The night we were in Moville, there was a fundraising community performance, and our group was invited to share the stage. It opened with a group of young trad musicians, some the same age as our group, much like Young Traditions VT. They were amazing – harps and flutes, fiddles and concertinas.
They were followed by a group singing lively sea shanties, including Jo, the woman from the organic food shop. Small town!
Then a choir came on, a choir that sings songs that one sings in the shower, like ABBA and John Lennon. They sang brilliantly and the joy was infections.
Our kids did a short set with a poem and some tunes, and they brought down the house.
The unique peninsula of Inishowen in Donegal, is the North of the North, where people live gracefully and with kindness. We were welcomed at the most delightful hostel, with camping by a river next to the oldest bridge in Ireland. The hostel kitchen was spectacular, and they let us dry off in a room the first night. Freshly baked bread welcomed us at breakfast, and Jo at the health food store supplied us with local apples, cheeses, honey, a huge tub of peanut butter, and a heap of fresh veggies for soup.
A group of local kids came by to meet us and we played a wild game of Quidditch.
The way from Ennis to Donegal is long, and on small roads. We took an impulsive break in Galway for some shopping and busking, eliciting squeals of delight.
Then, on to our real adventure of the day. Queen Maeve (who reputably inspired the character of Shakespeare’s Queen Mab “o then, I see Queen Mab hath been with you!”)
This warrior queen of Connacht was ruler of all Ireland, and if someone wanted to be High King, they had to marry her. Over her sixty year rule, she had six husbands. To be King, a man had to challenge the present king to a duel. It is said she encouraged this practice.
But finally she met a husband who balanced her in power. One night, over pillow talk, they compared their assets, land, castles, all the way down to the sheep and cattle. As it turned out, he had one bull more than her. Without that bull they would have been completely equal in possessions. And there was only one bull in the entire country that was great enough to match this one.
It belonged to one of the Queen’s ex husbands, Nessa, king of Ulster.
But she went and requested it. She nearly got it as a gift, but her soldiers, bragging over their drink, let it be known that they would take it by force if it was not given freely. This annoyed the king, so a war was fought, and won, and the Queen went back with the bull.
Who promptly challenged the husband’s bull to a duel, and won.
So Queen Maeve returned the bull to Ulster, since she and her husband were at last balanced with property.
She is buried in full armor, facing her enemies in Ulster.
We climbed to the top of this tomb, a 45 minute hike up, and placed a stone on her ancient cairn.
Coming back from going all the way over the blanket of rounded rocks to the ocean, Keenan said this was the best moment so far. So many of those moments where the essence of joy is so strong.
After nearly two weeks walking in the country, we hit the town with euros in our pockets and BOOKSHOPS to visit! With the Rowan Tree Hostel right in the center, making navigation easy, the kids broke into groups and headed out to explore. Nearly every pub had live music, coffee shops had scones and hot chocolate, and – the “charity shops” had amazing European clothes for a couple euro.
I bought a library of books by UK authors to hand out on the bus for our long drive the next day. They were well appreciated – giving new meaning to the expression Face-Book.
That night, we all hit a session that was being live streamed, and our musicians were featured on a Facebook feed. It was a huge sensory input day after so much wind and mist and sheep and stone and hedges.
It was the brainchild of Madeline and Keenan that instead of drumming up an audience for our performance at the beautiful hall at Boghill, we should invite locals to come for an open mic story slam / tune jam. The people at Boghill put the word out, and we audaciously phoned the one major radio station for the west of Ireland – Clare FM, and they invited us on for an interview and tunes by McKinley and Clayton. This might be the link – it’s the right day anyway. Clare FM the West Wind
We asked for miracles – Boghill is in a remote area of the Burren, but we asked for a standing-room only crowd, and enough money coming in at the door to give out two cash prizes of 100 euro each – and that’s exactly what happened. The performances were varied and really really good, and the winners were honored and delighted with their prizes. Everyone was buzzing with euphoria that night.