Mbad, Galway Hooker Boat Festival, in Kinvara, was right up there with the best experiences in my life.
Not least because we staged my play, The Angel on O’Connell Street, and played four gigs, but also because Paul Higham of Hadfield, and myself were asked to perfom our song, The Hooker McHugh, live on the local radio station set up on the quay.
We dragged along our fiddle player India Shan Merrett, also from Hadfield, and the magic soon unfolded.
We had written the song to commemorate the sad loss of a famous hookerman, Johnny Sean Jack MacDonagh, when the McHugh went down in a storm in 2009.
His brother Josie survived and gave us the thumbs-up for the song.
As I began singing, with Galway Bay behind me and the words being blasted all along the quay and beyond, I noticed one of the presenters was becoming visibly upset, soon followed by Paul smiling and a few others pointing to something behind me, with a range of looks from surprise and delight to amazement.
They were obviously speechless as it was live radio, but they may have been anyway because the re-launched Hooker McHugh sailed right behind me as I was mid-verse, tacked into the quay and was quickly tied up against another hooker, no more than 30 feet from where I was sitting, with Josie’s two sons waving to me through the open door.
As we finished the song the atmosphere was electric, and no one could believe what had just occurred.
The timing was other-worldly, and word soon spread around the village of the amazing coincidence which had just occurred.
Other forces were given credit for the happening, but we were there, along with over 20 other people from Glossop, and that’s enough for me.
After the very hectic weekend, 17 of the Glossop Massive headed west to the Carna area of Connemara, a truly wild and beautiful place, with a thousand lakes, a thousand-piece jigsaw of interlocking coastal loughs and white strands, and the standard 36 hours in every day.
As a group, we squeezed every last drop of goodness from our time there.
This area is special for so many reasons, not least that everyone still speaks Gaelic and the people are as friendly as the day is long, but also because this is where the two brothers lived.
We had come over to sing the Hooker McHugh in the place the boat was launched 100 years ago, and to the people who knew the two brothers well; both of whom were renowned for their singing prowess in the local ‘Sean Nos’ style.
This is unaccompanied singing where the words are often more important than the tune, and the singer uses some wonderful ornamentation which draws you into the song, even if you don’t understand a word.
We were lucky enough to be asked to play and sing in Peter Moran’s pub in Carna, the brothers’ local, where we were all entranced by the Sean Nos singing of Padriag, and yet more magic heaped on the trip.
Then, to cap it all, we sang the Hooker McHugh, where it should be sung.
Next week back to the wildlife, from little grebes to a flotilla of mute swans, and from the pure white little egrets to the multi-coloured Irish hare.
Sean Wood singing live on the radio at Kinvara
The Laughing Badger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Padfield, Glossop