Newbridge's own legendary folk singer Christy Moore has recalled the effect on him of the tragic early death of his father, and the courage of his mother Nancy in its aftermath, in a new podcast.
Speaking with Ruairí McKiernan on the Love and Courage podcast, he pays tribute to his mother, discusses the childhood loss of his father, and reflects on fond memories of growing up in Kildare.
In the wide-ranging hour-long conversation, the 73-year-old musician talks about how his Meath-born mother Nancy met his father Andy in Waterford. At the time Nancy was working in a hotel in Tramore and Andy was in the Irish army and on manoeuvres in the county. The couple fell in love and went on to marry and settle in Newbridge.
Tragedy struck when Andy died when Christy was just 11.
“It was a shocking experience and it affected us all in different ways and I believe all six of us are still affected by it, you know, by the impact that had on our lives,” said Christy, speaking of the impact his father’s death had on his brothers and sisters. He says the awareness of his mother’s struggle as a lone parent with six children helped him realise the need for greater understanding and support for people in need.
“You know, I was blessed to grow up in a strong family environment and even though we lost our daddy when I was 11 and the eldest of six, and the family was shattered by that, we still grew up in a loving, caring environment, you know. And unfortunately, not everybody has that privilege.”
He says that after the death of his father, Nancy took over his seat on the Town Commissioners and then the County Council, later becoming chairwoman of Kildare County Council. She also ran a small grocery shop in order to put her children through school.
“She was always there for us. She sang songs as well and she instilled the love of music in us all and the sense of fair play. She was always available to people in need of a friendly ear or a dig-out, you know. So, that was a great start for us in life to be exposed to that kind of, I suppose, social principle and good deeds.”
He has fond memories of his early days in Kildare and in particular the experience of spending time in the bog and of a simpler life more rooted to community and nature.
“I would have been out in the bog as a small boy. My father's people were the Dowlings and they lived in a place called Barronstown, which is actually right on the Bog of Allen and back in those days anybody who skirted the bog had bog acreage, you know. So, every year we'd go to the bog and I can still remember them coming out with the tea and the bread out to the men in the bog. And all beautiful memories of a bygone world.
Christy Moore with Ruairí McKiernan
“Well, the neighbourliness and the meitheal and how people helped each other at harvest time or saving hay. You know, people worked together and pulled together. I really value the memory of when I started going out to my Granny Dowling's in Barronstown, there was no electricity there. They had no running water. They did all the cooking on the fire. There was no toilet. And yet they had this wonderful, rich life, you know, a very rich life. But there was a sense of contentment as well, you know. The battery wireless and neighbours coming in to hear horse races or hear matches on Sunday and Michael O'Hehir. My grand grand-uncle Frank Dowling over in the corner talking about years gone by. And I know there was a hardship but looking back on it all these years later, it was beautiful.”
Discussing how folk music often reflects on stories and history not always explored in our education system, Christy says the story of fellow Kildare man Frank Conroy offers a good case study.
“He's in the song 'La Quinta Brigada'. He was from Kilcullen, five miles away. I never heard anything about him or the Spanish Civil War in my education. Up the town in Newbridge, there was a prison where there was Republicans hanged in the 20s. They told me all about Fionn MacCumhaill but they didn't tell me anything about the Republicans that were hanged in Newbridge jail thirty years earlier. Thirty years, you know. So, our education was very sketchy.”
In the hour-long podcast interview, he also reflects on his love for Newbridge, and sings a song he wrote as a tribute to the town.
“I still feel very connected with Newbridge, even though I don't go there that often but inside in my mind, in my memory and in my heart, I feel very connected to Newbridge. Every time I go to Newbridge now, I always walk around the town and I walk up through the estates. Like the Newbridge that I grew up on only exists in my head now but that's okay once I know that.”
You can listen to Ruairí McKiernan’s full one-hour interview with Christy Moore for free on the Love and Courage podcast. Find it on Spotify, iTunes, Soundcloud, YouTube or via www.loveandcourage.org.
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