Archive for May, 2010

LIFE AT THE CROSSROADS AGAIN – Blog dated 20th May 2010

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

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X-PO Killinaboy. 16th May 2010.


“The most social place of all was the crossroads here outside the Killinaboy post office. There was a huge tree and it was under that big tree people used to meet on a summer evening and we’d play pitch and toss and the older people would be talking about farming and local topics or who was getting married, who was born or who was dying. I was only in my teenage years then”. These are the words of Vincent Lahiffe. Vincent is a native of the parish of Killinaboy with a great fondness for remembrance of things past.

The tree at the crossroads has long since been cut down and most of the pitchers and tossers have passed away. Moreover, the other great social hub at the cross, the post office, is no more either. It was closed down in 2002.

With the demise of the post office as a civic space, Killinaboy cross was largely reduced to a junction for passing cars. That was until local artist Deirdre O’Mahony reopened the post office as a community and arts space in 2007. She cleverly christened the “new” space X-PO

O’Mahony also set about archiving as much information as possible about the former postmaster John Martin “Mattie” Rynne. The post office was Rynne’s working and living space but the world was his oyster. At night he would listen to short wave radio and teach himself languages. By all accounts he was a private, sensitive man with a great thirst for knowledge about the big world.

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Mattie Rynne portrait

Deirdre made a large wall-drawing of Mattie above the stove in the living room. It was in fact soot from the stove which was used in the drawing of the portrait. Locals say the drawing bears a remarkable likeness to the man himself. Mattie is now a giant at the shoulder of all who walk into his former home.

Since 2008 X-PO has been run by a team from the local community (including Deirdre O’Mahony). Culture clubs use the space on a regular basis and thus X-PO plays host to songsters, Irish language enthusiasts, traditional dance students and the local mapping group amongst others. There is also a monthly heritage talk and the occasional one-off event. The highlight of each year is the lighting of the parish’s Christmas tree in the grounds of X-PO – a ceremony attended by over 100 people. The main man on the occasion is Santa Claus.

The space has been home to two art exhibitions so far this year. The current exhibition is called Research, Tracing and Tales of Killinaboy Townlands and Inhabitants. The local mapping group has documented the human settlement since the mid-1800s of 24 of the parish’s 51 townlands. Research included interviews and extensive field work. Audio recordings and maps form the basis of the exhibition which amounts to a very rich and detailed chronicle of the rural geography and history of a parish in Ireland over the last couple of centuries. The group has not only traced and mapped forgotten stones but it has also saved stories which were bound for oblivion. The core mapping group consists of John Kelleher, Francis Whelan, Brendan Beaky and Seán Whelan. The exhibition runs from May 16th to 30th. Opening times are Monday to Friday 8.00 pm to 10.00 pm; Saturday and Sunday 2.00 pm to 5.00 pm.

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John Kelleher and Francis Whelan at the exhibition launch.

The X-PO is open from September to May each year. John Martin “Mattie” Rynne former postmaster of Killinaboy and citizen of the world looks on contentedly. Come and see.

Footnotes

1. Killinaboy is the most south-easterly parish in the Burren region. It is home to one of only six national parks in the Republic of Ireland – the Burren National Park.

2. A townland is the smallest officially recognised geographical unit in Ireland. It is smaller than a barony, parish or county. There are estimated to be over 60,000 townlands altogether on the island of Ireland. The smallest is less than an acre (2,700 square metres) in size. The largest is more than 7,000 acres (28.3 square kilometres).

3. The names of the townlands which feature in the current X-PO exhibition are Ballycasheen, Booltiagghadine, Bunnagat North, Bunnagat South, Caherblonick North, Caherblonick South, Caherfadda, Cahermacon, Carrownamaddra, Coad, Commons North, Crossard, Drummoher, Elmvale, Inchiquin, Killinaboy, Leamaneh North, Leana, Monanaleen, Noonan, Parknabinnia, Rinnamona, Roughaun and Commons South

NO ORDINARY PUB – Blog dated 12th May 2010

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

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The charismatic Lisdoonvarna publican Peter Curtin is in demand. It seems all the national media wants to talk to him. Yesterday it was the Irish Times. This morning it was Newstalk Radio. Peter is in the news because he has just launched the Burren Tolkien Society on two continents – North America and Lisdoonvarna! He is of the strong opinion that the otherworldly Burren in County Clare was the inspiration for Middle Earth in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Tolkien’s connections with the region are in fact well detailed on the new society’s website. The society had 7 members as of this morning. However, if further research proves that Tolkien’s book was indeed inspired by the Burren, the society will not remain a small band for long.

A plaque outside the pub commemorates the founding of the society but also in a sense it puts the visitor on notice that he or she is about to enter no ordinary bar. The pub interior is perspiring with old character and the customers are an intoxicating (not intoxicated) mix of locals and visitors. The 101 year old pianoforte is a strong statement in itself of the importance of music in the establishment. Garret Fitgerald former Taoiseach/Prime Minister is one former owner of the piano. The pint of stout here is always frothy and fresh and then the whole affair is presided over by Peter with his singular panache. The pub was founded in 1865 and has been under the management of the Curtin family for 3 generations now.

I rambled in 2 Saturdays ago on the trail of a few tunes and was not disappointed. The ensemble was Paul Dooley (fiddle), Terry Bingham (concertina) and Ian Lambe (guitar). The trio played a sweet selection of polkas, jigs and reels.

Apart from playing fiddle, Paul is a fine harp-player and harp-maker. Ian hand-makes polished aluminum tuneable low whistles and sells them mainly on the worldwide web. He also made the beautiful guitar he is seen playing in the photo. Terry is from the north originally but is at home playing the instrument most associated with County Clare i.e. the concertina. That all adds up to an awful lot of talent around a pub table on a Saturday evening.

Ireland is home at the moment to one the western world’s richest folk music traditions. County Clare in its turn is the unofficial capital of the music in Ireland. (“If it’s music you want, You should come to Clare…” from the song “Lisdoonvarna” by Christy Moore). And as for the Burren itself, it would be no bad thing to set up a musical pub trail in the region which would include information on-line and off about the great tunes going down in vibrant music villages and towns such as Lisdoonvarna, Kilfenora, Doolin, Kinvara, Corofin, Ballyvaughan………

In the end I beat the midnight curfew albeit reluctantly but not before paying homage on the way home to the Tolkien plaque. By the way you can catch music sessions at the Roadside on Friday and Saturday evenings 11 months of the year. In the month of July there is music every evening except Sundays.

No ordinary pub – no. One of the finest pubs on the western seaboard of Ireland – yes.

Next blog – Research, Tracing and Tales. A remarkable exhibition of local maps and history at X-PO, the former post office in Kilnaboy.