THE Bould Thady Quill is famed in song and in story as a renowned athlete and sportsman — as well as for drinking black porter as fast as you’d fill.
But even he has to salute the achievements of the latest Muskerry sportsman, Irish Olympic hopeful Ciaran O Lionaird, who is aiming to be among the medallists in London. Ciaran embodies the up-for-it attitude of Quill, a spirit which is alive and well in the Muscrai Gaeltacht.
Though Ciaran hails from Toon Bridge, his roots are in Muscrai from where his father Sean, brother of Iarla and TG4 presenter Paidi, hails. One of my first jobs was with a company set up by Sean with Peadar O Riada, Mil an tSulain (The honey of the Sullane). That company is no more but from it grew Follain, the producers of jams and relishes, a company run by yet another O Lionaird, Peadar, with his wife Mairin, which is thriving in the Udaras na Gaeltachta estate in Baile Mhuirne.
O Riada this week launched his new cd, Triur Aris, a collaboration with Martin Hayes and Caoimhin O Raghallaigh. The first album from the trio, Triur sa Draighean, contained a reel for Barack Obama. When I heard the US president worked out listening to Irish traditional music occasionally, I sent him a tweet with this information. I didn’t get a reply but, who knows, he may be spinning as you read this to the lively tune recorded in O Riada’s kitchen in Cuil Aodha.
Iarla himself is involved in traditional supergroup, The Gloaming, along with Hayes and O Raghallaigh as well as Thomas Bartlett of New York parish. There’s only a few years separating myself and Iarla and we grew up in Cor Chuil Aodha together. He has gone on to world fame — while I am here counting my blessings.
Last year I was involved in the organisation of Feile na Laoch (Festival of Heroes), the inspiration of O Riada. It was a celebration of local, national and world heroes and it featured an open-air exposition/ aeraiocht starring Glen Hansard, Christy Moore and more. This summer we plan to celebrate the life and work of poet Sean O Riordain.
There’s an abundance of heroic spirit in Muscrai, which is not to say that communities throughout Ireland aren’t inspirational. I am of Muscrai, however, and it’s Muscrai’s song I’m singing here.
The spirit is well exemplified by the local business community. As part of my day job as manager of Comharchumann Forbartha Mhuscrai, I am involved in the publication of a newsletter called iMuscrai. For the last two editions, we’ve published recruitment ads seeking production managers for a local health-food plant and a technical writing service.
There are two new companies being set up as I write — one company which produces artisan black and white puddings for the Irish market and another which will distribute Apple computer equipment at a discount on the web, http://www.apple4less.com.
Certainly this ongoing enterprise would not be possible without the support in finance and expertise of Udaras na Gaeltachta. During 2011, Udaras supported the creation of 78 new jobs in the Muscrai Gaeltacht with more coming on stream.
It’s not that we don’t know there’s a recession on in Muscrai. We do. There are half-empty estates in Baile Mhuirne and a never-begun development in Cuil Aodha. Emigration is not unknown either. This is best illustrated by tracking where the newsletter is read online. I can point to readers worldwide.
The local hostelries are fighting the brave fight with well-attended music sessions in the Abbey Hotel, while the Mills Inn is planning a microbrewery on site in the next few months. During the summer, regulars of the Top of Coom, Ireland’s highest pub, organised a cycle from the pub to England’s highest pub on the Yorkshire Moors. The effort raised thousands for a local charity.
In a few months’ time, local bards and makers of verse will gather for Ireland’s only surviving poetry court, Daimhscoil Mhuscrai, where they will celebrate in poetry and song local heroes and events and bring back down to earth with adverse verse those who brought this country to the edge of the abyss.
There’s no fear of the recession in Muscrai but there is an indomitable spirit which will help us overcome this challenge with a smile and a song on our lips. It could even be the Bould Thady Quill!
Triur perform in a rare concert at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin tonight