The wait for the ferry seemed an ideal time to have a session
Family Fortunes: Roadside adventures on the way to Ballybunion
My father could never resist a chance to take out the fiddle to play a few tunes.
Most family photos have a back story, and this one is no exception. The setting is the Killimer-Tarbert car ferry waiting ramp, taken in the summer of 1977. We were en route from Daddy’s beloved Spiddal to the southwest, on a camping and caravan holiday. It’s one of my favorite snaps of my father, playing the fiddle, with me on the whistle. It not only evokes fond family memories, it is also so symbolic of “pre-Boom Ireland’, in terms of style and culture – note the original Mini for example, still common in the mid 1970s.
In retirement Daddy had become something of a second-hand Mini dealer, and filled the driveway with cars in various stages of decay, much to my mother’s chagrin. The check and denim shirts, and the tartan cap of one of the onlookers also give the era away.
My father could never resist a chance to take out the fiddle to play a few tunes
My brother Micheál (the photographer) traveled separately in the Mini, so as to be independent of the caravan, being towed by our trusty but very underpowered Mark II Ford Escort – even with what Daddy described as a “Cortina engine” under the bonnet, 1.3 litre, instead of the usual 1.1 litre engine. He was very proud of that raw power.
My father could never resist a chance to take out the fiddle to play a few tunes and often joined the buskers in Eyre Square in Galway so the wait for the ferry seemed an ideal time to have a session. As if by magic some dancers in full regalia appeared from a car nearby and next thing you know we had a regular céili in full swing.
My mother is not in the picture, as she wisely declined to accompany us on a trip that she knew, despite the bohemian “camping” label, would involve all the trappings of “home” such as washing and cooking. Sure enough the first Sunday meal, after Mass of course, on the campsite on Ballybunion beach involved a full course boiled chicken dinner, whose odor spread across the strand and which lingered long after in the caravan, like the smell in Jerry Seinfeld’s car.
The high point of the trip, depending on your point of view, was Daddy marching into John B Keane’s pub in Listowel
Also not pictured are the two teenage German hitchhikers we picked up in Oranmore, and from whom Daddy enquired as to whether their tent had a “partition” – a strange concept now, but a totally normal reaction then in still full-blown Catholic Ireland.
The high point of the trip, depending on your point of view, was Daddy marching into John B Keane’s pub in Listowel and demanding to know where “the butter” was – astute RTÉ advertisement watchers from that era will get that one! The bemused bartender had heard them all before I am sure, but Daddy was always convinced he was the first.