We drove into Ballycastle and found the Castle Hostel down near the harbor.
We went in and met Cath, the resident manager. She was very friendly,
nice and helpful. We told her about the luggage, and she said she'd be
on the lookout for it, and when it came, she would lock it in her room for
us and leave us a note. So, we got settled in. We had the top left
room, a private room with a double bed. The bathroom was down the hall
(but not on the right).
The hostel was a good walk, several blocks, from the Town Centre where
everything was happening, but the price was right, and the accommodations there
were what we needed - a place to sleep with a bathroom. It was clean and
our window didn't face east. No. Ireland is far enough up in Latitude
that the sunrise and sunset are much different than we have in North Carolina.
And that was brought home by our having arrived at Summer Solstice.
The sun set at 10:45PM, but rose at 4:45AM! So, having our window not be
on the east was a good thing, as we found out later.
Ballycastle isn't a very large town, and we were, as I said, only a few blocks
from Town Centre. So, we were within walking distance of everything we did there,
which was nice. We parked the car, and didn't get it out again until
Sunday when we left for Larne.
But we were just there, and tired and not ready to meet up with anyone else
yet, so we took a much needed nap. After the nap, we got dressed and
washed and dried off as best we could (our towels were in our checked bags),
then called Dick Glasgow, our host there, to see if he could go with us to
supper. He was tied up at a school, and had other things he had to take
care of before the concert, so we said we'd meet him at the pub where the
concert was to take place. We asked Cath where a good restaurant was, and
she recommended a restaurant, The Kimrock Restaurant, just a door or two away
from the hostel. So, I tried to get to a bank to change some more US dollars
to pounds, but they don't keep US banking hours there (the last bank open
closed at 4PM), so I had to get some
out of an ATM. Then we went to eat. Quite good.
After supper, we headed up to street to The Central Bar (see below), where the
concert was to take place. Brandy and I walked around seeing where things
would be happening - The Central Bar, of course, The House of McDonnell, and
The Antrim Arms Hotel. All were located within a block or so of an area called
"The Diamond". This is the Town Centre, and where most of the pubs
are located, so where much of the music happens. Just below here are
pictures of these three venues (click on the picture to see it full size).
Things in Ballycastle, and other places in Ireland, run on "Irish Standard Time", according to Dick,
which, when translated, means "It starts when it starts." For those who can handle such uncertainty
and adventure, this is a nice attitude to have - unhurried and relaxed. In most places I've been in the
States, though, it wouldn't go over very well. In any case, the concert was scheduled to start
at about 8:00, but wouldn't probably start until 9:00PM, or 8:30PM at the earliest. So, we got to the
pub in plenty of time, and looked for Dick. We met Sabine, Dick's wife, taking money at the door, and
found Dick inside tuning instruments with his students. Malinky, a young band from Scotland, played, and they were even more amazing
and brilliant live than on their CDs which I had bought in the States beforehand. "The Bandits", a band made up of Dick's music students, played
at break. Dick certainly does a great job with these kids - they were excellent! We got to meet
Malinky, and an excellent local guitar/bouzouk player, Greg Gault, who plays in "Scad the Beggars" with
Dick. Brandy got a good chance to get to know Sabine, who is quite a talented and creative lady.
In all, it was a memorable night of music, and it wasn't over yet! After the concert, we got to go to
The House of McDonnell to hear the session run by Marcas O'Murchu (flute) and Seamus O'Kane (bodhran).
But we were tired, and it was hot and literally shoulder-to-shoulder, so Brandy and I walked back to the
hostel for a much needed night's sleep.
On Saturday morning, we awoke to find a note on the door saying our luggage had arrived, so we got presentable,
went downstairs, and found Cath just getting up also. It was about 9:30AM, or so. We got our bags
upstairs, and took showers and put on clean clothes. Brandy made us some coffee. After ascertaining
that the dulcimer made it through the trip unscathed, we got it, the bodhran, the camera, etc., and headed off to
the bodhran master class to be given by Seamus O'Kane which started at 11AM. The class was interesting
and most helpful to me, though we didn't learn any technique. We did learn some general info on drums, and
on practicing, and got to see and hear how Seamus plays. I also got to play one of his drums a fellow
student had just gotten from him the day before. Very, very nice.
After the class, it was off to find some breakfast - at 1:00PM. And we did find and eat it. YUM!
It was then time to go tune my dulcimer for the first time after its flight, so Brandy and I went up
to The House of McDonnells (known to the locals as Tom's), and he let us tune in the back room. Dick
Joined us there (pictured on the right).
Then we went to the Antrim Arms Hotel, a couple of doors down from Tom's, and
set up for my presentation on the dulcimer in Co. Antrim, and concert.
People stayed away from these events in droves, to quote Dick, but the few who did come
heard the dulcimer, some for the first time, and learned of its history in
Co. Antrim, which was the purpose of this event, after all. One lady was
from Brittany, and enjoyed hearing a tune I played called "Crested
Hens" which was written by a Breton Hurdy-Gurdy player. One of Dick's
students came up afterwards, picked out
"The Sally Gardens" on the dulcimer and said, "I'm going to get
one of these!" Couldn't ask for more than that! Here's a
picture (to the left) of me playing, and one (to the right) of
Dick Glasgow, Laura Lacey and Greg Gault playing at the concert.
The concert and presentation being done, we adjourned to Tom's to "have a few tunes". Below are a couple of
pictures from that session. It was a Junior Session that involved a number of Dick's students. Now lest
you think this was a slow session, remember I said before that he has some very talented musicians as students.
One example of this was when we were going to play "The Banshee (McMahon's Reel)". I was glad
because I can play it almost up to speed. The girl who started the tune, who was maybe 9 or 10 years old, picked
up her banjo, put it down again because it was out of tune, and picked up her mandolin, starting off with the tune
several times faster than I could think about playing it right now! Brandy said my mouth just dropped open!
I know it did because I had to close it and start playing chords along with them. Here are those pictures I
Greg Gault playing bodhran
Rick playing dulcimer, of course!
Sabine and her dog, Bertha
So, now it was time for supper, or thereabouts, so Dick, Greg, Brandy and I went to "the new pizza place" to
eat. And Dick said that they had a gig playing for a birthday party before the session that night, and did we
want to come? We said, "Sure!", so Dick, Greg, Brandy and I all went to the Marine Hotel (pictured to
the right) where we met a
fiddler named Helen, and her son, Kieran, a concertina player. We waited for a while until they were ready for
us, and all went in and set up next to the dance floor. The fellow whose birthday it was had just turned 80 years
old. Played traditional tunes, none of which I knew, so I played accompaniment. The 80-year-old was getting
people on the dance floor to do ceili set dances such as "The Walls of Limerick". They danced like
that twice to the music we played. Then he came over to me and asked what instrument I was playing. I told
him, and he started to quote Coleridge's "Kubla Kahn" where it mentions the dulcimer. He even
banged his glass on the table and got everyone's attention so he could tell them that I was playing a dulcimer and
recite that part of the poem:
"A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw :
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora."
After I had packed up, he was still asking me about the instrument, and asked if I would play
them a tune on it, so I got it back out and played a tune on it for them, "Crested Hens". Then we packed
up and left for the session which was to have started at about 9:30PM. It was now 10:30PM, and was 11:00PM before
we got set up at Tom's, and started playing. This is how Irish Standard Time works.
At Tom's, we (Dick, Greg and myself) were joined by an excellent fiddler named Catherine Smith, and a fellow whose
name is John Moulden who plays bones and bodhran, he says, out of defense because he's really a singer. He
added some sean-nos to the session for us, and acquitted himself rather well on the bones, too. Others came to
join the session later. We played Irish (of course) and some Old Time tunes. And after a little over 3
hours, we gave up. Dick took Brandy and I back to the hostel at about 2:25AM. About
3:00AM, we got to bed. Remember the sun comes up at 4:45AM that time of year in Ballycastle. But we slept
through that, our windows not being on the east side of the building, and we got ready to head for
Larne and the next phase of our adventure.
On, to Ballycastle to Larne Pix!
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