Saturday, June 13, 2009

Traditional Music - Meeting Family - Salmon

On our last day in Ennis we discovered the Traditional Irish Music Festival or Fleadh Nua in Gaelic. While our laundry was getting clean nearby, we visited the information booth near the Clare Museum in the TI building and were told that there was a free lunchtime concert upstairs. While we were visiting the museum, the helpful young woman who told us about the lunch time session searched for us so that she could tell us that the venue had been changed to the Old Ground Hotel, just up O'Connell Street. While we were waiting for 1 PM for that concert, we happened upon a group from Belfast who were practicing behind the market.

The members were all ages, with the youngest looking about 8 years old and playing the triangle and the oldest perhaps 55 or so. They had at least three kinds of drums, including the bohran, flutes, tin whistles, and horns with, perhaps a fiddle and accordion. I was so taken with watching the bohran player that I didn't really watch the others, just listened to the wonderful music! The bohran is a drum with three sides. The player moves his hand over the drum head on the inside while beating the rhythms with a two sided drum stick which looks almost like a bone. It made my wrist hurt just looking at how it was played, but it made a wonderful sound!

At 12:45 I left Sweetie reading in the car and walked up to the Old Ground Hotel. I tried the bar first since traditional music is usually played in the bar, but they said to check the lobby. In the lobby there were people wandering around, but no concert to be seen. I stopped an older man who was carrying an instrument case. He said they would be playing as soon as they knew where to set up. A young woman carrying a violin came by and said that the hotel wanted the session to be in the break room, but that it was too small and too warm. In the meantime I made friends with a couple from Meath, just north of Dublin, who were also there for the concert. We all settled on the couch just inside the lobby doors.

Right at 1 pm the fellow I first spoke to took off his fine broadcloth black coat and set it over the arm of the couch near where I was sitting, found a stool by the reservations desk and sit it right in front of his coat, took out his accordion and began to play. The woman with the fiddle settled on a chair on the other side of the lobby entrance across from the couch.

Someone found a chair and set it next to the accordion player and soon a circle began to form in the middle of the entrance to the hotel! Even more fun was that I was part of the circle. After a few songs the accordion player got up and spoke to a fiddler who had just arrived, suggesting that he lead now. He came over and asked if I could scoot I did. Now the lead fiddler was sitting next to me playing and his bow barely missed grazing my knee. Wow. In the photo below, you can see where I was sitting, right next to the lady in green and the fiddler in the beige sweater. The coat of the accordion player/singer is there on the sofa arm. He was sitting right in front of the coat.

At the end of the song, I stood up and went to stand with the crowd because it seemed that the fiddler could use a little more room! After another song or two the accordion player, who had moved into an alcove, just stood up at the end of the song and began singing in Gaelic! It was a sad but beautiful ballad.

Additional musicians arrived during the session. Most of them don't usually play together so it was sort of a jam session playing tunes familiar to all. Quite enjoyable!

After a bit of traditional music it was time to pick up the laundry, pack up and head off to Killimer for the ferry over the Shannon to County Limerick. The drive to the ferry seemed to be more enjoyable with less traffic and a good road. We were next to the last car on to the ferry

and the crossing was fairly quick...about 20 minutes.

Once we reached Tarbert on the other shore, most of the vehicles turned right for the Dingle Peninsula, but we turned left and drove along the Shannon River toward Glin.

The best part of our trip started in Glin. Since I have an aversion to putting the real names of non-blogging people on my blog, I'll just use initials and not put up a photo. They are real folks, just kind of anonymous.

One of my grandfathers was born in Glin and I was hoping to meet some of his relatives who, by extension, are my relatives.

When I was a child I grew up near Washington D.C. My father's people lived in various places in the South and my mother's people lived in the New York city area. By being between the families, we really didn't have constant exposure to relatives while growing up. For that reason the infrequent visits to or from my mother's father, Grandad James, were memorable. He was a quiet man with a twinkle in his blue eyes. By the time that I remember visiting him he was already getting old. I think he had a major heart attack before I was in high school. My favorite visit was when I was in college and drove up with my boyfriend. We were both history majors and really enjoyed Granddad's stories of Ireland's struggles to become an independent country and the part he and his father played in that from New York. Imagine how excited I was to be in the Irish town where he was born and raised and to meet the descendants of his father's brothers.

Glin is a village on the Shannon River not terribly far east from where it joins the Atlantic Ocean. The Shannon is the biggest river in Ireland. Main Street in Glin is perpendicular to the river and heads uphill. At the end of the street are the Catholic Church on the right and the Protestant Church on the left. Go a little further and you drive into the demesne of the Knight of Glin.

It used to be, only a few months ago, that you could arrange to stay there and have a fine meal. Now the Castle is only open by appointment for weddings.

Cousin M, another one with a twinkle in the eye, lives on Main Street, not too far from the Shannon. We spent some time our first evening in Glin getting to know her in the cozy warmth from her wonderful stove, toasting Granddad with some nice Port. She is a delight. We learned a little about her life in Glin and a bit about when she was younger.

We visited with her again the next evening. At that time we had the pleasure of meeting Cousin S. We quickly discovered that he and I have some job skills in common although he is a seasoned professional and I'm just a greenhorn in most ways. He and Sweetie swapped stories that day and the next day when we met S's wife and children at their beautiful home. Not sure who enjoyed the talking and telling of tales more of the two men. Great craic as they say in Ireland. S's wife is quite lovely as are their children. Ulli, the Russian wolfhound is striking and so gentle and sweet.

Spending time with all of these newly discovered relatives was truly the highlight of the trip. We hope that someday Cousin S and Cousin B and maybe the children, too, will come visit us in California.

I was told that the house where my Granddad grew up no longer exists. There is a headstone in the cemetery as a general memorial for family members. I've heard that for a long time when a family member left Ireland that the family and neighbors and friends would hold a wake as they do for the dead because so often they would never see that person again. So many Irish had to leave their homeland due to famine and wars and poverty. Some just wanted a better life. My great grandfather was one of those and eventually my grandfather followed him and he made a new life for himself. Whenever I spoke with Granddad he expressed that he missed Ireland. Toward middle age he would visit Ireland as often as he could. Eventually poor health prevented him from going was ever home to him as far as I could tell.

With all of the enjoyment of time with family I haven't mentioned our experience at the Old Castle B&B in Glin, just a block from Main Street and right next to one of the ancient castles.

At Ester's Old Castle Bed & Breakfast you will enjoy high quality accommodations, food and amenities similar to what you would find in a fine hotel but in a more intimate setting. Ester, the innkeeper, has created beautiful rooms with antiques, very comfortable beds and fine fabrics.

The common room is very comfortable and the breakfast equally hearty as the ones we had in Ennis. Her gardens are lovely and it is a very good place to relax. Ester was able to call and introduce us to Cousin M and Cousin S and recommended a good restaurant for our first night's meal. If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend the Old Castle B&B in Glin.

Enrights Restaurant in Tarbert, one of the restaurants Ester mentioned, was an unusual mix of furnishings and not terribly crowded, but I had some of the best salmon ever there...and I am a salmon fanatic. I suspect that the salmon was fresh from the river it was so good. Sweetie had a full plate of delicious Irish lamb chops. The entrees were so outstanding that I forget what else we ate, but I know it was good.

When we came out of the restaurant we saw this truck across the street. Anyone who knows me well will understand why I had to take this picture.

The following night we bought a pizza on Main Street in Glin... a guilty pleasure and just right after a long day of driving around the Palatine.

The Palatine? That's for the next post...along with Flying Boats and Maureen O'Hara.

In the meantime, I have a great recipe for salmon for you. I had excellent salmon in Ireland, but once we were home Sweetie grilled some Alaskan salmon his special way and it was absolutely delicious as well. Try this next time you grill salmon. You will likely enjoy it.

Sweetie's Grilled Salmon with Whiskey

1 salmon fillet, tail section skin still on one side
1 teaspoon olive oil
about 1 -2 teaspoon bourbon
sprinkle of garlic salt
a grind of fresh black pepper

Heat the grill to red hot. Be sure grill is clean.

Lay fillet on tray with a lip. Sprinkle fillet with bourbon, then with the olive oil, garlic salt and pepper.

Just before you put the fillet on the grill, mop the skin side in the combined bourbon and olive oil that is on the bottom of the tray to help keep the skin from sticking.

Lay the fillet on the grill. Cover and grill until the temperature inside the grill gets to 450 degrees F. Open the grill and check to make sure the fish is done. It will cook a little bit more as it waits to be served.

Use a wide spatula to take the fillet from the grill to the serving platter. Serve hot, garnished with lemon if desired.


  1. How sad, to hold a wake for loved ones who go away and are never able to come home. At least you got back, and brought the spirit of others back with you.

    Gorgeous old bridge, and I do love the idea of people just having a jam session like that in a pub. People here sometimes even bring instruments to parties, just in the expectation that someone will get out a fiddle, and music will flow.

    Heh. Ireland's BEST baker, now? I SEE!

  2. What a fun little jam session you got to be witness to.
    Ah, the wolfhound looks like a total sweetheart.
    Yes, you so had to take a picture of that truck! I would have bought some of the bread too.

  3. I really want to go to Glin and stay in the B&B! I love the stone bridge.
    Jam sessions like that are so magic. Such a great connect with all your cousins.
    The Russian hound is gorgeous.

  4. Hi there cousins,
    Thanx for the lovely comments on your visit to us in Glin. We have had some fantastic weather in the weeks since you left to go home & would love to have had you guys here to enjoy it with us. Cousin P you have opened my eyes to 'blog' sites & so I am trying to allocate time to a Glin blogsite. So if anyone is interested drop into

    In the meantime love to you all + tell C to watch that ladder.