Monthly Archives: December 2015

Ireland – The Next Chapter

I’ll start this blog with some good news. Those of you who follow me on Facebook will already know that my application to remain in Ireland has been accepted and I can stay another 12 months.  The wait has been interminable. Over four months without a word and without any response to enquiries.  Everyone I spoke to about it seemed to think that was pretty normal and that I just had to wait.  Meanwhile my visa had expired and my life was on hold.  My inability to prove residency and obtain an Irish driving licence led to refusal to re-insure my car and so for three months I have been unable to drive.  It will still be a couple of months before that is rectified.

I wonder why some countries make it so difficult for people to come and live.  I am sure Australia is just as bad with people wanting to reside there.  I just don’t get it though.  I am self-sufficient, I have met all the requirements, I accept that I can’t work or run a business but still I have to go through all these hoops and am met with a wall of silence when I try to find out what’s going on.  In Ireland, the hundreds of millions of people in the Eurozone can come and go as they please but the few thousand Aussies who want to make Ireland home (even for a short while)  find that to stay longer than 90 days is laced with any number of difficulties.   A country looking to recover from an economic catastrophe should be welcoming anyone who wants to come here and spend money.

Anyway I am undaunted because I am not ready to go home.  Over the next year I will explore ways of obtaining longer terms of residency to continue on my musical journey.  But Ireland has become much more than that to me.  It has etched its way into my being.  With a few exceptions, which I won’t dwell on, I have been welcomed here with open arms and open hearts.  It is such a contrast to the anonymity of Australian suburbia where you can live for years and never be recognised by your neighbours. Here I live in a small community and people take you as you are.  I am often greeted by strangers “with a warm and kind hello” as in the lyrics of the song “The Clogher Road”.  I have had many offers of lifts to do my shopping or get coal as people became aware of my predicament.  And in my cycles around West Clare I am often tooted with recognition or waved at by people who obviously know me even if I don’t recognise them.

And I feel part of the wider community also, throughout Clare and beyond.  Facebook and this blog have allowed me to keep in contact with the hundreds of people I have met through music in Ireland and around the world.  And to share my experiences and images.  I have received a terrific response to my posts and it seems to me that the Irish and followers of Irish music around the world love to read about and see what’s happening around the country.   Many of my overseas friends tell me they live a little vicariously through my blogs until they can actually get here themselves.

So I will continue to write and photograph.  I will of course play music.  Both in sessions and at home.  I can feel myself improving and want that to continue.  Perhaps I won’t go to sessions every night – I will speak about that in another blog.  I want to explore more of this country and as soon as I can drive I want to revisit some of my favourite places (such as Connemara, Aran Islands and Donegal,) and to find new favourite places, especially in the remotest parts of Ireland to discover the people and music there.

So please stay with me on my blog and follow me on the next stage of my journey…

Here are some of my favourite pictures from the past year or so, which may help you understand why I don’t want to go home.


A stormy day near Spanish Point, Co Clare


The last day at the old Brogan’s Pub in Ennis.


Sunset at Caherush, Co Clare


A peek into a session at Pepper’s Pub, Feakle, Co Clare


My cottage in Clare


Near Mullaghmore, Co Sligo


The Burren bathed in golden light


The magical Mount Errigal, Co Donegal.

Categories: My Journey, Real Ireland | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Good Mixer – Music from a London Pub in West Clare

Talk about a wild night.  I stepped outside in the wind and it blew me into Friel’s pub last night.  That was mighty lucky as Noel O’Grady (bouzouki), Henry Benagh (fiddle), John Carty (banjo) & Marcus Hernon (flute) were there launching their album “The Good Mixer”.  And what a good mix it was.  The title of the album references The Good Mixer pub in  Camden Town in London where these four guys lived in the 1980s.  For five years this pub was the go-to place for Irish music both among locals and Irish visitors alike.  And this CD gives us an inkling as to why.  The recordings were made one afternoon in 1989, in the home of John Carty, as the sessions were coming to an end.  Essentially live to tape.  And it is surprisingly good.  The band has got back together to do four low-key launches in the home towns of each of the members,  Henry is from Miltown Malbay (hence Friel’s), next stop is Galway, then Matt Molloy’s in Westport and finally in Roscommon, John’s home.

The CD contains a terrific selection of lively tunes and I love it but to hear and see the musicians in the flesh was a real treat.  Even though they had not played together for over 25 years it was tight and energetic with a fresh, original sound.  But the boys soon got sick of playing on the stage and adjourned to the middle bar of Friel’s where they were joined by John’s daughter Maggie and some of the local musical talent in Miltown including Liam O’Brien, Therese McInerney and Bernadette McCarthy who had played piano on some of the tracks on the recording.  Interestingly this was the first time Bernadette and Marcus had met for 27 years.  It was a great night and a privilege for me to play with them and we were totally unaware of the storm raging outside until we staggered into the night at 1:30.

If you get the chance try and catch them or failing that keep an eye out for some video I will post in the next few days.


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Categories: Concerts, Sessions, Trad Irish Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where Does the Music in Ireland go in Winter? Answer…. Fitz’s bar in Doolin.

It’s the last night of November.  I am in Doolin in West Clare.  The rain is lashing.  It’s windy and cold.  Normal Irish winter actually.  So of course the only place to be is in a pub in front of the fire with a hot whiskey or a Guinness and listening to or playing Irish music.

Well that’s the plan anyway; during the summer here in Doolin you can find music every night of the week in any of the four pubs; not so now.  All the mid-week sessions have pretty much packed up.  Except that is on Monday nights at Fitz’s Bar at the Hotel Doolin.  Every Monday night, summer or winter, for the last couple of years this session has acted like a beacon in the musical desert (sorry about the mixed metaphor).  Or perhaps an oasis in a stormy sea (there I go again!).

That’s where I ended up in any case.  It has a peculiar welcoming vibe.  The session is hosted by Eoin O’Neill, Quentin Cooper,  Adam Shapiro and Jon O’Connell who are collectively The Fiddle Case and all very well-known musicians around Clare.  They love playing together and that infectious energy is picked up by the musicians attracted there to play with them.  This night we had noted box and concertina player Terry Bingham and Christy Moore’s siblings, Anne Rynne and Luka Bloom join us as well as regulars such as Andee from the States and Séverine from France along with local and international visitors.

Walking into this pub on a Monday is like a welcome home party.  There are so many regulars, locals for which this is their only night out and visitors who though strangers at the beginning of the night may be lifetime friends by the end.  There is always a good mix here.  The tunes are of course at the centre but there will be songs, always of surprising quality, and often from unknowns that Eoin plucks from the crowd.  After thirty years of doing this in Doolin he is a master.

Always a highlight for me is when Jon O’Connell sings Liscannor Bay.  This wonderful song written by local man Mick Flynn has been made his own by John and with the subtle and restrained backing of the fiddle, bouzouki and slide guitar from the band has truly become an anthem.  The great news is that a definitive version has been recorded.  It is not yet available commercially and can’t even be heard on line but it is receiving airplay on ClareFM and wherever good traditional music is played.  Keep your ear open for it.  I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I do.  Even better news is that an album will be released soon with Liscannor Bay included.  Can’t wait.  I really hope it catches the spirit that is Fitz’s on a Monday night.  I am sure it will be very sought after by visitors wanting to take a little of that magic home with them.

It continues to surprise me why many pubs get rid of musicians in winter.  Fitz’s shows what you can do if you pick the right musicians and create the right vibe.  But luckily it’s not the only one.  Try Friels in Miltown Malbay on Friday, Saturday or Sunday or Cooley’s House in Ennistymon on Tuesdays or the Cornerstone in Lahinch on a Sunday if you can’t find anything in Doolin or Ennis.

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Categories: Sessions, Trad Irish Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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