PRECIOUS footage of some of North Clare’s most renowned singers, musicians, dancers. storytellers and characters has been gifted to the county’s oral history group, Cuimhneamh an Chláir.
Excerpts of the material, gathered by piper Eugene Lambe in the 1980s, will be shown as part of a public interview with Cuimhneamh’s Coordinator, Paula Carroll, on December 1 at The Old Ground Hotel. The event, will also see the launch, by Dr Maura Cronin, of the organisation’s strategic plan and its new website (clarememories.ie). The interview with the acclaimed piper will be recorded for the very popular Cuimhneamh an Chláir podcast.
Having moved to Fanore from Dublin in the 1970s, the professional botanist, realised the importance of capturing the music and the characters around him.
“I was playing one night in O’Connor’s in Doolin and Dick Grant was with me and we were watching some of the local musicians and we were saying, ‘These guys are amazing and they won’t be around forever,” he explained.
“We thought it would be great to get video recordings for posterity. That was the nucleus of the idea. Of course, we had no camera and no expertise, but Paschal Brooks was doing wedding videos and we approached him and he did great work with us.”
Among the characters whose daily lives were carefully captured were John and Paddy Killoughery who lived on the side of Doonagore mountain in Ballyfaudeen.
“It was almost like they were living in a parallel universe,” Eugene recalled. “They were living in the twentieth century, but living in a way from way, way back. They were two brothers living in a house. The other brother Thady had gone to England. He played the pipes. Paddy played the fiddle and John was obsessed with whistles.
“They were like a married couple. John would make the bread and Paddy used to chase wisps of straw out in the haggard, thinking he was farming. They were in their 70s at that stage. It was a very simple house with the bread oven hanging over a few sods of turf. They had around 20 birds in cages in the house all singing different notes and different tunes. John would have about six watches on his left arm and another three on his right. He would be fixing watches for everybody.
“He’d fix old phonograph record players. He was a sort of an entrepreneur and very clever technically, with big shovels of hands. [Producer] Philip King was so excited that he went down to meet them and asked them to take part in ‘Bringing it all back Home’.
“I knew there was a whole generation, a whole way of life and of thinking, and the language, that were disappearing, so we also taped the last Irish speaker in Doolin, Paddy Shannon.”
Paula paid tribute to Eugene for marking the archive available through Cuimhneamh an Chláir. “We want this to be seen and Eugene has shared this online as well as giving it to us,” she said. “At the event, it’ll be a chance to come into the room and see some of it and share memories and hear memories about these musicians. That’s what is really exciting, getting the conversation going.
Founded by Dr Tomás Mac Conmara in 2009, the Cuimhneamh an Chláir archive is comprised of more than 700 interviews and runs to more than 1,000 hours.
“The idea was to keep the archive available to the public and in the public eye, so a number of times a year, we’ll go out and share the archive with people. We’ve also been doing a series of reminiscence workshops with day centres around the county. They’ve been just beautiful. I had six weeks of great fun in Raheen with a group in the day centre there.
“We’re doing one in the Mowlan Nursing Home in Kilrush. They’re just lovely and we’re going to spread that further around the county. Any centre with an activities coordinator can get in touch with us and we’ll work with them.
Paula said. Since taking up the coordinator’s role around 15 months ago, she has been able to tackle the tasks that a voluntary group would not normally be able to get around to.
“We got the funding through Rethink Ireland, who are amazing as well as ongoing funding from Clare County Council,” she explained. “The new website is courtesy of The Heritage Council.”
Much of the archive is available online through the new website. Individual recordings can be requested by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The event on December 1 is free-of-charge and gets underway at 7pm.
Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald.
Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti.
She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at The University of Galway.
If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at email@example.com or telephone 065 6864146.