Music and Reviews from Clare, Limerick, Waterford and sometimes further afield

Monday, March 7, 2011

Gadding about at Ennis Book Club Festival


Ennis Book Club Festival Mascot

 I had an early start at the Ennis Book Club Festival and joined the 40 or so early revellers for coffee, buns and papers at the elegant  space of  the Rowan Tree Cafe  with it's walls adorned with literary themed paintings.  There were some very striking ones by Jean Regan. The one shown here recalled for me Amhran na Leabhair  or Cuan Béal Inse by Tomas Rua about the shipwreck and loss of a schoolmasters book collection.  Colette Reddington was our host and guided the groups through a loosely structured conversation  around books . At my table were Marie and friend from Connemara and Helen a librarian from Donegal. Colette expertly exrtracted nuggets of conversation from various tables and offered them for general savouring, Topics included, 'the most contentious title and 'to Chardonnay or not to Chardonnay'.  I thought this was a neat event and anybody coming alone was easily  included in a group discussion and it was terrific value at €5 for coffee, a bun AND a newspaper courtesy of local newsagent, Kellys.
There was a sharp dose of realism as  a young Clare Champion prize winner read her  prize-winning short story based on the gritty topic of underage drinking . There was no denying the power and strength of her writing but it was a little too sobering for me at this time of the day and I remain painfully conscious  of the tragedy besetting  a UCC undergraduate last year, a contemporary of  my own  young son .

Brian Mooney launches poetry collection of Brendan O Beirne
Although I had every intention of attending 10 Books You Must Read at Glór, I was sidetracked by the sign at Colaiste Muire  'IABS'  indicating the presence of singers, lots of them, and of the barbershop variety. I met my friend Regina Gilley a member of the Champagne Corks and drifted about various workshops where coaches were drumming in the same message, 'connect with the words and put your heart and soul into it.'   

I got back on the book trail at  a lecture by Éibhear Walshe at the Temple Gate where he made  good case for the forgotton novels of Katherine Cecil Thurston, Paul Smith and the early work of MJ Farrell,  aka Molly Keane.  He gave an interesting account of the life of Cork born,   Katherine Cecil Thurston nee Madden, a highly successful writer in the early part of the 20th century. How extraordinary that she had two books simultaneously on the New York Time's best seller list in 1905, the first time any author had achieved such a feat.  I wondered if there was any family connection with our host  family at the Temple Gate Hotel?

Chatting with Mrs Walsh

When I get around to reading books again I certainly will dig out The Fly on  the Wheel on Dr Walshe's recommendation.  Paul Smith was another author I had not heard of and his book Annie published in 1972 was recommended .  Molly Keane's early novel, Two Days in Aragon was the third book recommended in the lecture. Eibhears own memoir, Cissie's Abbatoir is an enjoyable read particularly for those of us who shared his  puddle grey Waterford mileu.  A beautifully produced note  sheet bearing the classy looking  Book Club  Festival logo was distributed to accompany the lecture and I am grateful to have it to hand to recall some of the details used in this post.

Éibhear signs his memoir Cissie's Abbatoir
I   found this venue a little  warm and stuffy in the the afternoon. There was quite an amount of background music  that was irritating  and patrons further back reported problems hearing the speaker.  We enjoyed catching up with fellow Déise man Eibhear following the lecture and had a chat with his mother  about our school days in Waterford and reminisced about student concerts in the Municipal Theatre.


The highlight of the day for me  was the posthumous  launch of a collection of Brendan O Beirne's poems,  Reality The Graveyard of Dreams by The Three Legged Stool Poets . Friends of the poet gathered to talk about the poet and to read many of the poems.  I reprised the air, The Coolin that  I had played when I had joined the late poet as a guest at a monthly gathering last year. I was delighted to meet Marcia, his niece who had accompanied him that day and Deirdre, his sister who had hosted his last birthday party.  As always I was glad to share in the sense of collegiality amongst this group of writers and honoured to contribute something myself to the occasion.

Well done to the members of the Festival Committee.   There was much to enjoy in the  events that this excellent niche festival had to offer and great credit is due to this hard working  group under chairperson Ciana Campbell  who bring such an enjoyable weekend of letters to our corner of Clare.

The late Brendan O Beirne

Best TShirt  Fred  'Life is too important to be taken seriously'

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