March 3rd 2009

Mullaghmore: I used to know ye!

Borodin, Mozart and Claddagh Dúbh
The ass and horse carts of old Mullaghmore, with their bright colours of red and blue, rattle up and down the rough and stony roads of my mind.  On a quiet evening each one, with its own distinctive sound, could be heard and identified by the knock of the axle long before it was seen:  ‘That’s Johnny Gallagher coming home from the bog with a load of turf’ or ‘sounds like James Gorman coming up at Lena’s’ my father might say as he paused in his work to decode the approaching sound.
    Cars and caravans came more and more with each passing year and each year the carts became fewer and fewer.  There were a few who carried on the old ways but one by one the tidy farms fell into disrepair and the tillers of the soil passed on.  Paddy was one of those who still saved hay, grew his own vegetables, kept cattle, hens, ducks and geese. The holidaymakers who increasingly clogged the roads in the busy summer days were a constant source of frustration to him.                       
‘Christ, it’s all right for them they have nothing to do!’ he’d declare. 
‘There was two of them talking across from two cars blockin’ the road one day there last week and me in a panic to get a few bales of hay in before the rain.  Ye’d think they owned the place!  I stopped for a minute but there was no sign of them movin’.  I got outa the car finally anyway an’ says I to them rale nice:
“Are ye on holidays?”
“Oh we are”, says they looking round.
“Well I’m f***en not”, says I.  ‘Get to hell outa the way.’

The changes multiplied.  Homes became properties and fields became sites.  The old road down to Claddagh Dúbh, once a busy highway for farmers drawing wrack and famluc to meadow and crop, and the place where I laboured under ganger Tom Kennedy at my first real job, mouldered away.  Now a yacht club, symbol of the new Mullaghmore, straddles this once vital artery.

 Sr. DePazzi's Righteous Rod
   Recently I attended a performance by Sligo Baroque Ensemble at the schoolhouse in Mullaghmore.  Very few faces there were known to me where once I knew everyone.  I listened attentively as strains of Borodin’s Nocturne wafted around the old walls.  My mind strayed back to when Kevin McGrath, Petie Mullaney and myself played The Frost is all Over and The Rose of Aranmore there to an appreciative and uncritical audience of locals. 
    As the gentle strains of Mozarts Eine Kleine Nacht thrilled the listeners Steve Wickham’s fiddling elbow faded away in a time changing mist and in my minds eye was transformed into my old teacher’s strong right hand.  Wickham’s gifted bow became Sr. De Pazzi’s righteous rod; I was back again in a time when the only music heard in this old school was a loud yodelling as that valiant nun tried to beat the three Rs into her unpromising charges.  Steve and Eine Kleine Nacht re-emerged from the vision and, awaking, I looked for the row of steel brads on the floor where long ago we toed the line in anxious, short-trousered attention as De Pazzi coaxed, pleaded and threatened, doing her holy best to beat knowledge into our thick and unreceptive heads.

Flight of the Mayfly    
Yes, all is changed now, and changed utterly: the roads, the harbour, the fields, the houses.  Telemann’s Trio sonata in F Major has replaced The Rose of Aranmore.   Thatched cottages have been replaced with holiday homes, fishing boats with pleasure cruisers.  Mullaghmore is a beehive of pleasure seekers in the summertime.  Resembling the flight of the Mayfly, activity fills the air and it seems everyone is on the move.  Hordes of sun-worshippers are busy to-ing and fro-ing indulging their respective hobbies: fishing, diving, surfing, yachting, paragliding, pleasure cruising.   
    Too soon the sun sits low and lower in the sky.  Winter nights close in; the hordes leave for their winter seats; their domes of pleasure sit again in empty silence.  The dull eyes of shuttered windows look blindly out to sea; no footfall disturbs the silence; old ghosts reclaim the empty places.

The lengthening days now are chasing the ghosts of winter, and the seasonal flight of the Mayfly will shortly be on again:

‘…And there is nothing in the town below —
Where strangers shut the many doors
That many friends had opened long ago.’

(Mr. Flood’s Party EA Robinson (paraphrased))







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