Monthly Archives: August 2014

100 Nights of Sessions – 100 photos!


Traidphicnic. Spiddal 2014. “Will I know the next tune?” Siofra Barker

Tubbercurry 2014. Alistair Cassidy. For my next trick…….


Tubbercurry 2014. John Joe Kelly


Tubbercurry 2014. Flute session


Tubbercurry 2014. Paddy Ryan


Ennis 2014. Brogan’s. Yvonne Casey, Josephine Marsh and Fu Akamine.


Drumshanbo 2014. Keith from Wales.


Drumshanbo 2014. Albert from Barcelona


Drumshanbo 2014. Caroline from France


Drumshanbo 2014. Jose from Barcelona


Drumshanbo 2014.


Drumshanbo 2014. Concentration!


Drumshanbo 2014. The kids take over the High Street.


Achill Island 2014. Brendan Begley at the Valley House


Feakle 2014. Fiddles!


Feakle 2014. Pat O’Connor


Feakle 2014. Vincent Griffin


Feakle 2014. Maurice Lennon and Vincent Griffin


Tubbercurry 2014. Alistair Cassidy. Snap!


Willy Clancy Festival. Milltown Malbay 2014. Geraldine Cotter and Kieron Hanrahan.


Tubercurry 2014. Johnny Og Connolly and friends.


Feakle 2014. Yvonne Kane and Cormac Begley


Feakle 2014. Edel Fox, Yvonne Kane, Cormac Begley and friends


Feakle 2014. Joan Hanrahan and Dympna O’Sullivan.


Feakle 2014. Steve from England


Feakle 2014. Eileen O’Brien


Feakle 2014. Young Clare musicians


Feakle 2014. Eoghan O’Sullivan, Dennis Cahill.


Feakle 2014 Eileen O’Brien and Pat O’Connor


Feakle 2014. Thierry Masure


Feakle 2014. Antoin Mac Gabhann


Feakle 2014. Dennis Cahill


Feakle 2014


Sligo 2014. Irish music played by Spaniards in the Itailian Quarter. Jose and Montse.


Traidphicnic Spiddal. Tola Custy, Laoise Kelly and Mike McGoldrick.


Traidphicnic Spiddal 2014. Magic fingers. Mike McGoldrick


Tubbercurry 2014. Nicolle Figueroa Gallaga.


Tubbercurry 2014. Emmy and Veronika from Netherlands


Tubbercurry 2014. Rita from Switzerland


Willy Clancy Festival. Milltown Malbay 2014. Adam Shapiro


Willy Clancy Festival. Milltown Malbay 2014. Friels Hotel. Can’t compete with the World Cup and Brazil vs Germany.


Willy Clancy Festival. Milltown Malbay 2014. John Rynne,


Feakle 2014. Orla Harrington, Eileen O’Brien, Andrew MacNamara


Willy Clancy Festival. Milltown Malbay 2014. Enjoying the Craic


Traidphicnic Spiddal. Tola Custy


Feakle 2014 Seamus Begley at Peppers


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Sean Keane


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Laura Ugur and John Rynne


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014.


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Musician’s Corner

Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Gerry Harrington demonstrating the Stroh Viol to James Kelly’s fiddle class


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Maurice Lennon and Sean Ryan


Tubbercurry 2014. The (virtual) reality of the modern session


Tubercurry 2014. Phillip Duffy


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Sean Ryan


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. The next generation.


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Adam Shapiro and Patricia Wang


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Busking in the Miltown sun


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Let there be light. And there was. And it shone upon the fiddler


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Fiddler


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Fu Akamine and Patricia Wang

Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. The genesis of a session, Coore.


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Coore


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Coore


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Liz Coleman


Traidphicnic, Spiddal. Florianne Blanke


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Sean Keane, John Joe Tuttle and friends


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Harry Bradley, Sean McKeown, Connie Connell.


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. The front bar at Friels. Gerard Callaghan, Rick Epping (in the mirror) Mick Creehan, Mick Hand


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Rick Epping, Mary Bergin, Mick Hand and Mick Creehan


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014.


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Kevin Rowsome


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Stefan, Dermie Diamond, Angela Creehan, Sinnead Nic Dhonnachadgh


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Pat Mullins, Macdaragh Mac Dhonnachadgh, Maurice Lennon, Sean Ryan


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. All boxed in at the Blondes.


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Lorraine O’Brien, Catherine McEvoy, a bemused Jackie Daly, Aoife Granville, Niall Kenny and Conal O’Grada. Revenge of the flutes.


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay, 2014. Crosses of Anagh. Alistair Cassidy and Daire Mulhern


Willie Calncy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014, Street Session with Leon Agnew, Antoin Mac Gabhann and Seamus Sands


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Frank Kelly and Leon Agnew


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Enjoying the craic at Friels. Niamh Parsons


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Antoin Mac Gabhann


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Seamus Sands


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Alistair Cassidy, Crosses of Anagh


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. In the sunshine at the Blondes. Ciarán Mac Aodhagáin, Siún Ní Ghlacáin, Damien O’Reilly


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. the Blondes.


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Niall Kenny and Caitlin Ni Ghabhann, John Flynn


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Caitlin Ni Gabbhan in the sunshine at Blondes


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Gilles Tabary on flute


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014.


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Aine Ni Chellaigh, Josephine Boland and Declan Fay


Feakle 2014. Sorcha Costella, Brian Donnelly and Aisling Hunt.


Fleadh Cheoil Sligo 2014. Street buskers


Feakle 2014. Peppers – Half set dance to the music of Seamus Begley


Fleadh Cheoil. Sligo 2014. Seamus Tansey at Shoot the Crows


Fleadh Cheoil. Sligo 2014 Christina and Fiona from London


Achill. 2014.. Brendan Begley and Harry Bradley


Fleadh Cheoil Sligo 2014, Liam Kelly and Shane Mitchell, Martin McGinley at Riverside Hotel.


Willie Clancy Week. Miltown Malbay. My last free Willie


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay, Geraldine and Martha Clancy at Mullagh


Willie Clancy Week Miltown Malbay, 2014


Willie Clancy Week Miltown Malbay 2014. James Kelly

Recently I completed my 100th continuous night of Sessions since I came to Ireland.  Not something I set out to do but over the moon that it has panned out that way. Since I started at Tullamore on 15th May and then Ennis three days later for the Fleadh Nua I have not missed a night of playing Irish music and have not felt like missing one. My hundredth night was just a lovely quiet way to ‘celebrate’ with Joan Hanrahan and friends at Kelly’s Bar in Ennis – a classic Irish Pub with a long pedigree of traditional sessions.

It would be impossible to estimate how many sessions I have participated in as on some days such as in Miltown or any of the other festival for that matter I might have played in half a dozen. Quality has been variable as you would expect but at every session I felt privileged to be there.

I have played with musicians both ‘famous’ and unheralded (but not necessarily less talented), with musicians from all over Ireland and almost every part of the globe, musicians from 8 years old to 88 and beginners and masters of the tradition. And not only players but lovers of the music who might have travelled from Cork or Canada or Sligo or Sweden to just sit and listen for hours. All brought together to share this wonderful secret we all have that is Irish music. Shhh! Don’t tell anyone.

I have been to eleven festivals so far including Doolin, Willie Week, Spiddal TraidPhicnic, Tulla, Clare Fleadh at Kilaloe, Tubercurry, Drumshanbo, Achill, Feakle and the Fleadh Cheoil at Sligo. I have been to Workshops and Summer Schools and had lessons from fiddlers such as Maurice Lennon, James Kelly, Paddy Ryan, Tola Custy, Siobhan Peoples, John Daly, Liam O’Connor, Martin Hayes, Eileen O’Brien, Yvonne Kane and Yvonne Casey. So if I still can’t play the fiddle after all that then I have only myself to blame.

Whether I will continue at this pace I don’t know but for me the journey is not over and while I get something from each session I go to I will keep going.

I have put together 100 photos to celebrate these 100 days.  Some are amongst my favourite photos and others are of the many wonderful people I have met,  but collectively I hope they give some feel for the mood and magic that is an Irish music session.  Photos come from Miltown, Tubercurry, Drumshanbo, Spiddal, Achill and Feakle. I have included photos from sessions before Willlie Week in my earlier blogs.  Where possible I have tried to identify everyone.  Thanks Niamh and Graham for your help.  If I have missed anyone my apologies and please let me know and I will edit the caption,  and if I have spelt your name wrong, apologies again.

Thanks for the tunes!


Categories: Festivals, My Journey, Sessions, Trad Irish Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

McArthur’s Bar Tulla

I mentioned McArthur’s Bar in my recent blog on Tulla. I want to say a few more words on it. This place deserved to be in the late Peter McCarthy’s wonderful book McCarthy’s Bar even though he would have had to stretch the qualifications a bit (If you haven’t read this book it is a must; it is one of the best travel books written on Ireland). I saw the pub during the day and it looked to be just another abandoned building. A peek through the window failed to see any sign of life or even recent use and the weeds growing behind the front window did not look promising. But walking past it at midnight there was a glow of lights through the drawn shades and blurry shadows through the frosted window pane.  And the door was just slightly ajar. A familiar murmur came from behind the door.  The quiet hum you get from a pub pretending to be shut. I went through the door into the narrowest of rooms and it was jam-packed. With my fiddle on my back I could hardly squeeze through the door and then past the throng. I could hear music and I stood there momentarily until someone seeing my fiddle nodded his head towards the back saying “it’s in there”. I made my way through another narrow door into another crowded room. I couldn’t help but notice the floor as I walked up a distinct concrete slope. One can only imagine this being a huge advantage when they hose it out at the end of the day.

The music was getting louder as I reached the back room. It was coming from a bunch of kids most of whom looked under 15. By now it was midnight.  Their parents were watching and lemonades in hand they were producing magic music. I felt like an intruder but was invited to sit in. It was as good a session as any I had been to in Ireland.

This experience showed to me a window into the ‘real’ Ireland. A country that has gone through centuries of struggle and subjugation, indeed attempts to eliminate the Irish music and language, was here thumbing its collective nose at petty authority that says children can’t be in a pub after 9pm. Wonderful.

I said in an earlier post that one needs to “go with the flow” in Ireland. After this experience I should add “if you see an open door go through it”.



McArthur’s Bar in Tulla


McArthur’s Bar in Tulla at Midnight.


Categories: Sessions, Stories, Trad Irish Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Burren, Again.

The Burren in the north of Clare has an indefinable pull.  I can’t stay away.

When Geraldine, schoolteacher friend, asked me if I wanted to accompany her and the kids from her school at Doora near Quin on a hike through the Burren, I was a bit unsure. Didn’t sound all that exciting but I have made it a rule not to say no to anything since I’ve been here. So I agreed. I’m really glad I did.

The day did not start out too promising. I met Geraldine after a couple of false starts at 11:00am and four carloads of kids from 5th and 6th class with a handful of parents and teachers met at Crag Road, the start of our linear hike. We had hoped to use the National Park free bus service but times did not work so some cars were dropped over to Coolorta Cross, the end of the hike. By 11:45am we were on our way!

The weather was overcast but dry though rain was predicted (of course). The plan was to head up to Mullaghmore and then across to the next mountain (well they are technically hills) knows as Sliabh Rua. Wasting no time the kids headed out along the trail leaving me and a couple of stragglers in their wake. We caught up eventually (well I think they waited for me) and with barely time to catch my breath I found myself giving a talk on the unique geology that is the Burren.  After a month in Clare I was an expert on the Burren geology. Well the kids thought so. Some of them were surprisingly up to speed while others hadn’t even stepped foot on the Burren before.

We continued the climb along the ridge beneath the first cliff and I kept stopping to look at the amazing fossils and rock formations and to take photographs so of course we got further behind. By this time I was left with just one boy who delayed me further as I stopped to answer the non stop stream of questions and comments about what he was seeing. It was great to see this unbridled curiosity and his eyes opening to what was around him. Eventually we rejoined the group.

As we were on a deadline and I was slowing them down, we agreed they would go ahead and I proceeded at my own pace. I was in awe of the scenery at the top. Limestone bands twisted into gentle folds ran in sinuous waves across the barren treeless landscape. With the dull light it had a mysterious mystical quality reinforced by the clarity of the eerie silence. Truly a breathtaking place. In the distance I could see the group had reached the top of Sliabh Rua and were now proceeding down so I followed the contours around the mountain and attempted to re-join them. Distances are deceptive up here. It was a fairly treacherous descent over boulders and scree formed from jagged limestone. Every foot had to be carefully placed so there was no rushing. I would stop often to breathe in the view. A new vista around every corner. I never did catch them and I arrived at the cars about half an hour after the rest. We were lucky. The rain had held off.

I was mightily impressed with the whole day. The kids behaved impeccably and were a credit to their school.

Once they had left, Geraldine wanted to show me more of the Burren, a place she clearly loves, so we headed along another track to a Holy Well. I had never seen one before. This was a natural spring coming out of the base of a moss covered rock. Nestled in a dark cool glade which felt as ancient as it probably was. It would not have surprised to see fairies darting about!  There were cups hanging from a string inviting you to partake and there were ribbons hanging from nearby branches, perhaps some sort of offering.   An elliptical walled area a few metres across was apparently an ancient bath which was used for ritual bathing. It takes a while to get one’s head around the fact that this place may have been used by our predecessors up to 5,000 years ago.

The magic of the place was having an effect. We walked back along the track to see a car driving up the lane. I did not recognise the occupants but Geraldine did. There was P.J. Curtis (the eminent writer/record producer/broadcaster/historian) and Maurice Lennon (fiddling legend from Stockton’s Wing). I was introduced to them and they couldn’t have been nicer. We ended up back in P.J.’s house in Kilnaboy (built in 1770, the year Cook landed in Australia) listening to Maurice play tunes from ‘Light in the Western Sky’ (one of my favourite albums) and then some gorgeous airs including one of his own on his Viola. I had to keep pinching myself. P.J. gave us a tour of his Forge which was full of original equipment. It was the conclusion to a wonderful day.

If you go with the flow in this extraordinary country then extraordinary things happen.



Burren Limestone with fossil coral


Some of the wildlife in the Burren


Geometric patterns etched in the cliff face. The Burren


A large fossil coral colony. The Burren


On the way up to Mullaghmore


Pausing for a breather.


the view from the top


Heading across to Sliabh Rua


Spectacular landforms that make up the Burren


Twists and contortions in the limestone layers on Mullaghmore


One last cliff on the ascent of Sliabh Rua


Looking back from Mulalghmore


Gentle folds in limestone, Mullaghmore


Cairn, Mullaghmore, the Burren


The descent from Mullaghmore


Native orchard, the Burren


Limestone plain at the foot of Mullaghmore


Returned safely


Holy Well, the Burren


Moss covered walls of an ancient bath, Holy Well, the Burren


Glacial erratics, dumped at the end of the last ice age. The Burren


Meeting Maurice Lennon in the middle of nowhere


Mullaghmore. A distant view


PJ Curtis outside the Old Forge at Kilnaboy


Categories: Wild Ireland | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A New Home?

It’s been so long since I blogged and so much has happened. The really big news for me which I got today is that I have approval to stay in Ireland for the next 12 months. The journey which I started three months ago is not over. I can now plan for the future. Buy a car and rent a house for starters. And see if Ireland is really for me. Everyone (and I mean everyone!) tells me I won’t be able to handle the winter. We’ll see.

In the last six weeks I have been on the Festival trail. A journey that has taken me through Clare (Willie Week, Tulla and Feakle Festivals and the Clare Fleadh at Kilaloe) to Galway (TradPhicnic at Spiddal), Sligo (Fleadh Cheoil and Tubercurry), Leitrim (Drumshanbo) and Mayo (Achill Island summer school). I have attended concerts, lectures, workshops, recitals and of course sessioned relentlessly. Indeed every day for the past 97 days! Is there a Guinness record for that?

It has been a wonderful experience but the festival season has come to an end. I haven’t dared look until I knew what my visa status was but I am sure there will be some fantastic events ahead of me. Perhaps more space in between them now!

It just occurred to me that the reason I have come here is to learn fiddle and while I have played fiddle every day, sometimes for 10 hours in a day I have not done any ‘practice’. Playing in sessions is not practice. I have hundreds of hours of recordings of workshops, sessions and concerts to sort. Great material for new tunes.

Of course I ’learnt’ heaps of new tunes at the Schools, from James Kelly, Paddy Ryan, John Daly, Liam O’Connor, Tola Custy, Siobhan Peoples, Martin Hayes, Eileen O’Brien and Yvonne Kane, but am having trouble recalling any of them. So there’s a lot of work there for me. Likewise I have literally thousands of photos to sort from the Festivals and from my travels through Mayo and Connemarra as well as here in Clare.

I have met some wonderful people and have some great stories to tell, so bear with me and I will start posting again when I can.

A quick thankyou to everyone who has supported me and encouraged me in what I am doing over here. I won’t name you all but you know who you are. I have been warmly accepted into the musical and broader community here in Clare and am really looking forward to the year(s) ahead.

In the meantime with my mind firmly on where I might live for the next year I have identified a few likely properties. The views can’t be faulted!

Stay Tuned…..


Castle near Mullaghmore, Sligo



House on Inishbiggle, Achill. Co Mayo



House in Connemarra



Benbulben, Sligo



Connemarra, Co Glaway



Keel, Achill Island. Co Mayo



Achill Island Co Mayo



Achill Island. Co Mayo



Co Sligo



Innisheer, Co Galway



Cottage, Connemarra, Co Galway



Connemarra, Co Mayo



Categories: My Journey | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Blog at