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Thursday 14 December 2017

Musician warms up for Caribbean ceili

Jeananne Craig

A Dublin musician has been finalising his set-list for a St Patrick's Day gig on a tiny Caribbean island.

Martin Healy is jetting thousands of miles to Montserrat, the only place outside Ireland to mark the occasion as a national holiday.

In the 17th century the lush volcanic island was a magnet for Irish Catholics who had completed their time as servants on the British West Indian islands.

The connection with Ireland is now celebrated each year with a week-long St Patrick's Festival of music, parades and pints of the black stuff.

In 30-degree heat, locals with surnames such as Sweeney and O'Garro don green clothes, feast on soda bread and take part in the masquerade dance -- Montserrat version of an Irish jig.

Mr Healy (59), from Ballyfermot in Dublin, has been performing at the festival for the past three years with his son Andy and their band.

"It's a paradise island and the people are fantastic -- every single one of them considers themselves Irish," he said.

"You see Irish place names like Cork Hill and hear certain phrases that you'd only hear in Ireland -- like an 80-year-old Caribbean man talking about his ma and da."

"When you land they stamp your passport with a shamrock.

"These guys have decided they're Paddys and they're staying Paddys," he added.

Irish Independent

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