The oral tradition that conveys Ireland’s deep cultural heritage and history is a multifaceted channel that has long raised the spirits of the Irish people over the centuries through good times and bad.
Alongside a rich musical repertoire, literary and spoken arts such as poetry, prose and theater have always captivated us and informed us of the past while providing a sense of place and an awareness of how it affects who we are as part of the Irish nation at home and abroad.
Shanachies or storytellers, in particular, have a way of getting into the hearts and souls of their audience, and shedding the emotions that define the character of the Irish. Some do this through comedies like Eamonn Kelly, Hal Roach, or Brendan Grace, and others through more thoughtful recitations or social commentary.
In the latter vein, a new post I Remember Everything comes virtually available online by a very talented and intensely conscious guy named Oliver O’Connell from the Burren country of North Clare.
O’Connell comes from Fernhill, Lisdoonvarna, the legendary spa town known to many for its matchmaking festival usually held in September and which has its own colorful legacy.
The 73-year-old O’Connell is one of the strongest advocates of Banner County one can come across who has amassed a lifetime of stories and social commentary in this unique and impressive new biography.
It depicts lives of triumphs and heartaches painting a picture of Ireland that made him who he is and will be of great interest to those who share his feelings and experiences in one way or another. The set of 18 chapters depicts his life as “a journey, not a destination” based on memories carefully and sensitively stored along the path that shaped him as he made his way along many of the same paths from rural Ireland to England and America. Many others have done over the years.
O’Connell and his late wife Maureen first met when they were part of a large tour group accompanying their young children who happened to be students at Maureen Glenn Cronin Connolly in Ennis, Claire who succumbed to pancreatic cancer in 1998 also not long after marrying Martin Connolly and moving to Ireland.
Oliver and Maureen were a charming, well-matched couple and great dancers as often evidenced on that tour in 1999. Their young son Michael O’Connell was the drummer for the band Glynn ceili who later came to be known as Blackie, one of Ireland’s fiery reptile trail much influenced by the traditions of travelers who It also became one of Oliver’s areas of expertise.
Tragically, Maureen O’Connell fell ill later that year and cancer struck another victim long before her time, affecting her grieving husband profoundly since the day she died.
We’ve kept in touch over the years, and because my parents came from North Clare and Buren Country, and because my own travels to that part of Ireland, the conversations and observations from Oliver always brought back memories of being difficult around an area even though it was a natural and beautiful environment. cruel to make a living. Poverty and conditions were third world in the 1970s, but music, song and dance kept spirit and culture alive to make up for the bleak conditions of everyday life.
O’Connell’s authorship is a wonderful personal reflection on his upbringing in North Clare told in an engaging narrative style that flows with colorful references to the people, places, and events in a historical context that has shaped Ireland over the past six decades or so. The trip included many successful business ventures that also ended poorly due to unfortunate choices in partnerships or worse economic disaster such as the banking crisis that engulfed the Celtic Tiger. The loss of his wife and his own battle with cancer could easily have left him infected.
His own involvement in the traditional music scene around Lisdoonvarna, Doolin and later in Shannon kept hope alive for him and increasingly for his talented son Blackie whom he nurtured along the same musical path.
O’Connell has become an extraordinary link to an easily forgotten or overlooked Ireland as one of its greatest heroes and a loyal observer of what she has become for better or worse in contemporary times.
I remember everything worth following as an online-only publication via the Custys Music Shop in Ennis (www.custys.com) for the wonderful way O’Connell leads us throughout his eventful journey to a place of calm and acceptance for all that life has thrown his way.
There are some cute musical touches to fellow Limerick Mickey Dunn. He’ll be releasing it this weekend with Dunn and a number of other musician friends from Claire at his home in Topper overlooking Burren, the site of a number of pre-pandemic summer sessions and will be available November 27 on his Facebook page.
The True Stories Collection makes a great seasonal gift (don’t worry about supply chain issues here) at €25 for the digital version especially for Clare’s folks and all Irish immigrants who appreciate enlightened nostalgia with a heavy emphasis on making life a journey, not just a destination.