It’s Spring – Look Out For The Bluebells!

Finola Finlay took this photo only the other day on the Greenmount Road, near Ballydehob!

With the Covid19 lockdown upon us, it’s sometimes hard to remember that the natural world carries on regardless. Cathy Cook has brought some fresh air and spring sunshine with two tunes on this Facebook link – The Grassy Path and The Bluebells are Blooming:

Both of these jigs were written by Michael Dwyer, who was born near Ardgroom on the Beara Peninsula, West Cork, in 1942 – one of a family of nine children whose father, John Dwyer, played accordion and fiddle while his mother, Kathleen Mc Carthy, (whose family came from Skibbereen) played accordion and sang. The family therefore grew up steeped in the musical traditions of Cork and Kerry. Michael became an All-Ireland champion tin whistle player, but was also a prolific composer. His twenties were spent in London where he met and played with every well-known Irish musician in that vibrant scene, and absorbed their music. Michael returned home to the Beara when his father died in 1972.

…While in London  Michael would have been walking along the street … “humming away and composing to himself”. Back at home, he often walked the roads of the locality especially those between Ardgroom and Castletown. He saw the beauty in nature and felt the rhythm of the natural world like others could not. To him it was as if the rocks and heather, the streams and ferns, nestled between mountain and sea were like a fairy land that lightened his step as he strode along … How could a man with music in his heart not share it?

(These extracts are from an extensive biography of Michael Dwyer on the Irish Tune Composers site)

…Michael was a typical Munster style player, and the jigs and reels which were his favourites were played alongside hornpipes, slow airs, polkas, slides and set dances. After returning from England he was a regular session player in the Beara region and in his own words, always willing to “go for a tune”. He would sometimes play at home and take the opportunity to play in many different keys for his own enjoyment. Even though he never taught formally, and could not read music he sometimes gave lessons on a one to one basis especially in his aunt’s house in Castletown. Even though he could be regarded as a quiet man he was very fond of company and was never shy about playing…

 …Michael Dwyer was drowned in Ardgroom harbour on the 9th of June 1997. He was only 55 years of age. His family and close friends still mourn his loss. He was buried in Eyeries cemetery on a calm June morning. By the graveside his good friend Joe Burke played the haunting slow air Sean O Duibhir an ghleanna (John O’Dwyer of the glen). You could hear the strains of the accordion dance their way across the “Green fields of Beara” and melt into the broad Atlantic…

Thank you, Cathy, for taking us on this little journey through our beautiful landscapes and musical traditions.

History and Landscape, Ardgroom, Beara Peninsula