This past Tuesday I met up with a few new friends from UCC at the Blarney Castle Hotel for a night out. We walked around the small, quiet town of Blarney and then headed into the hotel pub for a hot meal and some traditional Irish music.
The night went better than I think any of us had planned. The food was amazing, the people we met were friendly and just spectacular. We also had the chance to get to know Mags McCarthy, an Irish dance teacher at UCC who showed us the town and organized for us to come up to Blarney in the first place. She told us stories about her time on tour, dancing, playing the fiddle, the guitar, you name it, she’s done it. She was amazing. She also told us about her time spent in Hollywood, where she became close friends with the actor Jesse Spencer, the Australian on House.
It wasn’t until the pub started to fill with musicians and jolly Irishmen with pints of Guiness that we realized just how well-known Mags is. As the musicians were setting up, a few of us went over by the fireplace to get a good spot to watch them as they played. As we did so, we noticed that Mags was getting her picture taken with a few Canadian tourists who were passing through the hotel. Not even two seconds later, I was looking around the low-lit pub, which was filled with pictures and old paintings, and I spotted a picture of Mags. With the President. Of the United States. Of America. Signed by President Obama.
I looked back over at Mags, who was adjusting her fiddle and laughing with a few locals at a story that didn’t reach my ears. My night just kept getting better and better. I asked her about the photo later and she said that she had played and danced for the Obamas on Saint Patrick’s Day a few years back. I can’t wait to get to know her more and to see what other awesome stories she has to tell.
After the musicians had all talked a bit and found a stool to sit on in the circle by the fireplace, they started to play. And when they did, the entire atmosphere of the pub changed. The music brought life to the pub in a way that I can’t really describe. People started laughing more, clinking their pints of Jameson or Guiness. It was a real sight to see. And the way they played was amazing, men and women, young and old.
One fiddle started playing, and then a few more followed its tune. Then, a banjo-looking instrument chimed in followed by bagpipes. More fiddles started playing and then an accordion began to play as a base. It was magical how quickly the music fell in sync and how beautiful the music was. It wasn’t rehearsed or technical and every once in a while a musician would put down his instrument to grab another beer, but that’s what made it so great. It was natural, organic, and the music they played came from their souls.
It was in that moment that I realized that this adventure is going to the greatest one I’ve had yet. I felt like I was on Titanic, in the decks below, just breathing in the Irish culture. Throughout the night, a few men sang some folk songs and the entire pub would join in for the chorus and at one point one of the fiddlers grabbed a few spoons and played them instead of his fiddle for a few tunes.
I made some wonderful new friends that night and I had such an amazing time getting to know the local culture and finding a small Irish town where the music is magic, the accents are thick, and the people are friends.
Also, you should check out Mags’ blog at http://magsmccarthyblogspot.wordpress.com/. She posted some great pictures of all of us at the hotel pub on Tuesday.
Blarney Castle Hotel and Pub
Shopping in Blarney
The Music Circle
Christine (UCC Friend) and Mags Getting Ready
Christine Getting to Know the Locals
Picture of Mags with the Obamas
Fun Times at the Pub
Amazing Apple Tart