July 6, 2017: The Land of Stories

Today I got to finally hear a traditional Irish storytelling session. And let me tell you, it was a trip.

A bunch of girls decided to skip class and go to the charming little town of Spiddal for the day. I was uninformed of this and was therefore not among them. Instead, I stuck around at school for a while after class and worked on more of my writing.

This evening, we were headed to the Crane Bar across the bridge and into the Claddagh for a traditional storytelling session. This man has a collection of myths, ghost stories, and other crazy tales that he’s written that he performs in the upper room of this old Irish pub every Thursday night for about an hour and a half. He has a Scottish twang that makes him sound like Scrooge McDuck from DuckTales, and he was one of the most entertaining storytellers and performers I have ever heard.

He was alone on the stage, but he managed to get me wrapped up in the stories he was telling and involved me emotionally in both stories he told.

Most of the group who went to Spiddal were too tired to come out to storytelling (and some were insinuating that it would be boring), so it was a small group of us: just Meaghan, Joanna, Caitlyn, and me with Kayte that night. Which was actually a lot of fun. We were in a nice little corner by the window with a good breeze going, generally away from the massive crowd (and Joanna held my hand when it did get a little hot and crowded to make sure I didn’t panic–she’s the best).

The first story was about two older gentlemen, good friends, from County Kerry who liked to drink. And one night they decided to have a drink at every single bar in the area. They ended up falling asleep in their carriage while the horse was taking them home, and when they woke up, they were stopped before a graveyard. And in the graveyard, ghosts were preparing for a hurling match but were one soul short. So one of the men decides to join them and helps lead the team to victory. After the game, he is asked to join the team permanently. The story was filled with humor and unexpected twists, and he spoke so vividly that I could see the action taking place, even though it was just my imagination.

The second story he told, after a ten minute break, was a well-known myth: the story of Oisín and Niamh. However, he told it with a twist, including a bit of sexual content and an appearance by St. Patrick and a massive bull-monster. It was an incredible tale, though a somewhat morbid and dark one, and I was just as enthralled. I had never heard this myth with St. Patrick involved, and in the story, St. Patrick was the Lawful Evil type rather than the saint I knew him as.

The session was amazing, and I was so impressed by both the writing and the performance. I knew the Irish were good at storytelling and oral tradition, but this was another level entirely. This was art, a performance and a piece of literature wrapped in one. I walked home with Joanna, Meaghan, and Caitlyn, and we could not stop talking about it the whole way.

I took a video of part of the second story, but the file is far too large to post anywhere. I do intend to look back on it and remember what a compelling storyteller he was and what an amazing night we had.

(Featured image courtesy of irishheritage.ie)

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