Dermot Carroll

dermot carroll nights in shanaglishA man blessed with great talent, Dermot has been coming to the sessions in Whelan's for many years. He knew Vincey way back from his time spent out in San Franscisco, a place where he spent many years too. It was here that he met with Paddy, and the two struck up a friendship at the Bodhrán pub there on Haight Street. Dermot sings, plays guitar, and is also a songwriter. He used to meet with Vincey at the monthly singing session in San Francisco's Irish bar "The Plough and Stars". He is a great writer, and has often sent back great big emails from his travels in the Americas.

It was during these recording sessions that Dermot wrote some great pieces about the magical atmosphere of this part of south Galway. One evening, he sent us this:

I Met a Man in the Gorgeous Town of Gort (reel)

There are these little hills behind the town a Gort. And if you were cutting across to Portumna you’d hardly notice them off there to the right of you like a dejected hitchhiker. Well as far as I can make out that was where it all began. You see I was told the story of it all be a man in the town many many years ago when I happened to stop in there for a bag of chips. I ran in to this lad on my way back to the car and he began the tale – leaving down the instrument case from his hand in order to emphasise the seriousness of it all (he did indeed). And he says to me do you know them hills out that road there. I do says I - the low ones to the right as you cut across to Portumna. Yah he says. Do you know says he that them hills are terrible high. They are shocking high altogether.

They are says I. Do you think i am some class of an eejit. If my memory serves me right on them hills any class of a half ass pole-vaulter would be over them hills for practice. They might he says but I can guarantee you wan thing there would be no pole vaulter nor no pole left afterwards. The fairies would have them captured. The fairies says I with a bit of a smirk. Go up and see for yourself he says. They might look low but they are the hills of the fairies and when you are up there they are as high as the Himalayas – as high as Galtee Mor in fact. Go on or that I says. And what’s the story with these fairies – the bag a chips going cold in me hand but a half of me intrigued by the carry on of this fella.

I’ll tell you now he goes. The fairies above in Dereen got so sick to the back teeth of coming down to the bars here in Gort and in Crusheen beyond and in Barefield beyond that and encountering nothing but Sky T.V. and Sky Sports and Sky Pilots and Latchicoes and folk with “brooms stuck up their holes” that they decided to do something about it. They went back up to the hills there and set in motion a train of events that would lead to a cracking night below in Shananglish in Whelan’s public house. Go on says I and – in my own mind - what in the name of God is this chappie on about and me facing in to a bag cold chips and a long journey through the November night. The music you see. It was the opinion of the fairies of Dereen that the music was what was missing. And not so much the music – because Lord Jesus will tell you - that with i pods and smart phones and youtube this and drop box that there’s as much music now as would deafen a stone. But it was the music of the pub they made out that was hit. House music – that’s what they called it. The house music was under threat. The fairies of Dereen called a counsel of all the fairies in Ireland entitled “the counsel for the restoration of house music.”

And what did they mean by house music I said is that not a type of music popular in the urban areas with sects of dancers. Not that one he says but close enough. They mean says he – the music of the house. And unless you are in the house or part of the house there isn’t a man woman or child in Ireland could describe to you what it means. Do you understand me. That’s what house music is. If I could lay it out to you more plain I would. But this I will say it is the opinion of the fairies that without music there is no house. Without a house there is no music. That’s why it’s called house music.

And so - he went on- it was decided in them fierce high mountains at that fairies council to appoint two emissaries of house mucic to lead the charge. Two lads of of absolute quality two boys who had knocked around Dereen and Gort , who knew Shanaglish like it was the palm of their hand , who knew every cavern and cave in south Galway and were up every tree and inside in every lake, fished every river and hurled every match that was every played in the province of South Galway – Mr. Vincent Keehan and Mr. Patrick Egan. The one a south Galway Gael through and through, a Californian expeditionary, a 49er. The other a Wicklow Gael, a universal man, a man of the tribes of the great plains. Their task would be to resurrect house music. They would be the new Michael Davitt and the new Parnell and they would give their first joint speech in Shanaglish (on behalf of the fairies).

whelans shanaglish irelandAnd go on I says what kind of a shape did this night take. Oh he said it shifted its shape many times. For thats what a true night is. It is a symphony within a symphony within a symphony. It shifts away from you one minute and the next second its back. Wan minute you’d have some latchicoe splitting your ear with the music of his own life the next minute you’d have the music transforming every ones life. Exactly what the fairies wanted. Their great nation tucked away in a bar in south Galway on a summers night called together by their worthy emissaries. There was every kind of dog and devil there from the kettle on the hob to the pipe on the range. There were English folk songs and slow airs and ballads from the Balkans. There was artists and sketches, and there were stories told that you’d want to be a fairy to believe There was the finest oratory every heard in Ireland. There was keening songs and there were glorious female voices singing out the heart of it all and raucous male banter explaining the fact of the matter. And yes there was dancing and a good share of laughing done as well and sandwiches were ate in their thousands. It was the fairies dream and it all happened in a little public house in Shananglish.

And thus so abrubtly had that tale come to an end. My new friend in that Georgian town of Gort had run out of wind. He grabbed his instrument case and began to walk away. My chips being cold now and so the rush gone off me I wanted to prolong the thing. What is it I says -a banjo, a fiddle, a bouzouki maybe. It’s full of rocks he says - throwing his head over his shoulder– that’s all they want in this town is rocks. But that story you just told me I say – the session in Shanaglish all of that joy surely that’s what they want. And trying to hold on to him I called out - Tell me when did that session happen.

He stopped and turned to face me from the twenty wan yard line - It didn’t happen he says. But I can guarantee you wan thing. It will f**king happen – mark my words. Oh says I in a brief moment of inspiration ‘ the hacienda must be built’ – is that it? That’s it exactly he says, the hacienda will be built and the fairies will be the wans to fcuking build it. Up the fairies says I as he walked away. Up Galway he shouted over his shoulder as he disappeared on through the great mysterious mist full of berries, of redest stolen cherries, of James Joyce and the great Joycean footballers that played for Galway.