Song of the sea sum­moned old boat to the quay

Rossendale Free Press - - The Laughing Badger - SEAN WOOD

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

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