IT was one of those Monday nights in Cleere’s Bar – the place was jammers and positively humming, plus the Keane Brothers, from Listowel, were in town; well one Keane brother is permanently in town and is of this parish.
Not alone were the Keane Brothers in town, they were in company, in fact there was a Kerry conclave in the bar and the bar was all the livelier for their presence. Kerry folk, as we well know, can kick ball (and coincidentally Johnny Bunyan, a former Kerry footballer, and his good missus, were also in situ) but they can also kick up their heels. And they did. In style. We had music, song and even dance from our Kerry brethren and the night was all the richer for it.
Billy Keane was in brilliant form (Brother Sean wasn’t lagging far behind, I hasten to add) and silenced the bar with a beautiful recital of his poem ‘Starman’ about his late father, the one and only, John B. Keane. Not easy silence Cleere’s Bar – especially after a few humorous verses from yours truly and Noel Tuohy, another practitioner of the humorous poem. But Billy Keane did just that and brought a tear to my eye with his poignant delivery.
Brother Sean also silenced the crowd with a tender, touching and rather unusual, to say the least, ‘love’ poem that left the audience in tears. Tears of laughter. Sean’s poem has to be heard. Reading it on paper is a futile exercise – as it totally and utterly depends on the delivery. And the delivery was superb.
Michael O’Connor (accompanied by his wife Nora), a Kerry man with a mighty voice, and entitled to Kilkenny citizenship by now, sang a song called ‘Paddy’ about the Irish in Britain, the Irish who didn‘t make millions, who didn’t make it. Full stop. But who, through their blood, sweat and tears made Britain. Literally.
As usual, Mick Walsh, accompanied by his son, Gerry and Pat Murray, kept the music flowing amid banter and debate. Eamon Shea gave us a passionate rendition of ‘The Contender’ while just after Gerry Walsh’s delightful solo: ‘Caledonia’, Billy Keane regaled us with a yarn about John Wayne when he was beyond in Mayo, back in the 50s, making the movie ‘The Quiet Man’.
Billy prefaced his story with a wonderful John Wayne walk, accompanied by a hilarious explanation of that famous gait which, alas, I cannot repeat (family paper and all that) Mr. Wayne had a bit of a hunger on him and came upon ‘an eatery’ which Billy graciously explained to the tourists present as an ‘atin’ house’. John went in and asked the proprietor for a menu. “Begor and we have no menu”, apologised the fear an tí, “but just tell me what it is you want”. “I’ll have a prawn cocktail with Marie Rose sauce”, said John, “a 10 oz. rib eye steak with sauted onions, mushrooms, peppercorn sauce and some baked Alaska for dessert”. “Yarrah”, said the ‘fear an tí’, “Sure if we had all that, we’d ate it ourselves”
When the laughter subsided Jimmy Rhatigan, the ‘daddy’ of Monday nights in Cleere’s, signed off with ‘Raglan Road’ and his wonderful anthem ‘The Keeper’. Out then into the dark, damp summer night made that bit brighter by a flash of ‘Kerry Gold’.
And so to my brief moment of fame on RTE’s ‘Nationwide’ last week and what do RTE do? They blow it. They call me ‘Gary’ Moran. Beats me how they did, seeing as how Tom Brett (whose book, ‘Kilkenny in Focus’ was in focus) referred to me several times as Gerry as did presenter, Helen McInerney.
I guess the producer decided that I was a Gary. “But his name is Gerry”, I can hear Helen McInerney protest. “Nah, he looks like a Gary to me”. And Gary it was. And maybe I am a Gary, not a Gerry. And so, I confronted this Gary in the mirror. “How you doing there, Gary?”. I asked. Gary didn’t answer. Don‘t think he ever will. Be a shock to the system if he did.
Gary, it occurs to me, sounds that bit more manly than Gerry which is when I started thinking about all the famous Gary’s: Gary Cooper, Gary Sobers, Gary Busey, Gary Neville, Gary Barlow, Gary Oldman, Gary Lynch and, of course, that famous Gary: Garryowen - my cue definitely to kick for touch.
P.S. By the way, still on Nationwide, and getting back to where I started with Cleere’s pub, did anyone spot John Cleere in the slot on Young Kilkenny Film Makers? John is looking decidedly handsome and deserving of an Oscar nomination, to say the least. And was that my good friend Mary Craddock I spied also?