When bestowed with the honour of being Grand Marshall at Dunboyne’s first ever St Patrick’s parade, the opportunity arose to write a piece for the commemorative programme produced to mark the occasion. The theme which shaped the piece was, basically, how much the place had changed throughout the course of my lifetime.
Thoughts venture down that route again. At the outset of a particular part of life’s journey, the most especial connection would have been felt with the top end of the town. Only the current home of the GAA club would run it close for popularity. For me, and many others it’s guessed, Tom Yourell’s dear old field was – and forever will be – the spiritual home of such activities in the locality.
Even in those days, there was a thriving business community in that part of home. The hub of which was Coogan’s Shop. There was also, however, Joe Martin’s butchers shop, Cute Cut hairdressers and several others. The old shop is sadly no more, several businesses have come and gone since Joe cut the last steak thence, but thankfully the hairdressers remains – a fitting tribute to its late owner, Mrs Kay Reilly, God rest her.
Apart from the places, most profound memories revolve around characters encountered up there. Part of my life’s education took place up there with Tom. Either at the fence by the football field or the windowsill out the shop. From the latter there was a view of passing life of the community and the people therein.
At this time, I recall especially the late Vincent Poleon. Whenever Vincent happened upon myself and Tom outside the shop it ended up in a lengthy three way conference outside the shop. Anyway, one late evening when the main man wasn’t to be seen, Vincent invited me to his home across the road.
Only to discover when we got there that wheelchair into house wouldn’t go! Plan B was quickly formulated, mind you, and a wonderful evening – which became even more treasured following Vincent’s untimely passing some years after – ensued in the garage with my host and his wife Anne.
Now, it was known to me that Anne happened to be a sister of John Sheahan of The Dubliners. However, at some point during our gathering, either an old vinyl record player or a CD player was produced and thereafter hours worth of the music of Ireland’s greatest musicians whiled away the night. And cemented an affinity with and affection for the group’s music within yours truly which will eternally burn.
What that night also did was facilitate the claiming of a local link of sorts with The Dubliners. Indeed, the depth of the Meath links with the group only became really apparent, to me at least, following the passing of Barney McKenna and his being laid to rest in Trim a few years ago.
Before achieving worldwide fame as The Dubliners, of course, the formative stages of the group’s existence was as The Ronnie Drew Group. Yet, in some ways at least, for me, Luke Kelly was the band’s figurehead. Kelly will forever resonate most closely with your columnist. Perhaps mostly owing to his iconic association with ‘Scorn Not His Simplicity’: He looks almost like the others, yet they know he’s not the same.
Therefore, recently hearing that David Yeates – musician supreme and member of an esteemed locally family – encountered Betty Kelly, sister of the late Luke, whilst performing in a Dublin pub, stirred memories of times past locally and of special links to musical greatness.
It turned out that David had performed the ‘Night Visiting Song’ while Betty was in attendance. That was the last number Luke performed publically prior to his passing. So, in one sense, not only will that particular tune carry extra meaning whenever it is now heard, in another way, the chance encounter in a hostelry has woven another strand of special fabric to this area’s relationship with the band.
They say in certain facets of life timing is everything. Therefore, there was something entirely apt about the musically themed encounter taking place around the same time as Fleadh Na Mi was happening in the village. It marked the second consecutive hosting of event here and it’d be great to see it becoming an annual fixture.
On a personal level, it was special in a way some may not quite understand to see the link with the area and The Dubliners maintained and there are now a couple of more individuals on the ‘must meet’ list.