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Award-winning Mulkerrin Brothers bring new trad show to Town Hall

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Date Published: {J}

When Pádraig, Éamon and Seán Mulkerrin decided to enter RTÉ’s All-Ireland Talent Show late last year, they did so mostly because it would give them a chance to meet Jacksie, the barman from the comedy series Killanascully.

The Mulkerrin Brothers from Inis Mór, never imagined they would walk away with the top prize of €50,000, for their performance of traditional Irish music and dance. But last March that’s exactly what they did; having won the heart of the nation, with the sean-nós dancing of 10-year old Seán receiving a particularly strong response. And this is a band of brothers with more than one string to their bow, as people will find out when the three play the Town Hall Theatre on November 30. The show is part of a short Irish tour being presented by music promoter Vince Power, the man who set up the Mean Fiddler music group in England and a force to be reckoned with in the entertainment business.

“People have only seen them on the [RTÉ] talent show, but in addition to playing music and Seán’s sean-nós dancing, the three of them also sing,” says their father Martin of the boys, adding that old songs and ballads such as the Boys of Barr na Sraide, Galway Bay and Isle of Hope all form part of their repertoire.

Fifteen-year old Pádraig, Éamon (12) and Seán have been singing and playing since they were very young, starting with tin whistle in school and then advancing to other instruments.

Because there is nobody on the island teaching music outside of school hours, they travel into Galway twice a month to get lessons on accordion with Seán Gavin, who is very understanding about the logistical problems involved. “If we can’t get a lesson before 5pm it’s disastrous for us because we have to get the boat [home]. Otherwise they’d miss school. We’d love them to get more lessons but it’s not possible,” says Martin.

Despite the difficulties of getting lessons, the three are high musical achievers. Éamon plays fiddle as well as accordion; in fact, for the shows, he plays mostly fiddle to complement Pádraig, whose specialty is the accordion. Meanwhile, Seán plays banjo and fiddle as well as dancing. He got a couple of dancing lessons from Moycullen based dancer and teacher Sadbh Flaherty, says his father, but mostly he has developed his own style. If he sees somebody doing a move, he’ll pick it up. And he really struck a chord with RTÉ viewers, with people from all over the country contacting the Mulkerrins after the show to say that they remembered their parents or grandparents doing sean-nós dancing. Martin claims no credit for the boys’ musical talent – that mostly comes from their mother, Bridie.

Like Martin, she was born on the Aran Islands, but lived in Wales until she was 16. Her father was from Aran and her mother from Cork, and it was she who first taught Éamon fiddle, as she had learned classical music when living in Wales. While Martin might be modest about his musical role, claiming that “I’m just the taxi”, his oldest son Pádraig doesn’t entirely agree. “When it comes to deciding the running order of the show, we try things out at home and whatever sounds best is what goes. Our parents are our greatest advisers.”

The Town Hall show will last about an hour and a half, according to Éamon, and they aim for a good mix of material – jigs reels polkas, dancing and singing – to give their audience the best entertainment possible.

His younger brother Seán agrees. “The best thing about being on stage is everybody having fun.”

While Seán enjoys all aspects of the show, he is particularly enthusiastic about the sean-nós dancing.

“I love the free thing, where you don’t have to do certain things, you can experiment.”

In addition to dancing he loves sport, playing Gaelic football on the island, while he and Éamon travel to Carraroe for rugby training. It’s been one hell of a year for the three, but they are taking it in their stride now, although they were shocked initially to be voted Ireland’s top act.

“We never expected to win,” says Pádraig. “We just entered to see what the hype was and mostly just to meet Jacksie from Killanscully and Daithí Ó Sé [from TG4, their mentor during the show].Since then, they have got a lot of gigs including performing at the Ladies’ All-Star Awards and at other functions including the Volvo Ocean Race and the Galway Races. In addition Tyrone Productions (which produced The All-Ireland Talent Show for RTÉ) have shot a documentary which will be broadcast on Christmas Day, all about the show and the year since.

But the highlight of the last year had to be their homecoming to Inis Mór, Pádraig says. “Everybody from the island was on the pier to meet us and there was a big function in the local hall.” The lads had the option of having the night off, but they chose to play. For Pádraig, who is in Transition Year, music would be his ideal career when he finishes school, but at the minute “it’s one day at a time”.

The three have a younger brother, Máirtín (8) but, according to his father, he doesn’t have any interest in being involved in music, which is fine. Meanwhile, the other three are forging their own musical path and happy to be performing as a family.

“We only really only fight over sport – soccer mostly,” says Pádraig. “Éamon is a Chelsea fan, Seán supports Liverpool and I support Man Utd.”Given that the subject of soccer isn’t likely to be raised at the Town Hall gig, November 30, it promises to be a harmonious evening – in all senses of the word.Tickets are €20, at tht.ie or 091-569777.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

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A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.

 

For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

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Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup

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Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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