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Connacht Tribune

Tom’s many memories from 50 years of Shaskeen

Judy Murphy

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Tom Cussen of Shaskeen with the bands 2020 Golden Tour poster and one from the mid 1970s for their cabaret in Teach Furbo, where the Connemara Coast Hotel now stands. PHOTO: JOE O'SHAUGHNESSY.

Lifestyle – Tom Cussen founded Shaskeen in London in 1970, where it gained many fans among the Irish community. It was revived in Galway when he settled here a year later. Since then, it has been at the heart of the trad music scene and its members have included some of the country’s top performers. As a new album is released, he talks to JUDY MURPHY about friendship, gratitude and loss.

Anybody wanting to carry out a study of social life in Ireland from the early 1970s onwards could do worse than take a peek at Tom Cussen’s booking diaries for the trad band Shaskeen.

These give a glimpse into how rural Ireland went from being a place where people socialised seven nights a week in newly-built lounge bars of the 1970s, to one where discos took over from the singing lounges, and to the current time where nobody is going anywhere at all.

Tom has witnessed it all from the unique position of 50 years with Shaskeen, the group he founded in London in 1970 after being asked to do so by the owner of the Oxford Tavern in Kentish Town, at a time when London was full of Irish people.

Tom, from County Limerick, was one, having moved there in 1968.

“I was able to a play a bit of music before going over, but it was harmless enough,” he says. “I had a great interest in it – céilí, old-time and country.”

Tom bought his first banjo in a London pawn shop shortly after emigrating and learned to play it, using a reel-to-reel tape recorder.

A tee-totaller who didn’t go to pubs, Tom lived near Finsbury Park, and wasn’t part of London’s Irish scene.

Then, a friend who was also into music, told him that he’d heard Irish music coming from a local house on Sundays. They followed the sound one day and came to a bed-sit where a few people were playing. They asked Tom if he played and he told them he was learning banjo.

The musicians invited the young immigrants to join them for a Sunday session in a local pub that night, a mix of tunes and ballads. Tom loved it and found he was able to keep up. Afterwards a pound note was pressed into his hand. Bewildered, he asked what it was for and was told that each musician received a pound. It was his first paid gig, he says with a laugh, and he was hooked.

The banjo was coming into popularity in the folk and Irish music scene at the time, thanks to groups such as The Clancy Brothers and once Tom started playing publicly, he became part of a growing network.

He teamed up with fiddle player Maureen Minogue and flute player Seán McDonagh, both from Galway, for Sunday-morning sessions in the Oxford Tavern in Kentish Town. For the first few weeks, the clientele was made up of a few mainly English people, reading newspapers and accompanied by their dogs. After a while, the word got out and “the Paddys and Biddys were coming in”, he recalls with a laugh.

The owner then asked if Tom could put a band together for Friday nights, and he called on Maureen’s husband, accordion player Johnny Minogue, and Benny O’Connor, a Galway drummer whom he’d met at a Fleadh in London – they’d been in a band together for a competition.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway’s newest garden centre has arrived at McD’s in Galway Crystal

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Garden Centre in Galway City located in the iconic Galway Crystal Building

For over 10 years people have been flocking to McD’s Garden Centre in Loughrea to get the very best range for garden, home and much much more.

This weekend McD’s are proud to announce the opening of a brand new Garden Centre in Galway City located in the iconic Galway Crystal Building.

Nicely located with good parking and serviced by the 404 Newcastle to Oranmore bus, McD’s Garden Centre at Galway Crystal is a must visit location if you need anything from plants, shrubs, pots, garden furniture and more. They have a dedicated solar garden lights section, gorgeous array of water features and garden ornaments and practically everything you need for your garden.

Visit their Facebook today where they are running competitions and keep track of other promotions too. You can visit their website online at www.McDs.ie

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UHG nurse battles for her life in ICU

Dara Bradley

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Leona Paula Leoncio...in ICU.

UHG remains braced to rapidly respond to any rise in Covid-19 patients as a result of a second surge – but the plight of one of their own colleagues this week showed just how precarious this pandemic can be.

Because while senior management at the Saolta Group vowed to stay ‘vigilant and alert’, a staff nurse at UHG was battling for her life in the hospital’s own ICU.

Leona Paula Leoncio, a 36-year-old mother of two boys, tested positive for Covid-19 last week, and was moved to ICU on Monday where she was intubated and ventilated.

The staff nurse, who had no underlying health conditions, is now battling for life in ICU at UHG, according to the Philippine Consulate in Dublin, which has urged people to pray for her.

Ms Leoncio moved to Ireland in 2017, with her husband and two children, to work in the country’s health system.

“We might have different faiths and beliefs but can I ask of you . . . to take a pause and say a prayer of healing and strength for her and her family,” said Chuck Giner, her nursing colleague at UHG, in a posting relayed on the Philippine Consulate’s social media.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune – along with all of the latest news on the Covid-19 pandemic. We’re on sale in all newsagents and supermarkets, and you can also order the Tribune with your home delivery; buy a digital edition here, or avail of the new An Post service to deliver to your door at no extra cost to the cover price.

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Gort boy reunites Tipp star with broken hurl from famous point

Dara Bradley

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Liam Linnane from Gort holding Brendan Maher's broken hurley from the All-Ireland semi-final club game. Photo: Hardiman Photography.

Tipperary All-Star hurler Brendan Maher has revealed that a young lad in Gort has found his long-lost hurl – the one he used to score one of the points of the last sporting year.

The broken hurl, the one that broke the hearts of St Thomas’ fans back in January, was used to fire over a point in Borris-Illeigh’s All-Ireland semi-final victory over the Galway club at the Gaelic Grounds.

Maher revealed last week that he tried to retrieve the hurl after the match to keep as a memento, but couldn’t find it. He subsequently got a letter from twelve year old Liam Linnane from Gort, who had found it.

“After I scored the point I got kind of carried away and I threw it over my shoulder into the open stand in the Gaelic Grounds. After the match, I thought I would really like to have that hurley but we could not find it and the club even contacted the Gaelic Grounds afterwards to see if it was found.

“Several weeks had passed and I’d given up on it when I got a letter from a young fella in Gort and I read down through it. He said he was twelve years old and that he was at the game where I scored the point with the broken hurley and that he had the hurley.”

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune – on sale in all newsagents and supermarkets, and you can also order the Tribune with your home delivery; buy a digital edition here, or avail of the new An Post service to deliver to your door at no extra cost to the cover price.

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