Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Patterns and Black Butte Porter

The past few weeks I've been travelling from the nest gigging. The first of these musical excursions was to Allihies and the "Michael Dwyer Festival"-an annual Irish music gathering in memory of the late Michael Dwyer. The festival takes place in Michael's native Beara peninsula; Beara is situated in West Cork. Michael was a whistle player from Beara who spent many years in London. The history of the community in Allihies is long intertwined with copper mining.  As the mines eventually gave up their store, much of the community upped and left for Butte, Montana, in the USA. Butte was, and still is to some extent, the most Irish city in the U.S.  I remember drinking Black Butte Porter in a bar in Jacksonville, Oregon (coincidentally another old mining town). Being from the southwest of Ireland (and vaguely familiar with Butte Montana), I knew how to pronounce the beer's name-black beaut-like the Aussie expression-"you beaut." My American drinking companion (from the Georgia in the U.S.), on the other hand, pronounced the beer-black butt-much to my own amusement.

Another musical jaunt I took recently, was a hop, skip, and a jump over the road to Inch, County Kerry, and Foley's Pub.  The occasion of this excursion was for the annual Pattern there. Pattern's are Irish religious festivals, with their origin's in pre-Christian Ireland. We were scheduled to play the night before the Pattern, in mild preparation for the festivities. The Pattern stems from the Aenach, or assembly of the old Gaelic order. Patterns were popular throughout Ireland until the middle of the 19th century; now they have sorely dwindled but are still to be found scattered here, and there, in overlooked corners of the land.  At their height, patterns were raucous, rollicking, free for alls. In the aftermath of the famine an increasingly conservative element took hold (its arms being the church and state), eventually that element had a strangle hold on the populous, which silenced the great, riotous, din of the people. The few patterns that remain are more likely to be quiet affairs-kept going by elder, religious, members of the community.  In Inch the pattern includes both modern and ancient traditions-it being intertwined with a vintage rally for old tractors!

Foley's Bar, Inch