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Photos by Bert Linton & Sarah Bennett

2006 Ireland Tour Journal

Wednesday, May 3

Philip, Bert, and I boarded our Delta flight in Charlotte with no problems. Philip and I had seats together and Bert ended up beside a nice woman who was just returning from Ireland with stories to tell which we think calmed his nerves. In Atlanta, Sarah Bennett, my friend from Colorado who is helping me sell CDs and T-shirts, spotted us sitting in a café near our gate and all seemed well. Then we noticed on the concourse monitor that our departure time had changed. The flight was delayed by over two hours - Sarah and I played double solitaire on the floor at the gate while Philip picked out melodies on Sarah's banjo uke, and Bert did a little more "training" for his first Irish pint.

Thursday, May 4

Mid-morning, we emerged from customs in Shannon with our baggage carts to find a waiting-weary but smiling Robert whose flight actually got in a little early. We headed to the Estuary Café for a bite and then changed a little money and retrieved our rental cars. We decided to go to nearby Bunratty Castle before getting on the road for Bundoran. A living history museum, this medieval castle allows visitors to step back in time to try on the persona of a lord or lady, cook, priest, or unfortunate prisoner. We stopped in Cort for lunch at a little café on the square - a delicious first meal in Ireland of aubergine and goat-cheese tart, winter squash soup, and scones. When we arrived in Bundoran, Johnny Gallagher and his family welcomed us with big smiles and Irish whisky. Johnny is Robert's friend from the Rain Dance tour and one of the musicians who is booking us. We settled into our apartment, took an evening nap, and then went over to The Wharf - the local club where we are booked on Saturday - to hear Johnny and his band play the last few songs of the night.


Friday, May 5

In the early afternoon, we had our first look at downtown Bundoran. We changed some money and ate lunch together at a local restaurant where we learned how to ask for ketchup among other things. In the evening, we drove over to Johnny's studio to pick up the equipment we will be using, set everything up in the kitchen of our apartment, and rehearsed the songs that will be hardest to pull off without Shawn on Saturday. Later, Johnny and his partner, Rosaleen, dropped by and Johnny used my acoustic guitar to join in on a few tunes.

Saturday, May 6

I found a place in Bundoran with wireless Internet access - the bar of the Grand Central Hotel. But oddly enough, they expect people to buy something to eat or drink while there. So, Bert and Philip are now spending a lot of time in the hotel bar on "band business." The first gig tonight at The Wharf turned out well. Our new Irish friends came and brought relatives and friends of their own. Johnny sat in with us on the second set and the music got pretty wild as he and Philip played off each other's leads. After we finished our two sets, we all enjoyed kicking back for a couple of hours with the patrons and staff. The bar has a license to stay open only until 12:30 am but the authorities don't bother too much with enforcing the rules at this time of year. It was a very late night but really fun - the first of many I'm sure!


Sunday, May 7

I woke up with an upset tummy (no, it was not a hangover as I only had one half-pint of Guinness) which gradually worsened as the day went on. So, it was a day to rest and get ready for what will surely be a killer week with two radio interviews and six gigs in seven days. We eagerly await the arrival of Shawn mid-week. He will rent the third car at Shannon airport and meet us at the Breffni Arms Hotel in Arva on Wednesday which will lessen our load considerably - both in packing the vehicles and making music on stage.

Monday, May 8

We had a lovely dinner with Sarah's friends, Daphne and Brian O'Mahony, who live north of Bundoran in Stranorlar (try saying that fast 10 times), before heading over to the Highland Radio station in Letterkenny. We found our way with no trouble and our host, Packie Keeney, arrived to find us tuning up in the guest room. We spent a little time getting acquainted and then we crowded into the control room where he set up the chairs and mikes for our interview. Although we were originally told we would share the show with another group, we found out they were rescheduled so we started mentally preparing to cover nearly two hours of live radio. It went very smoothly and a highlight was having Shawn call in from his office where he was doing last minute work stuff before flying out the next day. The guys drove back to Bundoran after the interview and Sarah and I headed back to Daphne's to spend the night.

                    

Tuesday, May 9

We left in the early afternoon for Longford to tape a one-hour interview on Shannonside Radio and play at the tiny Tally Ho pub. We were less informed about the format for this show and found out right before we started that there would be no playing of tracks from the CD. Rather, our chat and live performances were the whole ball of wax! Things were going swimmingly until I realized that we might be asked to play any song on the CD with just two acoustic guitars! The Appalachian traditional song we did a capella with great success in Monday's interview came in handy as a substitute. When we arrived at the Tally Ho after grabbing some food, the place was packed and people's faces were full of expectation about this band from North Carolina. It felt more like a house concert than a pub gig and the audience was very responsive calling us back for two encores. Susan Tomelty, an Irish friend who along with her partner, Steve McGovern, helped book us in the Midlands, did a Joni Mitchell song with the band that went over very well. The owner liked us so much that he promised to come to Arva the following night. After packing up, a weary but happy group drove on a tiny fog-filled road to the Breffni Arms Hotel where we would play on Wednesday night.

      

Wednesday, May 10

We woke up to brilliant sunshine. Robert's reconnaissance revealed a nice ballroom with a stage where he assumed we would play. But after breakfast, we were directed instead to set up at the front of the hotel bar. This room was slightly bigger than the Tally Ho; however, people entering the bar had to walk right through the middle of the band with Shawn and me on one side, Bert and Philip on the other, and Robert and his drums in the doorway of the restaurant. Now that's what I call audience participation! Shawn did great even though he was jet-lagged. I must say that this has been my favorite gig so far - I could hear really well and we didn't have to play very loud. Steve sat in with us for the first time on piano when we played Bluest Blues. The audience loved the show!


Thursday, May 11

Sarah, Shawn, Philip and I drove on to Monaghan town this morning - about ninety minutes north of Arva - while Bert and Robert doubled back to Carrick-on-Shannon to pick up Steve. Upon entering the town, we encountered a confusing maze of one-way streets but managed to find the Ashleigh House, our lodgings for the night. We had the whole afternoon to explore the town and stumbled onto a very nice, eclectic restaurant. Everything was delicious from the pizza to the real Greek salads to the Cajun chicken with dough balls (yeast rolls). Our venue, The Brewery, looked and felt like a rathskellar and the sound bounced around like crazy. Sarah helped take in money at the door and added "bouncer" to her job description when one young guy tried to get himself and his mates in for free. After the gig, we had great fun singing Beatle and Band tunes with one table of Irish folks, some of whom were visiting from their home in Florida. And so the Irish and American exchange of culture continues….

                     

Friday, May 12

Today is the last day of our mini-tour of the Midlands - and another fair day. From Monaghan, we traveled an hour or so through beautiful countryside to meet Susan at a music store outside the town of Cavan called The Music Man (www.musicman.ie). Brendan Ruddy, the musician owner, has done a nice job of stocking the small store and does "one-man-band" gigs. Our venue in Cavan - the Lavey Inn - was a real trip! A very large room with a proper stage, wooden dance floor, and round tables and chairs, it reminded me of an old-fashioned dance hall. Our small but enthusiastic audience was made up of Steve, Susan, Sarah, a few local couples, and some loyal fans from the Arva gig. Through most of the night, we could hear in the next room (and even played along with at times!) an Irish country band called Kay and the Nashville Sound. On the break, I checked out our competition and found a packed house of dancing older ladies and couples. After packing up, we drove back to Bundoran on narrow lonely roads through parts of Northern Ireland- not really a problem these days but still a bit of a rush for us.


Saturday, May 13

Tonight, we played our second gig at The Wharf in Bundoran with the welcome addition of Shawn's mandolin, guitar, and vocals. We quickly launched into "Happy Birthday" for Frankie, the owner, when the lights dimmed and one of the staff brought out a cake with lighted candles from the kitchen. He came up to the stage to warn me beforehand but I thought he was saying we were getting a free "keg" as part of the celebration! We gained another enthusiastic fan who has invited us to her house for Irish coffee when we return from our mini-vacation to Doolin. Jackie is the sister of Allan, who I ran into in the foyer of the Grand Central Hotel, who lived with Jennifer Lieko in Bundoran for two years, who is the American musician who talked to Bert before we left……you get the picture!!

                

Sunday, May 14

How wonderful to have a day off to spend with new and old friends! We met my former flame, Patrick Murrin, who is a native of Sligo, at a gas station on the outskirts of town. I first met Patrick when I was living in London and he provided the story about the leprechaun for the song, The Secret. Patrick guided us to a breathtaking view of the islands of Innisfree that inspired Yeats' most famous poem. We also visited a castle in Collooney, now an inn and restaurant, where we hear the ghost of a young girl was spotted only last week. In the evening, we had a wonderful meal of fresh salmon, carrots, peas, and lots of potatoes at the home of Johnny's parents, Sean and Mary Gallagher. After Irish coffee, we all traded songs with Sean, who is a fine traditional and country singer, and with Johnny and his brothers, James and Pauric, until they had to leave for their gig at the Bootlegger.

Monday, May 15

For the next three days, we will get in as much sightseeing as we can. Today, we headed south to County Clare, renowned as one of the centers of Irish traditional music. For much of the trip, we retraced our route from Shannon Airport. After Galway, however, we found ourselves sharing tiny, twisty roads with big tour buses. We also traveled through the Burren, a unique ecosystem with a large concentration of limestone and wildflowers, including some alpine plants. We arrived in Doolin in time to sample the craft shops and watch the sun set over the Atlantic. We had a wee rest at our B&B - the Sea View - and as directed by our hostess, left our breakfast selections on post-it notes in the foyer. Then we headed over to the pub for dinner and music. In fact, you can hear traditional music every night of the year at one or more of the pubs in the Doolin area. Tonight's group consisted of a fiddler, flutist, and concertina player. There was also a young woman who step danced around the bar when the spirit moved her. Then, a man resembling Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull got up and sang a couple of songs, inspiring me to ask if I could do the Appalachian song. The flute and concertina provided the drone and I am thrilled to have now played with Irish traditional musicians. What a great day!!

               

Tuesday, May 16

This morning, we had a tasty breakfast in the B&B dining room before going down to the Doolin Ferry dock. We had planned to go to the Aran Islands but the ferry returned to the mainland too late in the day for us to do anything else. So, instead Bert and Philip had their picture taken with the ferry - The Happy Hooker. We walked along the magnificent Cliffs of Moher and shopped for sweaters, scarves, Beleek porcelain, and Guiness chocolate bars at Lahinch. Then, once they found Shawn's keys, Sarah and Shawn left for Galway by way of Doolin where Sarah bought a bodhran and Shawn retrieved a shirt from the B&B (it seems the faeries have been messing with his head). Bert, Philip, and I headed to Limerick and on to Dublin. In Galway, Shawn and Sarah had dinner in an Indian restaurant and strolled around the town before finding a dance hall listed in Shawn's guidebook. The band consisted of two accordions playing traditional music and there were groups of four couples doing set dancing - Sarah and Shawn tapped their feet but couldn't get up the nerve to jump in. Meanwhile, Bert was driving in circles in Dublin (blame it on one-way streets and my bad directions) but we finally found our hotel on the Aston Quay by the River Liffey. Bert and Philip set out on foot to sample the nightlife but the best establishments were either packed or required patrons to be 21 to partake of the drink - an Irish curse for our prodigy lead guitar player. They ate dinner at the Hard Rock Café and returned to the hotel. Well, it never hurts to go to bed early once in a while even when you're in Ireland!

               

Wednesday, May 17

Bert got up early and found an elegant hotel with really good coffee and talked them into bringing him a cup out on the veranda. At a more decent hour, Bert and I walked by Trinity College and along Grafton Street looking for an Irish café where we could have breakfast - not an easy task in that part of Dublin. Our group also did tours of the Guinness Brewery, complete with free pints in the observation tower, and the Old Jameson Distillery Museum where we had a great lunch. Back in Galway, Sarah and Shawn went shopping for gifts downtown and found an Irish health food store where Sarah bought yoghurt-covered hazel nuts. And are you not surprised? Both parties found cool music stores to explore in their respective cities. Eventually, everyone converged back in the Bundoran bungalow and we took turns doing laundry and catching some winks before our next three nights of performing. Sadly, Sarah departs tomorrow by bus for Shannon Airport where she will spend the night before traveling home to Colorado on Friday. Although the guys are very secure in revealing their feminine sides, I will greatly miss her company, her smile, and her business acumen in pricing CDs and T-shirts!

                

Thursday, May 18

Tonight we played at one of the nicest listening pubs in western Ireland. Located in the town of Boyle in County Roscommon, The Moving Stairs has a regular, loyal clientele that values good music no matter where the players come from. Very intimate, the interior felt more like a living room than a bar and even had a small coal-burning fireplace. The pub is owned by a wonderful young couple who made us feel right at home, fed us a wonderful dinner, and bought CDs and T-shirts along with the patrons. We met a lot of friendly and talented people before the night was through, including a prolific songwriter who played me several of her songs about local tragic figures, an older gentleman who told us a story about a Boyle singer who almost made it big in America, and a guitar player who went home to get Philip a slide thingy (he left his at the apartment) to use in the second set. Around midnight, our caravan headed back to Bundoran with great pictures and memories. By the way, the "moving stairs" is not just any escalator but the one in Irish airports that takes loved ones away to countries like the U.S.



Friday, May 19

This afternoon, we headed back to County Cavan to play a benefit for the "Tidy Towns" campaign in Virginia (yes, Santa, there is a Virginia in Ireland and it's a town named after the same red-headed virgin queen). The gig has been arranged in the last few days by our new friend, Chris, a resident of Virginia who heard us play in Arva. Susan and Steve are opening the show which is being held in one of the ballrooms at the Riverfront Hotel. We arrive in plenty of time to check into our rooms, have a nice dinner together in the bar, and do a lengthy sound check. The room acoustics are great, the candles on the tables give off a nice glow, and we have a round together in anticipation of a fun evening playing to a crowd of happy, dancing benefit-goers. Only nobody shows up! Blame it on the rain or lack of time to advertise or the stars being out of kilter. We ended up playing for each other and having a blast anyway!



Saturday, May 20

I can't believe the tour is almost over. Everybody's anxious to do their last minute shopping, packing, and activities that have been put off until later which is now. Our breakfast at the Riverfront Hotel is bittersweet. We express our thanks and say farewell to Susan and Steve and the guys head straight back to Bundoran. I decide to take a more leisurely approach to the afternoon. My first stop is Carrick-on-Shannon to drop off a guitar amp we've rented and then on to County Sligo where I visit a wonderful folk park, read the famous inscription on Yeats' grave near the Protestant church at Drumcliffe, and drive along back roads to Glencar Waterfall, which is really stunning. That evening, based on Johnny's recommendation, we have our last dinner together at a restaurant frequented mostly by locals called The Marlboro House. In fact, there is a drawing of Johnny in the bar! We toast Robert for making this trip happen and feast on tasty lamb, trout, salmon, and steak. Then we head over to the Wharf to set up and play our last gig.



Sunday, May 21

Philip, Bert, and I squeeze our suitcases shut and load up our vehicles for the trip to Dublin Airport where we will board an Aer Lingus flight for London. Robert and Shawn get to sleep in as they are both flying straight back to the States on Monday. Although it's raining off and on, we have plenty of time and the road trip is uneventful. We easily find the rental car area of the Dublin airport, unload our stuff, turn in our keys, and ask where we can pick up the shuttle bus to the terminal. Alas, there is no shuttle bus service for car renters so we join the stream of people schlepping luggage, computers, fishing gear, and musical equipment in the rain. We arrive at Heathrow Airport on time and get our express train passes to Paddington Station. When we get to London, we join a long queue of people waiting to get a taxi. At this point, folks, let me pass on a tip: don't think that just because Great Britain is in Europe you can spend Euros in England. I rush back into the terminal, change my money into British Pounds, and emerge just before we have to go to the back of the queue again. When we finally get to our B&B in Notting Hill, our host treats us to beers from his fridge and we head out to find a nice friendly pub where Bert continues his quest to find the best tasting European draft, Philip enjoys drinking any beer, and I get cheesy chips and reminisce about when I used to live in London. We cap off the day with a great a la carte meal in an Indian restaurant that starts out looking like a bargain but ends up…….well, we're in London for God's sake.



Monday, May 22

Today is the first and last day of our London vacation so we are each ready to make the most of it in our own way. While Philip snoozes, Bert and I ride to Piccadilly Circus on the top of a red London bus where we do some window shopping and get travel cards. We head on foot towards St. James Park where the storks are putting on a show in the lake. When we hear music in the distance, we follow the sound until we find ourselves in front of Buckingham Palace watching the very end of the changing of the guard. And yes, those hats do look like Marge Simpson's hair only black and more moth-eaten! After lunch and a pint in a small traditional pub where Bert naturally strikes up a conversation with a man from North Carolina, we take the tube back to Notting Hill to get Phil. We spend a couple of hours in the Tate Museum of Modern Art and then go up to north London where I lived in the mid-70s. Between the Camden Town and Kentish Town tube stops is a small neighborhood pub with great memories that I would like to find. I follow my nose until I see it and rush inside pointing out where my friends and I used to sit. When I calm down and really look around, I see it is now a Goth bar!! We decide to continue our walk up the high street and find a terrific pizza restaurant and another pub with a jazz quartet of vibes, sax, upright bass, and drums. Catching live music is the one thing we haven't had time to do and so it makes a great finish to the day and the tour!


Tuesday, May 23

We're up and ready in plenty of time to get to Heathrow for our flight to Atlanta. Only, I discover at the last minute that we're leaving from Gatwick instead, which is about 45 minutes further away. We've hired a car so Bert runs out to tell the driver and change more money, and we depart the tranquility of Kildare Gardens for the motorway at rush hour. (I wonder why Bert who is sitting in the front passenger seat is so talkative this morning…. I only find out later that our driver had not slept in 18 hours and tacked on this short jaunt to the airport before heading home.) We arrive in one piece and make our flight with no problem but I don't have time to pick up the plastic bottle of Powers Irish whiskey I wanted to give my son, Jesse, for a present. So, it's duty-free Johnny Walker scotch purchased on the plane for him instead. I guess it's just one more reason to come back to Ireland as soon as possible!


Dear Music Lover,

Thanks for taking this virtual tour of Ireland with me, Sarah, Bert, Robert, Philip, Shawn, and our Irish friends. I hope you've enjoyed reading this journal and viewing the pictures from our Ireland tour gallery. And I'd like to extend my special appreciation to those of you who listened to the Highland Radio interview and kept in touch during our trip via e-mail. The music we make is not complete without your participation. I thank you from my heart for helping me to do this thing that I love. Please stay in touch.

Always,
Brenda

Ireland Tour
Brenda Linton and Wee Big Folk
May 4 - 22, 2006
 
Click this link to view more photos of her Ireland Tour

Celtic Cross by
Thomas Sheridan
 


Saturday, May 6
The Wharf    §    12:00-2:30am    §    Bundoran    §    County Donegal

Monday, May 8

HighlandRadio.com    §    11:00-1:00am    §    Letterkenny    §    County Donegal

Tuesday, May 9
Shannonside Radio    §    7:00-8:00pm    §    Longford    §    County Longford
The Tally-Ho Pub    §    10:00-12:30am    §    Longford    §    County Longford

Wednesday, May 10
The Breffni Arms Hotel    §    9:30-12:00am    §    Arvagh    §    County Cavan

Thursday, May 11
The Brewery    §    10:00-12:30am    §    Monaghan    §    County Monaghan

Friday, May 12
The Lavey Inn    §    10:00-12:30am    §    Cavan    §    County Cavan

Saturday, May 13
The Wharf    §    12:00-2:30am    §    Bundoran    §    County Donegal

Thursday, May 18
The Moving Stairs    §    9:30-12:00am    §    Boyle    §    County Roscommon

Friday, May 19
The River Front Hotel    §    10:00-12:00am    §    Virginia    §    County Cavan

Saturday, May 20
The Wharf    §    12:00-2:30am    §    Bundoran    §    County Donegal


This tour is made possible by the very kind assistance of Johnny Gallagher
of Bundoran and Steve McGovern of Cootehall.  Please visit the website of
Johnny Gallagher and his band, Boxtie at
http://www.johnnygallagher.com.

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