Faith, hope, and a bean an tí

An Irishman’s Diary about guests of the nation

Fri, Nov 15, 2013, 01:00

Which is only true, or so one would hope. Still, I’ve heard many stories over the years in which someone has merely restored someone else’s faith in humanity. This is the first case I know of an actual person called Faith being restored. I think Fáilte Ireland should erect a plaque to commemorate it.

The other e-mail also concerned the hospitality sector, albeit indirectly. It was from a man called Robert, in Kildare, who recently rented a house for 10 days to a group of traditional Irish musicians. That’s to say, the music they played was traditional Irish. The band, by contrast, was 100 per cent French.

Robert was writing in response to the Justin Timberlake/Auld Triangle controversy. But the gist of his e-mail was: never mind Justin Timberlake, listen to this. He included a link to a video of the French band – they call themselves Doolin – in concert recently. And sure enough, they could pass for Claremen.

The members of the group come from Toulouse and Castres, apparently. Which clue initially led me to suspect that they were the abandoned love-children of Munster rugby fans, who have been known to visit those towns a lot. But in fact the Heineken Cup is not quite old enough to explain them.

Of course, they’re not the first overseas band to play Irish music well. On the contrary, the quality of Irishness in general has long been open to foreign competition. There’s the famous precedent of the Normans who, centuries ago, were found to have become “more Irish than the Irish themselves”.

Since when, it has been recognised that there is a competitive aspect to the being-Irish thing, and that we so-called natives sometimes fall short of the standards set by, say, Germans who’ve lived in Connemara for a few years.

The French trad band may force indigenous groups to up their game, and perhaps in more ways that one. Not only did they perform a “mind-blowing” session, including impeccable sean-nós singing, while in Kildare, they also distinguished themselves in the area of house-keeping.

“On the last day, they cleaned the house from top to bottom, like a team from CSI,” adds my awestruck correspondent. So, to recap: they’re an all-French band who play Irish traditional music brilliantly, and they also have very high standards of hygiene. This, I suspect, may be another first.

fmcnally@irishtimes.com

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