Monday, 25 August 2014

July.....ireland , sweden, norway

Sat 19 July,the Wild West - We were on a quest to locate some of the 20 castles that my ancestors had built (or acquired)in the long distant past. From Kildare we drove westwards down long crooked roads, through unheard of villages and townlands, eventually finding  Ballymoate with its majestic fortification. The O'Connors, O'Hartes and Dowds took over the ancient castle in 1588 but only managed to hold onto it for eleven years before the English stole it. Onwards to County Leitrim with the mist hanging over the Keelogyboy mountains, stopping off at Colgagh Lough to take photographs and stretch our legs. On the shores of Lough Gill we found Parkes Castle. Built in  1610, the courtyard grounds contain evidence of an earlier 16th century Tower House once owned by Sir Brian O Rourke. He was hanged at Tyburn in London in 1591 for high treason. Not sure what that was all about. The Isle of Inishfree was visible, as was Church Island but we didn't bother with the boat trip. It was late evening by the time we found Rosslee Castle beside the sea in Easkey County Sligo. One version of history tells us that  it was built by the Dowds in 1207.  In we went, the ghosts were welcoming. I had arrived home at last. Although a ruin, a stairway leads through a secret passageway inside the walls all the way to battlements at the top. Vertigo prevented me from undertaking the climb. 

Another Dowd stronghold  is only a few miles away. One Tower is all that remains of Rathlee Castle, but it was still worth the visit. Tried to find a cheap hotel or BandB in Enniscrone but every place was booked up.  On the outskirts of the town we called into a place where the helpful friendly lady phoned around her many friends to see if any of them had room for us, all to no avail. As we were leaving she handed me her business cards should we ever be in the area again and in need of a bed. It read ' Peggy O'Dowd - B&B'. I told her I was a Dowd, but I didn't have the 'O'.  'Thats all just posh crap' she said. 'Nobody around here had the 'O' til a while back. The old name was always Dowd. They only put the 'O' in to be posh'. I felt vindicated. Peggy (who had married a Dowd / O'Dowd)  spent a good 10 minutes chatting away, telling us all about the area and convinced me to return and spend a night at her place. 

But we had to hit the road again and stopped off at Crocketts On The Quay in Ballina as my traveling companions were hungry. In the back room Rackhouse Pilfer were playing. A great band fronted by my old buddy Leon from Sligo. We  didn't get a chance to talk as I had to leave before the end ...onwards to Rockfield. 

In the morning we drove northwards again, and eventually found Cottleswood Castle hidden away behind a row of stables. Our genial host not only showed us around his 16th century manor, but was full of information about the castle, even taking time to lock the wild horse away.
In Enniscrone on the beach I met a ugy renting wet suits and we engaged in conversation. He was full of information about the Dowds and as we talked somebody handed me an ice cream cone. 'Thats a Dowd ice cream,' he said. (The ice cream/sweet shop was owned by a Mr Dowd.) Following my hand-drawn map we located Dowds Castle on the outskirts of the town. Its 
located at a strategic point along the coastal route through Connaught into western Ulster. During the 12th century the Dowds ruled the kingdom of North Connacht having removed the O'Caomhain from the Enniscrone area. Apparently a few fortifications existed before the first castle was built in the late 14th century. During the 1522 conflict between the Burkes of Mayo and the O'Donnells of Donegal, the Burkes captured the castle. Later it
 was besieged and demolished by the O'Donnells who must hae been an uncultured crew, but then rebuilt by the Dowds and fair play to them / us.  But come 1607 and the Flight of the Earls, things would never be the same. By 1640 it was all over for my ancestors and they either fled the country or slid into obscurity and poverty.
I came from peasants, but my people used to be kings. Dark clouds gathered overhead, I could see the wild waves of the Atlantic Ocean through the window of the north facing tower.

Thursday 24 July Dublin - Graves and graveyards .....left the wild west behind and took the train to Dublin, a city famous for many things and name-checked in a famous folk song about a foul smelling prostitute - Molly Malone. They even have a statue of her and its been relocated. It now stands outside a de-consecrated church.
My travelling companions wanted 'Irish food' so we made our way towards O Neills on Suffolk Street. On the corner of William Street South and Exchequer Street a shaky looking guy offered  " speed or smack." Didn't think I looked that dodgy.....but it was a bit early in the day. I shook my head and he understood a business transaction wouldn't be taking place.
In O Neills I battled with the fruit flies who were legion.
Later we visited the National Gallery. Giovanni Paolo Lamazzo's book translated by Haylocke in 1598 was of interest. As artists instruction manuals go, it was fine. Bumped into an old friend from long time back, when I sold jewellery on the street. Si from The Severed Limb (who I regularly play on the Rock N  Roots radio show) used to work on the same after I retired.
 Songs were sung on Montpelier Hill, Sonic Recording Studios were paid a visit and Mr John Fleming was paid a visit too as he prepared for his trip  to Urumqi, China via Biskek, Kyrgyzstan and onwards to Uighur Kashgar. The same day we took a flight to Oslo.....not as exotic as Johns trip.

Thursday July 31, Göteborg  ..Patti Smith started the gig with 'Dancing Barefoot. ' It was all down hill from there. it wasn't loud enough, the sound engineer was crap and you wouldn't hear the drummer behind a newspaper. Bumped into Slick Andy and his extended family. Missus needed a toilet but there were queues everywhere. Went over to Gasten, the ghost bar and restaurant. Ordered 2 drinks. Waitress initiated short-lived conversation. Was I at the Patti Smith gig.? Yes  but it was getting depressing and I needed a break. Bad poetry over the two chord shuffle with lousy sound. Waitress smiled, relieved she wasn't missing much. After our drinks and a cigarette we crossed over the bridge and back to the area in Liseberg where they host the gigs. Patti Smith, champion of the Pope was doing a very long winded version of Gloria. I started to sing along...Van, the man, Van the man, as Georgie Fame would have way back. Nobody got it.

Sitting on a bench in Central Station waiting on the 513 bus to Partille to present my show on Radio 88. A guy asked me the time, but  before I could reply his lady  friend spotted the clock. He said, "By the way, Im the Golden Man."  I knew straight away what he meant. He was the street performer who paints himself golden and by some trick manages to sit on a chair that floats in mid air. I tried to rescue him once from an asshole who was interfering with his gig. Took his hat, wouldn't give it back, you know the type. Out in radio world records by the Severed Limb, Fred Eaglesmith, Two Dollar Bash, Elvis and long forgotten blues players were broadcast

Tony Berg met me at the station in Amal and we drove to a cafe for a chat. I drank earl grey black, no sugar thank you very much, and ate some class of a bun with bits of apples inside. Tony had coffee and a bun, similar, not the same. I played for exactly 60 minutes at the Marino as part of the towns street festival. We had time for a drink at the lakeside cafe owned by the guy who plays drums with Sea Sick Steve before catching the train. People were swimming, the sun beaming down, Tony and I made plans for 2015, assuming both of us survive 2014.