Hey everyone Happy St Patrick’s Day to one and all. Hope all of you who have celebrated the day have had a brilliant day and honour the man in the traditional style. As for me I got my celebrations in early by attending the Glasgow St Patrick’s family fun day on Saturday afternoon.
As always I had thoroughly enjoyable time at an event where there really was something for everyone and top class entertainment for the many who embraced both the day and their culture. It was a day when Irish-Scots were in the mood to celebrate our history and our heritage.
This is a history denied in Scotland for too many years by a unionist minded establishment the vast majority of whom believed falsely in my opinion and I speak as a church of Scotland attender that to be a good Scot you had to be a good protestant, and to be a good protestant you had to be British. This is complete drivel and has I believe led to generations of Anti-Irish racism whether intentional or otherwise.
The latest example of this bigoted attitude came from a hard-line unionist Labour back bench MP whom no-one outside political circles has ever heard of. The offender on this occasion was Jim Sheridan who claimed there should be no St Patrick’s festivals in our country as the Irish are not an ethnic minority in Scotland. I wonder if he would say that to the Italian or Polish diaspora let alone the Jewish or Asian communities. Somehow I very much doubt it.
We should remember that this is the same clown who once said that the United Kingdom as he calls it should have only one international football team as it would foster a spirit of togetherness. Well I have news for him it doesn’t work at the Olympics where I support Ireland. Come to think of it this nobody could become an Olympic hero but unfortunately bullshitting has not yet been introduced as a competitive sport.
Anyway, comrade Sheridan can expound as much excrement as likes it is after all the only gift Britishness has ever given the world but this jumped up nobody wasn’t going to stop us from being proud of our country or of our people. We were in the mood for a party and whether the pro Brits liked it or not we were damn well going to have one and we were going to enjoy it.
It has to be said however that there was one disappointment in what was otherwise a fantastic day and that came because I arrived to late to see my good friend and fellow Words and Music regular Jim Ewing perform his solo slot. For that I am truly sorry I did however hear that it went down well and was very well received by a cultured and appreciative audience.
On a brighter note it was good to catch up with friends some of whom I hadn’t seen for far too long. Amongst those friends were Jim, and another valued friend and fellow poet Maryanne Hartness, Colette Campbell, our genial host for the day Paddy Callaghan and the best flute player on earth Patricia McArdle. Now I know some people may accuse me of wearing my green tinted specs by making that last comment but I find them a grand accessory with tartantights, anyway to paraphrase a well known song title it’s my blog and I’ll be biased if I want to and nobody is going to stop me.
As I’ve said there were great sets from all performers who were a credit to themselves and our culture. The first set I saw from beginning to end was the Osborne School of Irish Dancing and the talent of those children was absolutely breathtaking. On seeing this group of amazingly talented youngsters Maryanne told me she had did irish dancing as a girl and was actually not too bad at it. I did however have to smile when she told me to watch the steps as she thought I would be trying it on my way home. If only I had the skill I thought to myself as I told her the only times I have tried Irish Dancing has been while I’m in the privacy of my own home or when I’m standing at bus stop and bursting for the loo. Yes I know it’s over sharing but at least I’m being honest.
Next up were Charlie Devlin and Friends who provided a rip roaring set with songs fit to grace any hooley. These included Song Of The International Brigade, and the traditional classics The Foggy Dew and The Fields Of Athenry. Needless to say as a left wing republican these songs are all close to my heart, and I don’t know why but I somehow managed to find my singing voice. I don’t know if this came as a surprise to Maryanne but if it did then she would be the only one as it certainly wouldn’t be a shock to anyone else in attendance.
At the end of an excellent set it was time to find out who would be crowned this year’s Mary of Dungloe and represent Glasgow at this year’s Dungloe festival in late July/early August. This event always a very high calibre of entrant but this year the judges had a very difficult decision to make. Eventually however they did decide that the winner of the crown and the 2015 Glasgow Mary would be Renfrew lass Joanne Ferry.
On being awarded the title our new Mary pronounced herself speechless and went on to inform us that this does not happen very often. Now I don’t know why, but I think I could have guessed that with a fair degree of accuracy. Anyway if your going to represent Glasgow at an international festival then shy is the last thing we want you to be. It is therefore good to know that this born again patter merchant will win the hearts of the festival goers by sweet talking the birds from the trees. As is customary on these occasions I did manage to have a quick word with our new winner who I have to say I found both chatty and charming. A polite well mannered lass Joanne said she couldn’t believe she had won, well I certainly can and I’m sure will be a brilliant ambassador for both Glasgow and Scotland just like her immediate predecessors Rosie Donaghy, and 2013 winner Grace Sweeney and should she ever wish to be a guest columnist on tartantights she only needs to say the word and its hers for the taking.
After Joanne’s coronation it was time for more music and who better to keep the party moving than the senior section of the excellent St Roch’s Celi Band. This is a seriously talented group of musicians all of whom are dedicated to their craft and they provided a thoroughly entertaining set, changing the pace as required to give all members the chance to showcase their skills and abilities. Believe me this was when my heart beat faster and my smile grew wider than at any time during the gathering. You see to those of us who our tradition there is and will always be something truly magical about the call of St Rochs.
At the end of their set I was approached by someone who asked if I wanted a leaflet for a show by our headline act who is performing her own one woman show at the Glasgow Comedy Festival. Since Michelle is a Baillieston lass I decided not only would take a leaflet I would take a batch of them and help distribute them round the gathering and beyond.
It was during this leafleting session that I caught up with some of my favourite musicians including the lovely Patricia McArdle and Colette Campbell who were amongst the stars of the of St Rochs Celi Band. As I chatted to Patricia I confessed that I hadn’t been around as much as I would have liked due in part to lack of disposable income and also due to my flatmate’s depression which has meant that I have to had to cut back on my social and cultural activities to a far greater degree than I would like. During our chat Patricia said she was playing lots of music at the moment which is keeping her very busy. This in my opinion is good news for both herself and the band as life is always more enjoyable when your able to share your talent with an audience who value your culture.
As I updated her on my news I told her I was writing lots of new poetry and I was beginning to get noticed to a far greater degree than was previously the case as I was performing at the kind of events that you have to be invited to attend. Though I recognised the effort I had put in to improve my own work I gave what I believe to be due credit to two friends who are very much valued members of my virtual village Althea Maxwell and Samantha Hands for encouraging me and challenging me far more than they may realise. I said that by providing this encouragement they had stretched me to write about topics I may not otherwise have attempted to tackle. I also informed her that she was is and ever shall be the best flute player on the planet and I didn’t care who thought I was guilty of favouritism.
Just as I was about to move on I remembered I brought some tablet which I had been given at the opening of Natalie McGarry’s campaign rooms and naturally I gave Patricia first refusal of a product I had marketed as republican tablet. Though I’m sure she may have been tempted Patricia politely declined though she did like the marketing line that one bite cures unionism. On finishing our chat
I was given a very gentle reminder that it had been far too long since our last catch up and told in as kind a way as is possible not to leave it quite so long till our next one. This made me happy and emotional, so emotional in fact I didn’t know whether to smile or cry those happy tears that only the best people see.
After our chat it was time for the headline act which was none other than Baillieston’s very own Michelle McManus. It has to be said I am and always have been a big fan of Michelle and she always gives a great performance to a crowd who love her and are proud that she’s one of our own. In a set which was all too short Michelle sang traditional favourite Star of the County Down which I am told was one of my granda’s favourites, the much more contemporary Galway Girl, and finished up that crowd pleasing classic We’ll Have Our Own Las Vegas In The Hills Of Donegal.
The formal part of the day over it was now time to say our goodbyes and to make sure that I gave someone else a bit of republican tablet. It has to be said that when I offered Colette some of this magical product she was quick to snap it up though she told me it was for her husband, as Liam has a sweet tooth. Personally I wish I’d brought more of it as Colette could I’m sure have been doing with some after being ran ragged by her youngest daughter Luna Jade. When I asked her who Luna got her energy from I think she would have liked to say Liam but she fessed up and said it was actually her as she’s been told that’s what she was like at that age. Well they say your past comes back to get you and now Colette must know what her mammy felt like running after when she was Luna’s age. That said however I know that neither Colette nor Liam would swap their two lovely wee girls Luna Jade or her big sister Heidi for a million pots of gold.
As I chatted with compare Paddy Callaghan I congratulated him on a job well done and another fantastic day. Paddy who is by nature a modest man didn’t think he had done anything that much to contribute to the day, but believe me he couldn’t be more wrong if he tried to be. Speaking as someone who has compared a spoken word event for nine years I know a good host when I see one and with his warm relaxed and welcoming manner Paddy Callaghan is such a host and has become part of what makes this family such a fantastic occasion in which to celebrate our culture and tradition.
At the end of our chat I made my way back home on a day which showcased all the best things about being an Irish-Scot. By this I refer not only to the music, stories and songs of the country of our kin but also the kindness and warmth found in the welcome given to each and every one who attends this magical gathering. So on a day when a Renfrew Ferry gets ready for a Donegal summer I think you will agree that singing the songs of our heritage gives us reason to be proud of our journeys.
Love And Best Wishes