Gerry Moran: Tuesday nights in Leydon’s

There is something unnatural about drinking tea and eating scones at eleven o’clock. At night! In a pub! There’s something even more unnatural about drinking pints of porter after a feed of same, scrumptious scones, smathered in butter (not that ‘mock stuff’ as my compatriot remarked) and strawberry jam. But you know what - we gave it a go. We twisted each others’ arms. Some of us even twisted our own arms. Drink can do that to people.

There is something unnatural about drinking tea and eating scones at eleven o’clock. At night! In a pub! There’s something even more unnatural about drinking pints of porter after a feed of same, scrumptious scones, smathered in butter (not that ‘mock stuff’ as my compatriot remarked) and strawberry jam. But you know what - we gave it a go. We twisted each others’ arms. Some of us even twisted our own arms. Drink can do that to people.

Tea and scones do things to people also – they bring us together, at the table, where we pour and stir and pass the milk and pass a few moments talking, sharing, communicating with each other. Oh nothing major, small talk mostly, but talk all the same. And it’s that table that is at the heart of this Tuesday night session, ‘The Kitchen Session’, in Leydon’s Bar in John Street. We use the word ‘session’, but a better word by far is ‘gathering’, a word very much in vogue at the moment and a word that’s gathering momentum even as I write. I prefer ‘gathering’ because Tuesday nights in Leydon’s is all about people gathering, people coming together, people from the parish, from neighbouring parishes, ordinary people who come together to sing, to recite, to drink pints, drink tea, eat scones and enjoy themselves. And it works. Works wonderfully well.

I came upon these Tuesday nights in Leydon’s by accident. I journeyed to ‘The Continent’ to take some photographs of the legendary Wetlands Orchestra, i.e. Pat Shortis and Jim Coady, who kicked off proceedings with some of their classic ‘golden oldies’, which went down a treat, and ended up reciting a poem and being royally entertained by the likes of Jamie McCormack (grandson of aforementioned Jim Coady) who sang ‘Fiddlers Green’, Liz Kett (more of whom anon) who gave us ‘Sweet Forget Me Not’, Dave Burke with the haunting ‘Lonesome Boatman’ and his own composition ‘Give Ireland Back Her Heart’ (an appropriate song if ever there was)

And still Jack Dooley to come; Jack who’d just turned eighty years of age (and a birthday cake ‘materialised’ in his honour) sang an Elvis number, if you don‘t mind, and finished with one of my all time favourites: ‘On the Street Where You Live’ from My Fair Lady. Michael O’ Dwyer sang “Dreaming my Dreams”, Michael doesn’t look a bit like Marianne Faithful but sounds better.

This was entertainment by the people, of the people, for the people to quote Abe Lincoln. And if I have gotten some of the singers and their songs mixed up, my apologies, I was too busy enjoying myself to take notes. Later on in the night we had Liam Dowling with “The Working man”, Michael Houlihan gave us ‘Strangers in the Night’ while Breda Ryan sang one of my favourite Abba song’s ‘I Believe in Angels’ until proprietor Paddy Leydon, the devil, pulled the plug (on the mike) unwittingly.

John Tully, a man used to the stage methinks, gave us a masterful rendition of Bob Dylan’s ‘The Masters of War’, the one and only John Joe Cullen sang ‘Banna Strand’, Aine Prendergast gave us the lovely ‘Black is the Colour’ while Liam O’ Byrne sang the Jim Reeves’ number “Darling I Won’t Forget You”

There was a right crowd in Leydon’s last Tuesday night although I was duly informed that it was a quiet night as the Thukolo Gospel Choir are usually in situ, joining in choruses and performing a few numbers of their own. Must be some run on granny Leydon’s tea and scones those nights.

Of course a night like this, and it’s been going over a year now, didn’t just happen. It was born of passion; the passion of Tony Coy (on the keyboards all night) and Liz Kett (on guitar all night) both from Kildare, who presented a radio programme called ‘Your community, Your Group’ on Kilkenny’s Local Community Radio and which received a ‘Craoi’ (Irish for heart) award for community broadcasting.

Thanks to Tony’s and Liz’s passion, Leydon’s Kitchen Session echoes times gone by when we entertained ourselves at our own kitchen table, when bread and scones were baked, and folks stopped by to sing a song, recite a poem, tell a yarn, play a tune or do a bit of Set Dancing.

If there’s one word that sums up The Kitchen Session on Tuesday nights in Leydons it’s community. And I don’t mean the community, or communities, from which the people have come, I mean the community that they have become, a community who like to get together to chat, to drink, to sing and to enjoy themselves. Old stuff. Real stuff. Great stuff. And at the heart of it all is the table, the table with strong tea and tasty scones. Long may Tuesday nights in Leydons continue.