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Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Moore on Mayo’s ‘mad’ venues and that miracle!
By: Michael Commins

Christy Moore has been around the course many times. The Kildare native has a fondness for Mayo that goes back a long way. He spent a time working beyond in the National Bank in Ballyhaunis after leaving school. And he learned a few tricks there that have served him well since. Tricks learned in Ballyhaunis are seldom forgotten!
Sometime ago, Christy published a book about his life and times. And it provides a special insight into his relationship with many of the 'plain people' of Ireland. Among his special friends is Gerry Murray from The Square in Charlestown, a writer, life-observer, playwright and scribbler.
It was in Gerry's hostelry that Christy first tried out "Lisdoonvarna" and it was after the two boys took a trip to nearby Barnacoogue hill that Christy put together a lock of verses which soon afterwards became the 'Knock Airport' song.
Gerry has been known to write a few verses himself and "The Least We Can Do" was recorded by Christy on his top selling album "Ride On". Recalls Christy in his book: "Gerry Murray from Charlestown, Co. Mayo sent me this good song. He is a diverse writer of plays, books and poetry. In his spare time he runs a lovely pub, and he and his wife rear a young family.

Excitement and danger

"Mayo has always been a unique county in which to perform. Such mad venues, full of excitement and danger. The Beaten Path was a huge drinking emporium miles from anywhere. I would always perform there before a showband. My concert would end, the bars would open and, chairs gathered up, 1, 2, 3 and away we go.
"I would come off stage in a lather to find the band togging off in the dressing room, Susan McCann or Philomena Begley putting on the war paint before facing up to a late night dance.
"The Midas Club in Ballyhaunis was built up by Paul Claffey whom I first encountered when he, aged 14, promoted a Planxty concert and did a good job on it. The Midas was like a large asylum with bars (for drink) on every wall.
"The first time I played there we sent posters that clearly stated "Concert at 9pm~ At 11pm the hall was completely empty, and at 12 midnight it was full. Mayo people came to concerts when they were ready. Cows milked, children washed, confessions made, sufficient pints drunk and then we'll go and see your man - when we are ready.
"The Traveller's Friend in Castlebar has undergone as many changes of direction as myself. I first played there on Christmas Eve in 1973, when it was barn-like and cavernous and almost empty. In 1996 1 played there again and it was full for six nights. "Another year in between, I did a guest spot for a song contest and went on stage very drunk, having travelled down by train with the actor Eamon Morrissey and drunk bottles of stout non-stop from Kingsbridge to Castlebar. Pat Jennings has booked me to play there on numerous occasions and I never know what to expect.
"Then there was the Sound of Music in Glenamaddy, O'Hara's in Foxford, Pearls in Ballina, along with The Georgian Rooms and Belleek Castle. Achill Island on New Year's Eve after the chicken and chips. I did not get on stage until 2 a.m. Sweet God, a venue in Ballinrobe where coffins were stored in the dressing room.
"Mayo has always been a great county for live music, and has produced many eccentric and distinguished impressarios, from Father James Horan to Paul Claffey and Andy Creighton.
"Oh take me home to Mayo."

The Knock Airport Song
"When I was driving myself around the ballad lounges of Ireland I used to have favourite halting places for rolling up a decent spliff before continuing on my travels. One such spot was Barr na Cuige near Hagfield, Charlestown, at the time this miracle was being constructed.
"I used to love lighting up and heading down the runway well toked-up; when I'd had my fill of speed and sweet smoke, I'd come down a gear or two and head on to The Traveller's Friend or the Beaten Path or some such joint to strut my stuff.
"Once, while having tea and sandwiches in Murrays of Charlestown, Gerry suggested I should write a song for Father Horan to help him in his labours. I knew the man from counting his Tooreen money in the National Bank in Ballyhaunis in 1965, so I set out to give Jemser a dig out.
"I wrote this song and everyone was pleased. Father Jim asked me to come in on the inaugural flight and be the first down the stairs, but I was offered a big fee to sing in The Gleneagles the same night so Charlie Haughey got the gig.

At the early age of 38, my
mother said Go West
"Get up said she and get a job", said I "I'll do my best"
I pulled on my Wellingtons and marched to Kiltimagh
But I took a wrong turn in Charlestown and ended up in Knock

Once this quiet crossroads was a place of gentle prayer
Where Catholics sought indulgence once or twice a year
You could buy a pair of rosary beads or get your candles blessed
If you had a guilty conscience you could get it off your chest

Then came the priest from Partry, Father Horan was his name
Ever since he's been appointed, Knock has never been the same
Begod said Jim "It's eighty years since Mary was about,
"Tis time for another miracle" and he blew the candle out

From Fatima to Bethlehem,
From Lourdes to Kiltimagh
There's never been a miracle
Like the airport up in Knock

We had the Blessed Virgin here Father Horan did declare
And Foster and Allen appeared just over there
"Now do you mean to tell me" said he in total shock
"That we are not entitled to an auld airport here in Knock

TDs were lobbied and harassed with talk of promised votes
And people who'd been loyal for years spoke of changing coats
Excommunication was threatened upon the flock
Who said it was irreverent
building airports here in Knock"

New everyone is happy and the miracle its complete
Father Horan got his runway and it's 18,000 feet
All sorts of planes could land there, of that there's little doubt
It would be handy for the yankees to take Gaddafi out.

Now poor auld Father Jim is gone to the airport in the sky
And down on Barr na Cuige he keeps a friendly eye
On Ryanair and Aer Lingus as they fly to and fro
Oh!, we'll never see his likes again on the plains of sweet Mayo

Did NATO donate the dough me boys?
Did NATO donate the dough?
Did NATO donate the dough me boys?
Did NATO donate the dough.
From Fatima to Bethlehem,
From Lourdes to Kiltimagh
There's never been a miracle
Like the airport up in Knock.

Snippets . . . Snippets . . . Snippets . . .

l Watch out for Kevin's Party Night in Bourke's lounge in Irishtown in early August.
Last year, Kevin Prendergast was joined by a host of friends for a special celebration night to mark the launch of his CD.
On Friday. 6th August, Kevin is organising another 'party' night in Irishtown where he will again be joined by Kay and the Country Stars and a number of other entertainers .... including Noreen Burke from Knockdoe, Tuam whose songs are much in demand on Mid-West Radio.

l Dates for Big Tom's 'comeback' tour in August are expected to be finalised inside the next two weeks. We will bring them to you as soon as they come to hand.
* Helen McCabe from Monaghan has issued her debut CD in recent days. Helen and her band have played a number of gigs in this region in the last few months.

l Galway "Faoileán" have recorded a demo CD which has already secured some airplay on the regional stations. It features Lorraine Godfrey from Brickens and Owen Diviney from Galway and included are such songs as Katie, Missing You, and Bright Blue Rose. They cover traditional and modern Irish songs and incorporate some international material for variety in their program. The contact number for Owen is 087- 9293490 and they will consider events in the Mayo region.

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