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New Ross man Aidan Power publishes bittersweet songbook inspired by his time in a draconian orphanage

Songs inspired by time in draconian orphanage recalled in bittersweet songbook by new ross man Aidan power, writes David Looby

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Aidan Power with his new book. Photo; Mary Browne

Aidan Power with his new book. Photo; Mary Browne

21/10/2022 Aidan Power with his new book. Photo; Mary Browne

21/10/2022 Aidan Power with his new book. Photo; Mary Browne

Aidan Power delighted to see a Christmas tree he campaigned for in Irishtown, in 2019.

Aidan Power delighted to see a Christmas tree he campaigned for in Irishtown, in 2019.

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Aidan Power with his new book. Photo; Mary Browne

newrossstandard

ALL his life New Ross man Aidan Power has walked with a shadow looming over him.

As he releases his life’s collection of songs in an eclectic songbook called ‘Songs & Stories Of Places That I’ve Been’, he shares his heart-breaking story of a lonely childhood and an adulthood in which making strong connections with others has proven impossible due to his troubled youth.

“A man is never known in his own town,” Aidan says. Visible around New Ross in his shabby clothes, sporting dark sunglasses and with a friendly ‘Hi ya’ for people he passes, Aidan is passionate about the town he grew up in.

Over the years he has fundraised for local schools, collecting millions of cans in the Eighties – donating the proceeds to local pupils, and plans to pass on any proceeds from his songbook to schools –wishing he had been able to attend school in New Ross and not in an orphanage.

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“This book came to me when I was down in Woodstown, Co Waterford. I used to go down for Christmas every year. When I was a young child growing up in Clonmel we used to go to Woodstown for two months every year, from St Joseph’s Ferry House in Clonmel for young offenders. I was an orphan. My father was a musician, a button box accordian player who lived near The Royal Hotel where he was a bottlewasher.”

Aidan says he got all my musical talent from his father. 

“There were 16 of us in the family. My mother couldn’t look after us. All of the chaps went to Clonmel. One brother was in the Artane Boys Band. My sister Bridget spent 33 years in the Magdalene Laundries in Cork.” 

He met many of his siblings for the first time in 1975, having worked in hotels in Scotland for many years. 

Aidan met his father Edward in 1974, when he came home for the funeral of his brother Nicholas.

Having left school, moved to Scotland aged 16 and spent 13 years working in hotels there.

He returned to Ireland and settled in Cork.

“I took a job as a night porter in The Metropole in Cork. It was then that I met my family for the first time. I arrived in New Ross in 1974 to work with the council. I learned about the life my father had growing up. “

In New Ross he joined the New Ross Musical Society and was involved with 17 musicals and the Light Opera Festival and also with De La Salle in Waterford. He joined The Democrats showband with Ted St Ledger. “I was on the road with him for nine years as the road manager. At Christmas every year we used to form a mini group: Ted and Sue; who we called The Bewley Street Duo. Sue Furlong, Ted’s daughter Philo and myself did a variety of songs before The Indians came on. It was massive.”

Solicitor Simon Kennedy advised Aidan to apply for the redress fund and out of this money he bought a caravan.

“I had to go to my doctor to prove what I was going to do with the money that I got. Everything seemed to come to me there. The music started flowing out of me. I wrote ‘At Home By The Barrow’ in 1987.”

Guitarist John Kissane did the arrangements. 

Aidan has composed original songs reflecting his life: the good times and many tough times.

Stories and places he has been inform his songbook songs.

“Every place I’d go, I’d always have a song. There are some horrific songs about places where there were wars like Vietnam and Ukraine.”
For Aidan, writing songs gave him a purpose and responsibility. 

He said releasing the book means to lot to him because he knows it will be well received in Woodstown and in New Ross.

“I have been going to Woodstown since I was a child. Getting the money from the Government was a life saver for me. You see being a person on your own I was always on my own. I had a lot of friendships down there and I had a lot of women in my time, but all I ever wanted to do in life was to write this book and do a CD.”
The karaoke style CD features backing tracks from Kissane.

He got the book published in Barrow Office Supplies.

“Every single penny I get from this is for the schools in my area. People can get it from The Barrow Office Supplies for around €45. It will be available within a day or two for them.”

The ballads include one called ‘The Ballad of my Childhood Days Growing Up in Ferry House Clonmel 1950’.

“I was reared in a system, when I was only nine/In a school where bars were on windows, had stood for years in line/When the old red brick walls grew weeds for creepy crawlies/And the cold sounds of silence were felt from time to time.”

The chorus goes: “The dark nights were lonely, the long days were cruel/I went about my business and stuck to every rule/But when the whistle blew I joined a long queue/When I sat down to breakfast the porridge was bloody cool!”

The ballad continues: “There were some happy moments when the summer had come/A trip down to Woodstown for two months in the sun/I could ramble there for hours or fish off Pollock Rock/And when the daylight faded I sat back at 10 o’clock.

“When my holidays had ended I went back to school/And back to hard reality, sitting back on my stool/Darning old woollen socks or putting soles in old shoes/And remembering all those memories as a boy of nine years old.

“When Christmas came to Ferry House a buzz was in the air/It brought our school together for a short Christmas fair/All the presents that I got brought tears to my eyes/ Then I knew I felt wanted as a child of ten years old/I was just gone 16, then I left the school/I went to Bonny Scotland cause I thought I was cool.”

Aidan said:  “My time in Ferry House is a horrible story. I think about it a lot; every day.”

He shows me a photo of himself among a group of boys in the orphanage and one of him in Scotland, at the ‘kings and queens golf course’ in Scotland, looking dapper.

“I didn’t have any childhood or any family life whatsoever. The only family time I had was taking Bridget out of the Magdalene Laundries in Cork. I signed her out. That was the first time I met my family. I was working in Cork and had a flat on Patrick’s Hill.”
Aidan was never told why he was ‘put away’.

“Ita Cousins was my mother’s name. She died in Waterford a spinster aged around 70 in Waterford. She was buried on the Cork road. She was going with my father and having the children back and forward. 16 children was a lot to have. I think the church had an awful lot to do with that because the church lived off the poor people as there were six or seven masses a week.”
Aidan formed a strong connection with an aunt Statia Power in Irishtown, who refers to as ‘The Queen of Irishtown’ in his book.

“I remember being there and the half doors and you’d go into a house to have your future read with tea leaves.”

Aidan’s songs reflect happy times in his life and in the lives of the people of New Ross also.

‘Once Around The Floor’ is about The Barrowland ballroom.

There are also songs dedicated to his beloved Woodstown, while ‘Home By The Barrow’ is a reflective song. Perhaps the stand out lyric is ‘Christmas Time Is a Time To Make Everything Right’. Written in 1993, it has a joyful melody and uplifting message: “When the snow is falling down/I’ll go around the town/Gathering up the snowflakes/That fell upon the ground/Then I’ll make a snowman/The finest in the land/Christmas time is a time/To make everything right.”

In ‘I’m A Rockin’ Roll Man Tonight’ Aidan warmly recalls his days touring with showbands and his meeting with his father.

In ‘Any Time Any Day’, Aidan writes of his isolation. “I live in my own little world these days/Where everybody seems to stare at me/At the clothes that I wear, All the streaks through my hair/But what do I care what people say.”

He goes on to write about a struggle with drink and drugs. “I live in a time where drugs with wine/Kills my personality for all time,” urging the listener to give up their addiction.

‘Songs & Stories Of Places That I’ve Been’ is available to buy now and would make an ideal Christmas gift. 


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