Pleasant if Poignant Reminders in Handed Down

And now for something not so completely different. Saturday night, October 4th in Scartaglin saw the second installment of the Handed Down series. Installment is the best word I can imagine in this instance as the series, so far, has installed and instilled a renewed sense of what we’re all about here in the Sliabh Luachra area.

The opening night belonged to Paudie O’Connor and his talk about the musicians of the Scartaglin area. The second, most surely, was Nicky McAuliffe’s as he took us on a journey through Cordal’s and Castleisland’s wealth of talent down through the years.

Even Eurovision Song Contest winning writer, Brendan Graham didn’t escape Nicky’s musical scope. Graham lived in Castleisland for a while in his young days as his father worked in the National Bank now the Bank of Ireland here.

As if to underpin our sense of reaffirmation there was some great music played on the night too. Tom O Connell , Niall O Connor and Cormac O Mahony were first to take the floor and they were followed by Conor Daly Rockchapel; Maura O’Connor, Abbeyfeale and P.J. Teahan. The Clare based, Murt Collins,  Knockachur sang and then the PJ Teahan composed ‘Tribute To Mike Kenny’ was played by its composer in the company of: Con Moynihan , Charlie Nelligan and Mike Rice. There was a grand finale then with: Anne and Nicky McAuliffe, Paddy Jones, Con Moynihan, Aidan Connolly.

While the greater part of the available thanks must go to PJ Teahan’s imagination and the support of his friends, I think Paul de Grae’s stirring words on the opening night of the run a few weeks ago really put this series on the road. His words provided it with its very own niche.

There was never a doubt about the success of the initiative but the heartfelt blessings of a highly respected musician of de Grae’s calibre meant a lot to PJ Teahan and to the future of the venture. That it has the backing of the likes of Paudie O’Connor and Nicky McAuliffe as presenters is another huge boost to the effort. It’s a lovely idea. It’s an education to some and a pleasant if poignant reminder to many others.

Several people commented favourably on the fact that we carried Paul’s full speech here after that opening night. It was like a reaffirmation of ownership. That, while we’re here,  we must do our utmost to guard and protect what we’ve been entrusted with.

It comes up from the ground and down from the skies, in from the sea and out of the woods to us.

That’s why PJ Teahan’s initiative has the people of the locality talking and looking forward to the next night in Scartaglin in early November.

There’s also a link to a film clip from the camera of the Kilflynn based Inishbofin native, Seán Abeyta for your perusal.

There’s music everywhere and it’s ours to mind. It’s been, quite literally, Handed Down.

The following is the opening speech delivered by Paul de Grae:

“I’m delighted to be associated with “Handed Down”, this series of talks and concerts that PJ Teahan has put together, and especially delighted that it’s happening here in Scartaglen, where you couldn’t throw a stone without hitting a musician or a dancer or a singer or a storyteller. You only have to look at the list of events to see the quality of what’s going to be presented here over the next few months. And I notice that PJ has even reached out to the neighbouring and overlapping cultural enclave of North Kerry (where I live).

In Ireland generally—and in this area in particular—we are blessed to have a wealth of traditional culture, still. It’s an almost incredible survival, because it really wasn’t supposed to happen. All of that richness was supposed to disappear. We, as an indigenous people, were supposed to disappear, to become absorbed into the culture of our colonial masters, to become like them. And that threat has not vanished with the achievement of independence. It has just got more insidious, harder to resist because now we’re doing it to ourselves. Instead of becoming like good little English men and women, now we are told by our own politicians and institutions that we need to become good little Europeans, good little consumers knowing our place in the globalized economy. What need have we of centuries-old tunes and songs?

The people of Sliabh Luachra never really swallowed that story. In other parts of Ireland, traditional music and so on has been revived over the past fifty years or so, and that’s great; but in Sliabh Luachra it never went away. The thread remains unbroken. That’s why, here, people are less inclined to accept what they’re told by academics, the media, and other institutions. The official line is that traditional Irish culture is dead and gone and with O’Leary in the grave; it’s no longer relevant in the modern world, but now that it’s safely dead, it can be processed and packaged and sold back to us as part of Brand Ireland, part of the heritage industry.

Not here, though. Here, despite all the homogenizing pressures of contemporary life, there is still a respect and understanding of the traditional culture, and a desire to see it continue. It’s about far more than a few old tunes; it’s about maintaining community. I like that this series is, in a sense, our community talking to itself. This is not an outreach of Official Ireland, this is people with a detailed knowledge of local culture talking to the people from whom that culture derives. At this stage of the game, I think that’s actually more important than trying to persuade the general public, in Ireland or abroad, to appreciate Sliabh Luachra culture. Let’s not look out there for acceptance and validation; let’s start with ourselves, internalizing our own acceptance and understanding of our culture before we engage with the dominant culture—which of course is, more than a little bit, inside us too.

So that’s my take on the “Handed Down” series. I see it as us reclaiming our own stuff. As I said, it’s not just about music; but music is certainly a big part of it, and I hope you enjoy the music you hear tonight. Thank you. Keep the faith!”