Leaning heavily on a walking stick held in his left hand he made his way up John B’s crowded bar and settled himself down on a chair beside me. “Mickey” he said, “It’s good to see you again after all these years.”
I looked blankly at him and he smilingly asked “Don’t you know me.” I racked my brain for a diplomatically polite way out before admitting that I was at a total loss.
“The last time we met was fifty years ago when we were classmates in St. Michael’s College in Enniskillen” he said.
“We were in the school band together – you were writing protest songs and I was making my way in traditional music”. “Don’t you remember”‘ he asked.
When I admitted I didn’t he said that he had a present for me and pulled from his pocket a five inch reel of Phillips magnetic tape.
He explained it was recorded at school on a Cossor reel to reel recorder and was a song I had written in the immediate aftermath of the Aberfan mining disaster exactly 50 years ago this month.
The recording had degraded to a huge extent because of its age but he had managed to salvage a few fragments and had transferred them to CD. When I listened later it swept me back a lifetime to another time and age.
And it made me realise that musical lives pass in a heartbeat. Even today I cannot believe that I’m not that mad young maverick with a beard and long hair who embarked on a quest to save the world.
I have great difficulty in realising that I’m damn near 70 years old and that a long lifetime stretches out between now and the young voice recorded on that five inch reel of magnetic tape all those years ago.
And I will remember how fast our musical lives pass when I perform at the Pádraig O’Keeffe Traditional Music Festival in Castleisland this weekend.
I will be reminded that we stand on the shoulders of giants and wonder did he also remain totally oblivious to the fleeting years of music, merriment and great friends.
‘Have you heard of the South Wales disaster
In the coal mining town Aberfan
One hundred and forty four children were lost
In a manner that shocked all the land.
It occurred in the month of October
At nine in the morning that tip
Broke loose from the top of the mountain Dear God
And buried the school as it slipped………..’
Mickey MacConnell will feature at the regular (Saturday 29th) afternoon Singing Session at Hartnett’s / Fagin’s Bar from 3pm and in the Sunday night concert line-up at the River Island Hotel from 8pm.
The 2016 Patrick O’Keeffe Traditional Music Festival will be held in Castleisland, Co. Kerry from Friday, October 28th to Monday, October 31st inclusive. Sunday Night Festival ticket bookings line: 066 71 42555
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