How are things? Something occurred to me. It was that I haven’t been in a real music session in ages. If I was getting a session together in Drogheda I have my hitlist of people to call! These people pop into my mind now although there are dozens more who grace us with their presence from time to time!
I’ll start with Breifne Holohan and Trudy Maguire who play in a group called Uisneach. They both have collaborated since their college days in Dundalk IT and continue to play together. At the 2019 Fleadh, Uisneach played a set on RTE Radio 1’s John Creedon Show.
Donal Ó Maoileán is another man who would get the whatsapp nod! Donal has a ton of talents in his locker. I remember watching him act in a play called “The Stag” just days before the first lockdown in March. He has a big ballads voice. Loves the craic. He’d be my favourite teacher if I had him teaching me in the Gaelscoil!
Seamus Walsh would also be contacted by whatever means necessary and between Seamus and Donal the bodhran duties would be exchanged!
How could I leave out the Tí Chairbre gang? Every Wednesday for over 30 years an unaccompanied singing session takes place in Tí Chairbre. Is it the longest running weekly session in Ireland? It’s a Zoom session at the moment! It moved around over the years in day, place and time but has been a constant in Drogheda. Too many names to mention here but I will mention three. Seán Faulkner, Ruth Campbell and Dessie Howard would be getting a bell and some more of our mutual friends from Tí Chairbre would oblige them no doubt!
Dromiskin based Fiddler Roisín Ward Morrow would be getting the oul texsht as well. Roisín and her Drogheda Mammy Maria Clarke are always good for a song! Roisín has an album out called By the Light of the Moon. This is an album of slow airs in which she collaborated with Breifne Holohan. Go check it out here.
SJ and Barry from Kern, Niamh Parsons, The Dunne Family, Seán Conway, along with Fearghal and Bronagh Barnes have all been in and around Drogheda many times. Both Niamh Parsons, Eimear Carroll and Seamus Sheils now help run a session called The Black Bird Singing Club every second Tuesday of the month in a pub called The Punt in Drogheda.
Last but not least is the pivot point in the Drogheda Folk Scene, Darragh Ó Heiligh. To be honest it’s likely Darragh would be making the calls. As they say in Drogheda, “he’s an oul neighbour of mine” as he lives a 5 minute walk from me. Darragh began to play at Drogheda’s landmarks long before I did. He has started something that is continuing now and that he is reknown for. I won’t always keep up with Darragh in a session but I will always have my ear turned towards the pipes when he is playing. PS - he’s a savage bodrhán player too!
What I like about this collection of people in Drogheda is that none of them are precious about songs and song collecting. Us younger ones could argue we never knew the joy of song collecting as it was a generation ago when you had to get the old tape recorder out and meet people. This type of work is a craft and I would urge any of the old collectors to inspire us younger folk. There are still plenty of great songs out there waiting to be heard.
The world has niched many of its its niches. And in this there is a pigeon holing of values both musical and in etiquette. I say boo to that. Folk music is always about the people so lets make it up as we go along again like our ancestors did. Like Frank Harte said “"those in power write the history, while those who suffer write the songs”.
So what about Drogheda then? Is it that mad place you heard about in the News? Absolutely not. A little homework will leave you in no doubt that the issue with trouble in Drogheda always was Garda resources. Notice how everything kind of stopped around the 2018 Fleadh and at Election time? Notice how it hasn’t kicked off since? There you go. Drogheda is no different to any large town. There are no demographical anomalies (although there might be if the Dart line goes any further North!).
Drogheda is a relatively normal town with a commuter class on its fringes and the soul of an old medievil town that has origins over 1000 years old. It has so it has!
Have I sold you on Drogheda yet?