The beginning of 2021 was tough. Although I didn't publicly talk about it until now, I lost my last grandparent in the middle of the January Lockdown. Sheila was my Dad's Mam. She used to mind us when both my parents worked in the early 1990s. My Mother worked in Drogheda's "rag trade" in Ushers in Greenhills, making things like Golf Towels and Tea Towels in the trade that Drogheda's most prolific songwriter, John Shiels, had worked in over 130 years ago.
Most of my formative years were with "Granny across the Green", as we called her. It was across the Green because we all lived in Ballsgrove. Anybody who has seen Ballsgrove's Green would know that all 8 acres of it seemed like a considerable distance to young 4-year-old legs! And in a funny spin back to Sheils, my Granny originally came from Mell and she too worked in the Rag Trade in her youth. Sheila could well have been the "nice little neat little factory maid" that Shiels wrote about in his song "The Factory Maid". We miss her dearly.
Despite all the January Lockdown gloom and the loss of a loved one, there was a song that held firm. It's no wonder that "The Hope that Hope will give" came your way. The song was intended to be a charge of Hope looking at better days. Andrea Delaney from Anúna reallly owned the song.
Since the release of the song a few people have asked "what does the hope that hope will give even mean?". Well it's a bit like being at a party. Imagine everyone in the room waited for everyone else to say hello. It would be a weird party wouldn't it? Hope can be taken that way. If we start with a bit and share it with somebody else we can get the ball rolling and then its not too long until it rolls back!
Welcome to Ballsgrove has been a pivot point for many memories. The title single was like all the planets aligning in a way. You all got it, and that was a thrill. In the same session as that title track, we laid down most of the other songs. Not alot has seen the light of day yet. There are loads of reasons for this. Not being able to travel freely was a drag. And so was getting people free on the days when everybody else was free! See, I work weekends. And have committed to minding my twin girls for most of the weekdays. So I am on those funny Soccer Mom hours!
Consequently, simple things didn't happen as they should have, partially because of my work commitments and partially because of travel restrictions. Despite all that, we are getting there!
As for when the Album will be out, the plot has thickened a little bit! There will now be a short documentary to accompany the Album. We have already had three amazing people take part in interviews. More are planned. The first day of filming suddenly made the Album and Documentary a work of great substance. It will mean the Album will have to wait a little while longer. I can't wait to share everything when its finished.
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I remember my first Drogheda United match in the 1990s. I went with a couple of school friends. Then from the stands, the chant ' he's fat, he's round, he bounces off the ground Seán Mathews, Seán Mathews! " rang out. My friends had a good laugh. I looked myself over and thought, "really?".
For a moment, I thought my friends had set it up. You see, there were a few of us Sean Matthews lads. First, my parents' Insurance Broker, Seán P Matthews. Then there was a pal of my Dads at the office, aka the local pub. And then that night, I learned of a third Seán, a Drogheda United stalwart who alongside me was taking a bit of slack that evening in United Park!
It was a funny old world back then without Google or Mobile Phones. You learned these things slowly.
Then there was a Seán Mathews that was related to me. It took us a few months working together to realise this! He was a Clogherhead man and belonged to the same clan of Mathews as my Fathers Grandparents had who lived on the Big Strand in Clogherhead. They all used one T in Mathews as far as I know. So I reclaimed that. Funny Story. So this Seán Mathews had found out I was going out to sea on a 10 day trip for the first time. He said, "don't worry young sham, you'll be grand, make sure you eat plenty, you'll be feeding the seagulls as soon as you turn out the pier! '. In fairness... He was nearly right !
In the musical world, I share my name with a popular DJ. This Seán Mathews has a large following and some high-quality material. He is also verified on Facebook and ranks higher than me in any search online. It seems I am overshadowed. But am I?
I have recently made an effort always to spell my name with an Irish fada. Seán. In the past, I didn't use a síneadh fada. I didn't like how the Irish Language was taught to me in school. So you could say I rebelled a bit, and I dropped it.
I was always a Seán because I pronounced the fada, I didn't say "See an". I've realised I was wrong not using the fada all along despite what I thought of my teachers. "Shawn", "Shaun" or "Shon" are all pronounced in the same way, but those spellings support the pronunciation in English. Mine doesn't work without a fada, so it's essential!
The Irish Government has drafted legislation to solidify the fada in legal documents, computer keyboards and IT systems. With this, I believe some distinction will be more visible, at least in Ireland.
So there's hundreds in the Seán Mathews club anyway.... maybe more? Get in touch ! Are you one?
I could have been born a John Smith. Millions of me in the world. Fortunately, I'm not. Luckily there aren't too many Folk Musicians in Ireland called Seán Mathews with albums called Dreaming is Allowed and songs like Welcome to Ballsgrove. I can live with it. Do I think I am the next Declan O'Rourke? Not me, not ever. Commercial acclaim for me is like going into the Newsagents and doing the lotto. You think about winning it, but you think more about getting 4 or 5 numbers because it is much more possible. Grand. Keep calm and tip on.
If you are reading this far, you are a part of a small thing. You will take the time to find me and my next single or album. And if you want to help me out, tell a friend about me. Torture them with my tunes. And oh yeah, use the fada!
If you are another Seán Mathews reading this, I feel your pain but remember there is enough room in the bed for everyone!
Talk again soon,