"...stories birling through my mind..."
A literary journey
Nostalgic Irish prose
Irish culture & folklore
Ulster-Scots short stories
"...stories birling through my mind..."
I don't recall how I ended up at a Corrs concert, or when exactly it was, but I do recall that it was around the time of the peace talks, a time of great hope in Northern Ireland. The singing was beautiful and the music was enchanting. And although marriage and children were a distant vision, I committed my future brood to music lessons there and then. Each musician in the Corrs played several instruments live on stage. Quite the mesmerising spectacle underneath a hope-filled sky!
Andrea was the middle class girl from Dundalk, raised with three siblings, life centring around her parents’ band and piano lessons, and I was the working class girl from Larne raised with three siblings, life centring around the drums and flutes of the Chaine Memorial Flute Band.
It seemed to me that my life could not have been more different to the woman moving ethereally across the stage, not least because my singing credentials were limited to having turned the pages for the pianist in the school choir for four years.
Andrea soared with her siblings as an international musician, composing songs, hanging out with Mandela, singing with Brian May, and suffering some of the most mundane interview questions imaginable.
“Where did you get your good looks from? Your mum or your dad?”
“Is there any hope for my imaginary family, ten to twelve years hence, of acquiring any measure of your family’s talent if committed to music lessons twice a week?”
We were on different planets, so it seemed, until I read Andrea’s memoir and realised that we had something in common beyond having a brother called Jim.
Andrea is a writer. She’s a poet, in fact, and ‘barefoot pilgrimage’ is a beautiful prose-poem written in a stream of consciousness and interjected with songs and short poems, including some touching poems by her dad, Gerry Corr. Within a few paragraphs, I shed a tear. The loss of a child, Gerard. And then fleeting references to the mother who died.
We criss-crossed the same timeline, living in similar small towns on opposing sides of a political border. We played with the same toys, watched the same programmes on television and, ultimately, prayed to the same God in our respective churches. We grew up with angels. “I am you and you and me/ And we will see eternity.”
Our lives diverged at the time of The Commitments in 1991. Andrea is nonchalant about the experience on account of the brevity of her lines, but it was the movie of the century for all the teenagers in Ireland who weren’t in it. Like U2, The Commitments gave a whole generation of northerners the impetus to visit Dublin, even those weaned on the perils of the “Free State.” (At my pared back wedding in 2010, the only luxury was the band that played the entire Commitments soundtrack.)
Andrea had taken the first big step into a whole new world, a whole new Ireland, a whole new state of hope. The rest, as they say, is history. The story of the Corrs’ success is engaging, but I enjoyed learning about the family of six plus an angel growing up in Dundalk in the 1970s and 1980s. There were parts of the narrative that I didn’t understand, when the cryptic poet painted her life in impressionist brushstrokes, but I didn’t need to see the bricks to follow the path.
Were I to bump into Andrea, I’d stop and say: “Thanks for the hope that night in Belfast. And keep writing.”
Angeline King is the author of:
Irish Dancing: The festival story
A history of dancing in Ulster with a focus on the festival tradition of Irish Dancing. Click here to buy.
Contemporary novel. "An enjoyable coming-of-age tale with a Belfast twist" (The Irish Times)
Click here to buy
A Belfast Tale
Contemporary novel. “Uniquely, authentically and enjoyably Belfast" (Tony Macaulay, author of Paperboy.)
Click here to buy.
Children of Latharna
Stories for big weans and wee weans. "Lyrical and nostalgic; wistful and humorous," Ian Andrew, author.
Click here to start reading for free
Scene from Snugville Street
82 Waterloo Road
The Teacher Voice
The Last Day of Summer Scheme
Uniquely Girls' Brigade
The Children of Latharna
The Band Stick
The Bully up the Brae
God Created Butlins
History & folklore
Language Blog I
Language Blog II
Language Blog III
Language Blog IV
Fiddles and Melodeons
Martha Taylor's diary
Jean McCullagh at 104
Ballymena & the McConnells
Arms in Irish Dancing
Catholics & Protestants in Irish dancing
Irish Dancing: The Festival Story
The Protestant in Irish Fiction.
The Protestant in Irish fiction II
Ulster-Scots in Irish Fiction
An author in Wonderland
Dancing in Victorian Ulster
Learning the Irish Language.
John Hewitt Summer School
Thirteen Reasons for Peace
So Young then (Andrea Corr & me)
Lesley Allen & Helen Nicholl