THE Clare Shout Cup has sat proudly on Mary Murphy’s mantel in Kilkishen for the last year but will it remain there for another as the annual competition to find the best Clare Shout heats up?
Mary is going to give it another go this year to retain the title but she admits that she would also be happy to pass on the accolade to another worthy opponent, should one emerge from the crowd on Saturday, September 19.
The fourth annual Clare Shout Festival will run in Kilkishen from next Thursday to Sunday, September 20 and there are a host of activities planned.
Among the wide range of activities will be a spectacular fireworks display as well as music, singing, a cookery demonstration, bingo, hurling tournament, soccer tournament, road bowling, a country market, vintage display, and plenty of children’s activities.
There will be traditional music and singing, gospel choir singing, rock music, a cookery demonstration will also be given by the well-known Frank Moynihan. Children can enjoy a treasure hunt, junior art workshop, family fun day and a street parade led by Tulla Pipers’ Band.
The main event of the weekend will, of course, be the Senior Clare Shout Competition, which will take place on the main street on Saturday night, September 19 at 8.45pm, with Clare FM’s sports commentator, Syl O’Connor acting as MC for the night.
This event attracted some 35 competitors last year and organisers are expecting about the same number this year. The winner of the competition might not necessarily be the person who shouts the loudest but the person whom the judges believe to be the best at delivering the unique and authentic Clare Shout.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, during the family fun day, younger competitors are in with a chance of becoming the next Junior Clare Shout winner, with last year’s winner, Caoibhe Kelly, 6, defending her title.
Speaking about her year since winning the title in 2008, Mary Murphy reveals she’ll “give it another go for the craic”.
“They are all saying everywhere I go ‘are you getting ready for the Clare Shout?’ and asking if I’m practising. I always get, What is the Clare Shout? Will you do it? What is it? People didn’t realise it was as big a thing. Then they want to know the history of it. It’s a good old laugh. A lot of people are getting interested this time around and I think it’ll be bigger this year,” she believes.
Asked what it is about the roar that is distinct, she explains, “There’s a twist to it. It’s not just a single roar it’s a double roar. It was my first time trying it at the festival last year people were saying ‘come on Mary’. It was a brilliant atmosphere on the night. I knew of the Clare Shout but it took me until the following day to realise that I’d won it. Now it’s back around again and I’ll have to give back the cup. It has been sitting right up on the mantel because I know it’ll only last a year,” she said.
But, she concedes, it could remain in the Murphy household as she may not be the only Murphy contesting the title this time around.
Since winning the competition last year, Mary has had to learn all about the history of the shout and has been able to pass this knowledge along to hopeful Clare Shout winners.
According to the competition organisers, the history of the Clare Shout is shrouded in mystery but it is understood to date back to pre-Celtic times in Ireland.
Older people in parts of Clare recall watching people of an even older generation facing the setting sun on fine autumn evenings while giving vent to a double-echo shout. This has led to the theory that the Clare Shout may have been a form of autumnal worship in pagan times.
Whatever about its primeval origins, the shout is unique to Clare as a rallying cry that echoed around Clontarf when Brian Boru led the clans of Dal gCais into battle against the Danes on Good Friday 1014.
It was also raised as a war cry by the men of Clare’s Dragoons at Fontenoy and on other European battle fields in later centuries.
According to Mike Hogan one of the organisers behind the shout, the call “greeted the great Liberator Daniel O’Connell when the people of Clare elected him as the first Catholic Member of the British House of Commons. It was a particular favourite of the late President and Taoiseach Eamonn de Valera, TD for Clare for over 40 years, who was fascinated by its unique double echo. The Clare Shout greeted the great Clare hurling team of the mid-90s as they won All-Ireland hurling honours for the Banner County,” he explained.
Whatever its exact origins, the Clare Shout has survived to the present day.