A dying art resurrected

COMMENT: Meehan's Muses on the art of building an Irish Dry Stone Wall

Paddy Meehan

Reporter:

Paddy Meehan

A dying art resurrected

Musical magic, Donal Lunny, Zoe Conway and Mairtín O'Connor

I have always had an interest in our natural quarried stone – particularly Donegal sandstone which is relatively easy to work with. I suppose the other reason is I may have inherited this love – my ancestors originally came from the Mountcharles area of Drimkeelan which is renowned for its natural stone quarries and mines. Also the many years ongoing interest with the restoration and preservation of Donegal Castle might also be a factor.
Last Monday week the Donegal Garden Society hosted a talk by Ronan Crehan, Chairperson of the ‘Irish Dry Stone Wall Association’, at the home of Lyn and Elizabeth Temple in Salthill, Mountcharles.
The main points taken from this very interesting and extremely well documented talk was the dedicated preservation and construction countrywide by members relating to our heritage through the medium of stone walling and buildings. Examples given – the successful ongoing annual ‘Dry Stone Walling Festival’ held at Mountcharles Pier which features cutting and building walls. An another amazing project which is a ‘must to see’ is the huge map of Ireland at Glencolmcille which features the different types of stone from each of the 32 counties and carved on each, a heritage symbol of that particular county.
Prominent in the construction of this map and other major countrywide stone projects, was one of county Donegal’s finest stone masons, Michael McGroarty Mountcharles.


A night in Leghowney Hall
Do you know this, rural development associations never cease to amaze. The dedication, time and ongoing hard work that is put in to promoting, developing, and constructing community halls in their own particular areas. On my journeys I see this in places like Inver, Drimarone, Cashelard, Leghowney. In the latter building, last Wednesday week countrywide famous traditional musicians Donal Lunny, Zoe Conway, Mairtin O’Connor gave a two hour performance to a ‘packed to the rafters hall’.
The trio of button key accordion, fiddle, guitar/mandolin took us on musical journeys from Brazil to Gort and Bulgaria. Dundalk musician/singer Zoe Conway who has Donegal connections gave a fine rendition of the ‘Fairport Convention’ hit ‘Crazy Man Michael’ – indeed at times sounding like Judy Dyble. Donal Lunny’s tribute to 1930’s Irish trade unionist/Spanish Civil War veteran, Rosses man, Peadar O’Donnell, was fitting to the humanitarian works of this extraordinary man.
And I can confidently predict this, support group ‘Erdini’, a mix of Bluegrass and Irish music without a doubt are a group to watch out for.  Three weeks ago they gave outstanding performances at the renowned Ulster American Folk Park’s ‘Blue Grass Festival’.

Even though only on for 30 minutes in Leghowney Hall, this mix of Sligo, Bundoran, Donegal musicians gave us some amazing sounds from the USA’s Carter Family, Bob Dylan and Leadbelly. From my tuppence worth, this group were not on stage long enough and here’s hoping for a full performance soon.


‘Donegal Voices’ excel
Last Friday evening the historic St Ann’s Church in Ballyshannon hosted the ‘Donegal Voices’ one hour long Vivaldi’s Gloria and Bach’s Magnificat in D. under the director’s baton of the renowned Andrew Batchelor, with Ian Mills, a noted organist at St Columb’s Cathedral Derry. When you consider the ‘Donegal Voices’ were formed only in 2015 by Deborah Cunningham, Eileen Carr and Andrew Batchelor, with members drawn from all areas of Donegal county, the sounds the produce and professionalism they bring to the stage is amazing.
Mr Batchelor, principally a singer, who has performed as a soloist in the UK and Europe, said he was delighted that the quality of ‘Voices’ tenors and sopranos were drawn from within the choir itself which saved on costs of hiring outside professionals.

Exciting plans are underway to recruit a Northern Ireland orchestra to accompany future ‘Voices’ performances. St Ann’s solo performances were given by soprans Deborah Cunningham, Anna Meehan, Fiona Wasson, Carole Leonard, Mary Deeny, Susie Carey, Clodagh Duggan, Mary-Ellen McGuirk and tenors, Liam Winters, Pat Doherty and Paul Martin.