For over 40 years, Frankie Gavin has been at the forefront of Irish traditional music – and this week that career turns full circle with the reunion of the group that first made him famous.
Because as the renowned fiddle player receives this year’s TG4’s 2018 Gradam Ceoil award for his contributions to Irish traditional music, De Dannan – the group he helped establish and lead to international success – will be back on stage together for their first televised reunion in 15 years.
BY MARTHA BRENNAN
And with an eye on the future as well as the past, the live ceremony, which will take place in Belfast on Sunday, will also premier Gavin’s new band, which the Galway musician is very excited about.
Frankie Gavin was born in 1956 to a musical family in Corrandulla; both of his parents played the fiddle and himself and his siblings all took up instruments from a young age.
Frankie himself, who was largely self-taught, grew up listening to the tunes of musicians such as the Flanagan brothers, Paddy Killoran and James Morrison.
The fiddle player, who is equally talented on the flute and whistle, first appeared on television at the age of just seven and has since gone on to become one of the most influential traditional Irish musicians of the modern era.
“It is absolutely wonderful to win this award. Any time you are recognised it’s a boost,” he said this week. “It gives you new encouragement and it’s great to know that my music is enjoyed.”
After founding De Dannan in 1973, Gavin went on to front 16 albums with the band along with five solo albums of his own.
With a career that includes numerous White House appearances in the US, various state dinner performances here in Ireland and success at both sides of the pond, both Frankie and De Dannan gained fans both inside and out of their music genre – and Gavin fast became known as one of the most distinctive and innovative figures in traditional music.
The Corrandulla native is known for his performance abilities and virtuosity and has worked with names such as Mairtin O’Connor and Jackie Daly in the band, and Stéphane Grappelli and even the Rolling Stones outside of it.
He has explored diverse genres from Klezmer to Music Hall, infusing them with his inherited traditional music style and has even covered songs from the Beatles and Queen.
His musical collaborations and arrangements have stretched and challenged the boundaries of traditional music and his perfectionism and meticulous attention to detail have garnered him his well-deserved place in the Irish music Hall of Fame.
Frankie said that he loves to push the boat further and further but will never undermine the old traditional music that he adores.
“Something always draws me back to that old Irish emigrant music scene of 1920’s New York. Old recordings of traditional music are the only real deal and it’s always been my inspiration. It’s just music that can’t be matched. But I’ve made a good attempt,” he chuckled.
Gavin said that this award is coming at an interesting time in his life, a hectic time where he has been doing reunions and solo work and has even formed a new band which will make their premier at the upcoming award ceremony.
“The music of this band has a whole new feeling. We’re playing traditional, lively, Irish music with a lot of influence from the era of the Flanagans. There will be brass arrangements and the impact of our four fiddles playing in union will really capture the moment,” he said.
“I hope people enjoy hearing it as much as we love playing it”.
Which might explain why he shows no sign of slowing down – instead adding irons to the fire, with solo work, a new album and forming the new band.
His music has become a reference point for many young fiddle players and his unique style has had a profound influence on modern playing. Frankie himself says that he hopes his music can inspire young players to go back to the roots of traditional music.
“There is a new thing out there which I call ‘new Irish music’,” he said.
“A lot of musicians are writing their own material but my best advice would be for them to first learn to play the old tunes properly. If they listen to the old recordings as the real source of the music they will be better guided,” he said.
“Our job as musicians is to deliver the music as best we can, that’s the point of it all. It shouldn’t be about the money and fancy new instruments and forcing new tunes. It’s about having fun playing the real thing, like I still do every day”.
Frankie Gavin will receive his award and perform live at the Gradam Ceoil Awards on Sunday, February 4, at 9.30pm.
State to look at plan to protect historic monastic ruins
Officials from the Office of Public Works have confirmed that they will visit what is widely regarded as the most complete Franciscan monastic ruins in Ireland to see what works are required to save it.
And a local public representative has said that he does not want to be part of a generation that allowed Ross Errilly Franciscan Friary to fall into worse disrepair.
Correspondence sent this week to those who diligently look after the friary has suggested that the OPW’s Head of Historic Properties will come down to establish what emergency works are required.
This follows the recent visit by the Minister for the Office of Public Works Patrick O’Donovan to Ross Errilly Franciscan Friary which dates well back before the 1400s and requires urgent works to be carried out.
Cllr Andrew Reddington (FG) said: “It would be an absolute disgrace if we were the generation that allowed this friary to deteriorate even further.”
It was explained to the Minister while visiting the Abbey that it is in desperate need of emergency works and it was essential that the Minister brought this back to his department.
He was informed that it was around the late 1980s when there was any major works carried out on the abbey by the OPW.
“The abbey needs remedial work urgently as it is falling into disrepair and the main area of concern is the tower.
“There has never been any serious remedial work done on the tower and there has never been scaffolding put up around the outside of it to deal with the exterior of the tower,” Cllr Reddington told The Connacht Tribune.
A local group who met with the Minister explained that there is no electricity at the abbey or any toilet facilities for visiting tourists.
He was informed that the nearest electrical pole is only 200m away, so it wouldn’t be difficult to get electricity to the abbey.
The abbey, he was told, needs electricity which would then mean there would be options in terms of security lighting and closed-circuit television to prevent any vandalism taking place.
Those who look after the Franciscan Friary – including Glen Corbett and former Galway footballer Seamus McHugh – gave a detailed run down of emergency works that need to happen at the abbey.
They said that it was critical that emergency works start as soon as possible to protect the abbey for future generations.
The Minister committed to working with the group on this. The delegation than joined OPW officials and Finna Construction who gave them a tour of the OPW offices in Headford which benefited from a €5 million investment.
This week came the commitment that the OPW would visit the friary to establish the emergency works that need to prioritisation.
(Photo: Seamus McHugh, Minister Patrick O’Donovan, Glen Corbett and Cllr Andrew Reddington at Ross Errilly Franciscian Friary in Headford)
Gardaí issue alert over fuel thefts
Householders, farmers and truckers in the West of Ireland have been advised to put security measures in place to protect their fuel tanks, following a number of thefts over the past month.
While the thefts aren’t an everyday occurrence, Gardaí have advised that with fuel prices likely to remain high over the coming months, basic security precautions should be put in place.
Galway is one of a number of counties where fuel thefts have occurred over recent weeks with home heating oil, trucks and farm diesel in different parts of the country targeted by the thieves.
Sergeant Michael Walsh, Galway Garda Crime Prevention Officer, said that while the number of thefts reported in Galway had been quite small, fuel thievery was still an ongoing problem.
He said that some of the precautions recommended included a secure fencing off, of outdoor fuel tanks with good quality perimeter fencing.
“Fuel tanks that are located away from houses or offices are most at risk and in these situations, robust perimeter fencing, and gates need to be properly secured.
“We are also recommending that people and businesses consider installing alarms, anti-siphoning devices, security lighting and CCTV cameras,” said Sergeant Walsh.
He added that fuel thieves often used small drill and syphoning pump to steal the fuel with the whole operation completed in a matter of minutes.
Last month in Limerick, thieves stole an estimated €500 worth of diesel from trucks parked overnight in a business park – large trucks and artics can have a fuel capacity of over 100 gallons.
“As with a lot of robberies, fuel thieves will tend to pick out the opportunist targets. Fuel is a valuable commodity and basic security measures need to be put in place,” said Sergeant Walsh.
Where businesses have multiple users of their fuel tanks, the Gardaí also advise that a fuel management system should be put in place to record the users as well as the dates and times when they access the supply.
Housing plan turned down over lack of pedestrian access
The lack of a pedestrian connection to the town centre was listed as one of the reasons why a development of almost 40 houses has been turned down in Ballinasloe.
The proposed development at Poolboy would have been adjacent to an existing housing estate – but planners cited the lack of connectivity to the town centre as a reason why it was refusing the application.
The plans outlined the provision of a mix of three-bedroom detached and semi-detached houses along with 20 townhouses as part of the 38 unit development.
They were submitted by Crownbell Limited, which is based in Clarinbridge, and sought a connection to the existing access road serving the Cuil na Canalacht estate which was granted permission back in 2012.
However, Galway County Council refused planning on the grounds that the proposed development did not provide sufficient pedestrian access to the wider urban area of Ballinasloe.
They said that to grant planning would pose an intensified risk to the safety of pedestrians and other road users and lead to “unsustainable mobility patterns” in the immediate area.
It was stated that the development would be prejudicial to public safety and contravene the sustainable transport policy objectives of the Galway County Development Plan.
Furthermore, planners said that the site was in an area that is zoned open space recreation and amenity in the Ballinasloe Local Area Plan.
They said that this seeks to protect and enhance such areas for exercise facilities, sports grounds and playing fields and to grant planning would set an undesirable precedent.
Given the site’s location to the River Suck, the applicants submitted an environmental impact assessment and screening report. The development would be around 300 yards from the River Suck Callows.
It was proposed that the development would connect to the existing sewer scheme, and it was stated in a submission that it would not overly burden the system.
However, it was a lack of pedestrian access from the site into the town centre which eventually scuppered the proposed development plan.