Saturday 19 October 2019

My cultural life: Breanndan O Beaglaoich, musician

Breandann O Beaglaoich
Breandann O Beaglaoich
Queen of Ireland

I live in Baile Na bPoc, the village I was born in back in 1955. That very night, the last day of October, Halla Na Muiri, which was run by my father and my uncles, had reopened after renovation - and when word reached my father that I was on the way, he left the hall and came home on horseback where Dr Scully awaited him, having come from Dingle by car.

They sat on either side of the fire drinking whiskey.

"Deanfaimid fhein an bheart air" (we will manage him ourselves) said the midwife, who happened to be my grandmother, Kate Ferris, to my mother, Mary Ellen - and having delivered me, she brought me down on her arm from the 'seomra' where the two boys were down past Athlone on the bottle of Paddy Whiskey.

And sure they had one more to relieve the strain!

Ever since then I have been immersed in an saol Gaelach, the Gaelic life of language and traditional music. My four children, Breanainn, Cormac, Conchubhair and Cliodhna, all play traditional music and are fluent in Gaeilge with a true passion for both.

If they decided to play another type of music I wouldn't mind. Music is music, eight notes on the scale, but it is a bonus that they play traditional music, because now they teach me.

Film: The Queen of Ireland

Queen of Ireland

Having grown up in a country largely oppressed by the power of the church, where I feel everything enjoyable such as singing, playing, dancing, drinking and sex was portrayed as a sin, or as something not to be enjoyed too much for fear the soul would be polluted, I have to say the film that most impressed me in the past few years was The Queen of Ireland (above). My God how much we have matured and released ourselves of the arrogant insensitivity of Rome.

Design: Naomhog

My favourite design, well, I have to say is the naomhog, otherwise known as the curragh. The design has been with us for thousands of years and is still being made and used for fishing, for pleasure and for voyages. I was recently one of a group of four who rowed from Dublin to A Coruna in Galicia and from there to Santiago de Compostela, mirroring the epic journeys of pilgrimage from Ireland for centuries.

Musician: Rosie MacKenzie


I am really enjoying playing with a young girl from Cape Breton called Rosie MacKenzie (above), who plays fiddle, sings and dances in the Cape Breton style. I have no problem in joining with her in total abandonment of the perceived reality as we engage in one another's performance and with our not-too-separate traditional backgrounds. We have guested with Glen Hansard in Carnegie Hall, Town Hall in Galway and, two weeks ago, in New York, which was a pure pleasure.

TV: I don't own a television

As for my favourite television programme, I don't have one as I don't have a television - nor a phone either, thankfully.

George Orwell 1984 eat your heart out!

Book: An tOileanach


My favourite book in Gaeilge would be An tOileanach by Tomas Ó Criomhthain. In the English language, An Unsung Hero by Michael Smith, and Star of the Sea by Joseph O'Connor.

Breanndan O Beaglaoich's sea journey to Santiago de Compostela is traced in The Camino Voyage documentary which screens at the Audi Dublin International Film Festival in the IFI on March 2, 6.15pm

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