The last of the lazy hazy crazy days of summer are upon us again, dwindling fast too, and in the humid surreality of it all I have so many new stories and yarns twined around each other along the endless boreens of my mind that it is well nigh impossible to put real organized shape or form on them. Some of you who are as cracked as the average MacConnell will understand that, I think and hope.
Accordingly, I am just going to follow my fingers and release whatever it is that comes down the chain, and the first thing that comes down is the gorgeously apt printed notice I stood before in admiration a week ago outside John B. Keane's pub in Listowel, Co. Kerry. The pub was closed for the first time in my memory and the notice explained why.
It read simply, “Mary Is Off Today,” and that was the way the Keanes told the world that the matriarch of the legendary establishment had passed away at 86 years after a short illness. A literary family in a literary town could not but phrase their sorrow like that.
I knew her quite well. She was the formidable force behind the playwright and the clan right to the end, and she will be sorely missed not just in the town but in all Ireland. May she rest in the most serene kind of eternal peace.
Next thing that arrives at my fingertips is the craic that myself and youngest brother songwriter Mickie had on RTE Radio on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Mickie composing the great classic ballad "Only Our Rivers Run Free.” He produced it in less than an hour when he was a 17-year-old reporter covering a nakedly sectarian county council meeting for The Fermanagh Herald.
In the interview with RTE's Dave Fanning, there was much praise for my brother from everybody but me! I complained bitterly on air about being the oldest of famous musical brothers and having the least talent of all and being sick and tired all my life being asked, "Are you a brother of Mickie MacConnell? Are you by any chance a brother of Cathal MacConnell of the Boys of the Lough?"
I got little sympathy from anybody, but it was great craic and we brothers had a lot more fun than the four or five would-be Roses of Tralee being grilled in the next studio on the eve of their big selection night.
I will return again to a marvelous conversation about womenfolk and their ways which I enjoyed during my Kerry trip, this time in Ballybunion by the sea.
The pavement chat took place with a very witty Corkman who I encountered outside a pub in the center of the town with the most attractive title of the Stagger Inn! I kid ye not, that is the name. I had not time to go in, but I swear to return and report fully.
Back home in Clare after the trip to the Kingdom there was a hugely brilliant GAA game in Croke Park between my neighbors Tyrone and (again) Kerry, the outgoing champions. You could not take your eyes off it for a moment.
Kerry eventually triumphed, as they usually do I suppose. But it was great stuff. I expect them to meet Dublin in the final next month, and that will be a modern epic.
Meanwhile, all my kids are delighted that Galway's hurlers will be taking on Kilkenny in just a couple of weeks now after defeating Tipperary in another epic.
It has been a great month for the big games in both codes. There are smiles on the faces of all the fans.
Speaking of smiles, what comes to mind next is advice on where to see the widest and warmest smiles in Clare. I encountered them yesterday in a splendid little cafe in Ennistymon called An Teach Bia -- the food house in Gaelic -- and they belong to young staff members called Stephanie and Sinead. In all fairness the food and the failte matched the smiles.
I am heading up to the Burren tomorrow to encounter my great friend there, Paddy Hynes of Carron, and to tell him to come over to Killaloe soon to meet my Catskills friend Mike Diggin who is a noted seanachie also. I can't wait to get the pair of them together in Willie Walsh's pub on the top of the hill to enliven, for sure, one of the last of these lazy hazy crazy days of summer.
Mike is due here any day now along with his partner Patti Cooper. Patti is a zookeeper. When we go in the door I will tell Bernie and Willie that the lady with us is in charge of at least two highly dangerous animals!