Aoibhinn and Company with Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh and her father Fergal
In this week’s programme Aoibhinn is in the company of musicians, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh and her father Fergal Mac Amhlaoibh.
Recorded in Baile na Ngall on the Dingle Peninsula the programme traces the way music has been a thread through their lives. Fergal a former priest met Murieann’s mother, the actress, Aine Moynihan when she was acting in a Peacock play that he was asked to arrange the music for. It was love at first sight.
When Fergal and Aine started their life together after Fergal got a dispensation to marry, they eventually made their lives in Dun Chaoin. Where they felt ‘welcomed.’
Muireann, as an adult, realised how brave her parents were to have successfully negotiated the challenges presented to them at the time they fell in love.
Muireann recalls how wonderful it was to live in the hinterland in which the novel Peig was set and how her teachers brought the magic of the book and story to life for her. It was also a teacher of Fergal’s who first introduced him to the area. He went there as a student at Newbridge College to the early Colaisti Samhraidh. The teacher, Tadgh O Maonlaoi was an uncle of Hot House Flowers, Liam O Maonlaoi.
Fergal an accomplished fiddler player himself was drawn to the area by its music. Muireann explains that music is a continuum in the community and an important link between the past and the present.
Interestingly, Muireann discovered her house, in a former life, was a ‘Shebeen’ a local party house. She likes that the walls are imbued with happy memories. Her song ‘The Fair skinned Cow’ celebrates this and in the song a lyric about the cow’s milk is a metaphor for the illegal alcohol consumed in the dwelling. She came up with the lyrics first and then searched for the melody. She now sings the song to a melody composed by Gerry O'Beirne.
Muireann explains how she became known as ‘ inion an tsagart’ growing up, referencing the fact her father was previously a priest. Fergal jokes this was her first claim to fame which was later followed by her acclaim as a musician and singer. She went to sessions with Fergal as a young child and this strengthened the bond between them.
The family lived first on Inis Oir where Muireann was born and later moved to Cape Clear where her brother, Malachy was born.
They describe living in Dun Chaoin as the closest experience to living on an island on the mainland. Muireann talks about how childhood trips to the mainland were like going to another planet.
Muireann met her future husband when she was 18. He was 17 and visited the area along with his drum and they were playing in the same session. Fergal explains when he discovered the boy, Bill ‘didn’t smoke, didn’t drink, had a car played music and spoke Irish,’ he was the obvious choice for a son-in-law. The couple have a daughter Sadb and are expecting their second child soon. It was after their daughter, Sadb was born that they decided to move permanently to live in Dun Chaoin. Muireann explains they returned there because they ‘ wanted to give her the same childhood experiences,’ Muireann herself grew up with.
The music featured in the programme is: Slan le Maigh, Western Highway, Two Kerry Polkas - Polka Dhealai and An Tur, An Chiuradh Bhleinnfhionn and Seoithin Seotho.