|Image by Caty Bartholomew|
It is a fact, however, that in a Christmas season about 20 years ago I got a rush of creative blood to the head above in Connemara and wrote one of the most popular Irish Christmas songs in less than an hour.
It came to me, air and all, after I'd watched a poignant TV documentary about the spontaneous soldiers' truce in the trenches during World War I. Deeply moved and somehow inspired, I was walking through the living room singing it, tears streaming down into my beard, before that strange hour was over.
I first sang it in public in Griffin's pub in Ennistymon that Christmas and was amazed to see tears in many of the listeners' eyes too. So I knew I had a song to sing.
If you are at all a creative person you know the limits inside which you normally operate. I have always been aware that I am a good competent hack with a relatively low ceiling of achievement and no ambition at all.
But this song, which is entitled "Silent Night -- Christmas in the Trenches 1915" came from a place away above my creative ceiling. It was some kind of gift from Above.
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I've tried to get there again many times since that evening but have never come anywhere close. I've written other songs, some of them mediocre, but most are maudlin yokes of which I'm not proud.
It was years later before the song was recorded by the great Kilfenora tenor Gerry Lynch, with an arrangement by his talented uncle PJ Curtis, and it has been increasingly popular every Christmas since.
Many other artists have now recorded it, including Celtic Thunder and even Daniel O'Donnell but, to
my mind, Lynch's version is the classic.
The real joy for me comes at this time of year when men and women in pub sessions, most not knowing I'm the writer of the thing, deliver their versions from stools and corners. That's very special when you are sitting there quietly listening in the shadows.
I now know exactly how my brother Mickey feels when he hears somebody delivering "Only Our Rivers Run Free.”
There was one Christmas when Lynch's version of "Trenches" got into the Irish Top 20, and I occasionally rib my younger brother that this was higher than "Rivers" ever climbed, even with the assistance of Christy Moore. A bit of sibling rivalry is a healthy thing!
Last weekend there was a big concert in the arrivals hall of Shannon Airport. My former colleagues in Clare FM, who were recording the event, prevailed upon me to come up and sing my Christmas song on the night. I did so with the greatest of pleasure and no pressure at all, aided by a splendid Shannon folk choir singing "Stille Nacht" and a mighty warpiper from Tulla skirling away at the end. My head was quite large leaving the stage!
Not large enough, however, to stop me telling ye that the Tulla Pipe Band and the Tulla Ceili Band are still as thrillingly good as ever they were. They pumped more life into the threatened airport than it has experienced in a long time.
And would you all please remember that I was the first to tell ye about a Shannon teenager called Aoife Casey? Aoife, who is about 16, and who has a voice to die for, a soaringly beautiful voice on either Irish or English songs, was beyond doubt the star of the show, and I predict she will be internationally known and famed before she reaches 20. Remember that.
And when she is at the height of her fame maybe she will sing my song some Christmas. And I will sit in the shadows listening with a smile on my face as wide as the Atlantic Ocean.
And even Mickey will be a small bit jealous!
Here, listen to 'A Silent Night [Christmas 1915]'