Our trip to Graigue / Dunquin
on the tip of the Dingle Peninsula, Ireland
April 11-20, 2008
Page 7: Shopping / Brandon Mt. / John Benny Moriarty’s
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Page 7: Shopping / Brandon Mt. / John Benny Moriarty’s
Friday, April 18
Dingle and John Benny Moriarty:
It was cold and windy again today but KC had not yet been up Brandon Mountain so, weather notwithstanding, that was the plan for the day. Although I would have gone with them (I would have preferred the trek up Brandon to the trek along Inch Beach) because I had not yet had an opportunity to spend time in Dingle, KC dropped me off at Dingle Crystal on Green street and then the other three went off to climb Brandon Mountain promising to call when they started, when they turned back, and when they reached the bottom. They left me at 11:00 a.m. and I got a call that they were starting up about 20 minutes later. Five minutes after that, I got another call that they were turning back because it was too cold and windy! They said they would look for another place to climb. That was the last I heard from them….
Meanwhile, I had a cappuccino and a scone in the coffee shop at the back of Dingle Crystal, and planned out my day. I needed to have my hair washed but Liz said that it would be very difficult to get an appointment at such short notice. She called two salons for me and they were both booked. She recommended a third, near the butcher, and suggested that I go down there and see if they would take a walk-in.
I gave Sean my crystal order – the GORGEOUS oval bowl I’d had my eye on since our first visit, 2 shot glasses for KC, and two cordial glasses – asked Sean to ship them for us, and left to explore Dingle.
Press here for link to Dingle Crystal website (a new window will open).
Sean had recommended John Benny Moriarty’s for music that night so I first walked down there to see whether Éilis Kennedy, the owner’s wife, would be performing. On the way, I stopped in at Murphy’s Pub to see if they had a copy of Eric’s CD (they didn’t). At John Benny’s I got the details on the night’s performance - music at 9:30, get there at 8:30 for a good seat.
Heading back in the direction of Green Street I stopped in a bookstore where I spent almost two hours looking through their cookbooks, Irish knot books, calendars, cards, and maps. I came away with a recipe for beef filet in a turf crust (!), several fascinating books on how to draw Celtic knots, including one with an elaborate alphabet, a 2009 calendar, and a surveyors map of Brandon Mountain (for KC). As I was checking out, I saw a small ceramic mountain goat in the window that was the perfect size for a 1:6 scale doll! It was heavy but I was willing to hand carry it home for my next Celtic Priestess.
Turning back onto Green Street and, several stores down from Dingle Crystal, I nipped into Lisbeth Mulcahy to buy a sweater I’d seen on their website. I also bought two gorgeous cards with hand painted fairies on the front.
I looked in the window of every jewelry store on Green Street, and there are several, hoping to find a small charm to add to my bracelet. I saw some gorgeous pendants and earrings but the pendants were too large and I didn’t think they’d sell me just one earring so I resisted the urge to go in. There was one store selling pendants with your name written in Ogham – the 4th century Celtic Tree Alphabet – but they were fairly expensive and I’d promised KC I would go easy this trip so I filed that away for next year.
Press here for link to description of Ogham (a new window will open).
When I passed Dingle Crystal I made a short pit-stop to report on my day. Sean offered me another coffee but, although I was hungry, I declined because I was afraid I was running out of time! I promised to stop by later. I walked on up to lower Main Street and to Holden Leathergoods. I was tempted to go in – the bags in their window were gorgeous – but they appeared to be alligator and ostrich and, therefore, out of my price range so I passed them by. I peeked into the antique store and debated whether I should look for a Celtic charm in there, but Siopa Ceoil an Daingin
was across the street and was loudly calling my name….
Both Michael and Caitriona were there and helped me choose a selection of CDs. Some were the songs I’d heard at An Droichead Beag earlier in the week, like Steve Earl’s Galway Girl, others were new releases from some of my favorite groups, like Solas, and others came out of the conversation, like Kate Bush singing Mna na hEireann (The Women of Ireland) and the CD The Women of Ireland produced by Michael’s ex sister in law, Gael Linn. I’d promised KC I would limit it to 10 this year and managed to do that if you don’t count the book-and-CD that I purchased for him on Brendan’s voyage to Newfoundland. I knew KC would enjoy the book and I really wanted the CD – the only recoding of Uilleann pipes with an orchestra behind them!
When I mentioned that we would be returning to Dublin through Athlone and “the world’s oldest pub” Michael and Caitriona recommended some interesting pubs closer to home: Morrissey’s Pub in Abbeyleix, Ashes Bar in Camp, and Johnny Fox’s Pub in Dublin. I thanked them and filed the recommendations in case the trip to Athlone was shelved.
I asked Michael about the music that night at John Benny’s and he told me that there was a big party planned there for a local musician, Donagh Hennessy, former guitarist of LUNASA, and that some of the country’s best talent would all be there. It would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I should not miss it. I didn’t intend to! I knew that KC knew how important the music was to me in this area and was sure he would be willing to drive me in.
Speaking of KC, I hadn’t heard from him since 11:00 that morning and was starting to worry. I tried to call several times but kept getting his voice mail so I suspected, and hoped, that he was on the mountain and out of range. I assumed that since the eastern access to Brandon was too windy, they had gone to the western side which would have been, presumably, out of the wind. KC is extremely good about keeping me informed and I knew that if he could call, he would.
I told Caitriona that I needed to have my hair washed and she, too, recommended the salon by the butcher as the only one that might take a walk-in so I left all my bags with her and went over to ask. YES! They would take me, at 4pm! It was 3:15 and I had run out of money so I raced back to Garvey’s to get some cash. I thought about nipping into Murphy’s for a sticky toffee pudding but didn’t have time. When I got back to the salon it was almost 4:00 so I went in and waited my turn.
While I was waiting, my phone rang. It was KC! They were on their way into town, and starving. I explained that I was about to have my hair done and would meet them as soon as I could – I was starving too. He agreed to call once they were in the restaurant. The phone rang again, in between my wash and my dry. They were in Murphy’s. I asked him to order me a sticky toffee pudding but he wanted to wait until I got there. I could tell he was tired and impatient. Did this mean I wouldn’t get to hear music tonight?
It took longer than expected to dry my hair so I ran up to Siopa Ceoil an Daingin to collect my bags. Michael offered to walk me down to Murphy’s, and I agreed, but he then got waylaid by a customer. While I waited, Eric came into the store and, on hearing that I was having trouble finding his CD, offered to walk me to the store on Green Street that might have one. I started to leave with him, seeing that Michael was tied up, but Michael extracted himself and insisted on driving me. We got to Murphy’s just as KC and crew were leaving. They’d ordered me a sticky toffee pudding to go. In retrospect, it was fortunate that Michael had dropped me off because it gave him an opportunity to explain to KC how important tonight’s performance at John Benny’s was.
The pictures below are from KC, Rick and Colleen’s trek up Brandon Mountain. KC gave me a synopsis but I didn’t write it down and now I can’t remember it all so I’ll do the best I can and make corrections when he finds the time to read it.
Taken from the link above, Brandon Mountain is 3,127 feet (953 m) high. The mountains of the western part of the peninsula are formed of rock strata known to geologists as the Dingle beds, and north of the town of Dingle they form the Brandon range -- a high craggy ridge, of which Brandon Mountain is the highest point – which ends in cliffs at Brandon Head.
They started on the eastern side and turned back because the wind was right in their faces and bitterly cold. They then tried the western side which was much better although the trail at the base was very steep. Once they passed that it became easier but the wind was still both strong and cold.
About two thirds of the way up Rick and Colleen stopped to rest and KC went on without them to see whether he could get a glimpse of all the lakes and whether it was worth continuing. He discovered that the wind was much less severe around the bend and tried to call Rick to ask if they wanted to join him and press on but he couldn’t get through so he went back. He would have gone on alone except that he couldn’t see where the trail was leading and didn’t know whether it would have been worth it.
He returned to the place where he had left Rick and Colleen and they all made their way back to the bottom.
You can faintly see ??? in the background:
The rocky path :
The lakes :
The yellow arrow on this stone is, I believe, the way the path was marked.
It was, therefore, sometime hard to follow :
Back at Murphy’s pub, after saying goodbye to Michael, we went to Garvey’s to get cash to pay Philomena and then went home. KC and Rick glommed onto the map of Brandon Mountain that I’d just bought for them, and figured out where they’d been, while I inhaled the sticky toffee pudding they’d bought for me. Colleen soaked her finger in warm water to force out the splinter she’d picked up.
I went up to pack and KC, of course, lay down on the sofa for a nap. I came down to collect the things I wanted to put in the suitcases and tiptoed around, to avoid waking KC up, as I filled my arms. As luck would have it, just as I passed the sofa, a tube of hand cream fell to the floor with a loud CRASH! Everyone looked at KC, who jerked awake, irritated that he’d been woken up AGAIN, as I sheepishly picked up the tube and apologized profusely. Had I ruined my chances of being driven to John Benny’s?
No! I hadn’t! At 8pm KC offered to drive me into Dingle for one last night of music (he IS the perfect husband, isn’t he?) but made me promise that we could leave at 11:00 since they were so tired. I reluctantly agreed, figuring that 1.5 hours of music were better than none. We left at 8:30, too late to snag a good table, and were given a table in the bar behind the restaurant. I thought it offered a good view of the musicians but, in retrospect, I was mistaken.
We ordered dinner: fish and chips for KC and I (battered cod with no skin), sirloin for Colleen, and sea bass for Rick; cider for me and Guinness for everyone else. KC and I loved our fish (I prefer battered to breaded) and Colleen enjoyed her steak but Rick was disappointed in his sea bass. It had skin on both sides, which none of us like, and when he removed it there was little flavor left in the fish. Colleen offered him some of the garlic butter that came with her steak but he declined it. My starter – smoked salmon with rocket oil – was heavenly!
The menu at John Benny’s.:
Press here for more pictures of the food on this trip (a new window will open).
While we were eating, people were streaming past us into the bar and some of them were carrying instruments so I was really looking forward to the night’s music but was concerned because they seemed to be more interested in partying than playing. Eventually the guest of honor came in and I overheard the proprietor telling his wife that they should start the music shortly. She agreed but getting that many people organized took some time and they didn’t ‘get their act together’ until almost 10:30. I was panicking! Every minute they delayed was a minute lost to me but there was nothing I could do about it.
While we waited, a distinguished looking gentleman and his wife asked us if they could use the stool we’d been saving for Michael and when we said yes, thinking Michael had changed his mind about joining us, they sat down at our table. They were from Switzerland and we had a lively conversation with them –KC brought out his German and got kudos for it -- but most of the conversation was in English. I was focusing more on what was going on with the music but was glad the others had something to distract them. I knew they were anxious to get home but I just COULDN’T leave!
Finally, the musicians struck up a lively tune (with the two women playing the flute, not singing) and I was in heaven! But, no sooner did they start playing than the people at the table in front of us stood up and totally blocked my view! I contemplated conking them on the head with my empty cider bottle but KC grabbed my arm so I got up and forced my way through the throng to a place where I could see the musicians. It was a dangerous spot – everyone who passed me had at least one beer or coffee in their hands and there was very little room to get by -- but I was willing to wear their drinks in order to get a better view. Fortunately, I didn’t have to.
When the first tune ended, instead of going directly into another one, they chatted a bit before starting up again. Eilis got another round of drinks. I was tempted to chivvy them but figured that would be counter productive so I held my tongue and prayed. It was now close to 11:00 and I was desperate.
After another instrumental tune, during the lull between songs, Michael finally arrived and stood next to me. Several of the musicians recognized him and said hello. He gave me some background which I promptly forgot as I didn’t have anything to write it down with. Suddenly, the two women started singing and it was so beautiful I got all choked up! KC couldn’t ask me to leave now, he just couldn’t! But, he did. He came over in the middle of the song to tell me that we’d be leaving after one more tune.
It was after 11:00, I had to admit, but I had no control over the fact that they’d been so slow to get started, or over the fact that they wasted so much time in between playing. I knew KC knew that but he didn’t seem to care. Where was the perfect guy I’d married?
The second song was just as beautiful as the first but KC, Rick and Colleen were making their way towards me with their coats (and mine) in hand. KC had a pained look on his face – he knew how much I wanted to stay – and offered to drive Rick and Colleen to the cottage and come back for me. I appreciated his offer but I couldn’t ask him to do that, no matter how badly I wanted to stay. So we left.
When we got back to the cottage I went right upstairs and finished packing. KC kept reminding me that he’d been willing to come back for me. Next time, he promised, if we came with anyone else, we would rent two cars. Lying in bed next to KC that night I realized once again what a perfect person he is. It embarrasses him to be told this but I want to shout it to the world: he truly is a Perfect Specimen Of a Man. My PSOM!
Poster advertising the night’s entertainment:
Not your normal group of musicians performing in John Benny’s.:
Éilis Kennedy (right) and friends performing at John Benny’s.:
Press here for link to John Benny’s website (a new window will open).
I’ve been listening to Éilis’ CD Time To Sail since we got back and while I’m so glad I picked it up earlier in the day, it is only reminiscent of the music we heard that night. Hopefully, Michael and Caitriona will be able to provide the names of the people who were playing so I can give them credit here.
Thank you, Caitriona, for sending me the following the morning after I published the log! I have added your comments verbatim:
I arrived in minutes after you left and the place was just starting to warm up with all of those fantastic musicians:
Sean Smyth - the fiddle player from LúNASA was there with his sister Cora Smyth( another famous fiddler).
Johnny Spillane arrived!!!! I recommended his CD to you earlier in the day and you bought it -- The Wells of the World -- he was in NOMOS also . He joined in, sang tunes with Éilis and Pauline Scanlon. Johnny lives in Cork.
The party was for Donogh Hennessy ( former guitarist with LúNASA ) , and partner of Pauline Scanlon . There were many other well known musicians present, so once things got under way there was no stopping at all.
We only lasted until about 2pm and, yes, the party continued until 5am. We were visited by many of the tired musicians on the Saturday, which was great. It was such a pity you couldn’t have been there that night Barb, but next year we will concentrate on overdosing you in the music. Promise.
In addition to Johnny’s CD I also have 2 CDs from NOMOS and 1 from LúNASA. LúNASA have 7 CDs to their credit and are described by Amazon.com as “arguably the greatest instrumental group ever to exist in Irish music.” I need to add Pauline and Donagh to my collection. I may not be able to wait until next year….
Press here for link to Éilis Kennedy (a new window will open).
Press here for link to Lúnasa (a new window will open).
Press here for link to Pauline Scanlon (a new window will open).
Press here for link to Johnny Spillane (a new window will open).
I will add links to the other artists as soon as I find them.
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