DOWN the years – it’s been fiche bliain ag fás now – being on the journalistic beat across this great Banner County, there’s a few standout moments you remember. That interview that really gives you the pulse of a person and the community from where they come.
One such occasion was sitting in the front room of Tom Malone’s house on Miltown Malbay’s main drag about seven years ago – the great man produced some uisce beatha and insisted that a dram be taken and then talked about his life and times and love of his home place.
It was an education. It was all mine. The unrepentent Republican that he was talked all sorts of things. From having the courage to say that it was a great day for Ireland when Horatio Nelson was toppled from his plinth; from playing host to the late, great Joe Christle – who knew plenty about the pillar and what happened to it that night – in Miltown during the Rás Tailteann in the 1950s; from giving Willie Clancy his first set of uilleann pipes; from bringing terrier trials and flapper meetings to Miltown; from attending every Clare County GAA Convention from 1936 and cycling through the snow to get there.
And, this wasn’t even the half of it.
There was Clonbony football, Clonbony hurling, the Clonbony Pipe Band and much more.
Well, it’s safe to say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, with Sean Malone doing Miltown Malbay and Clare proud and a great deed by bringing Arlo Guthrie to the town on Monday night to bring the curtain down on his ‘Woody Guthrie Tribute Weekend’.
It could only happen in Miltown because, through the ages, Miltown has been a magnet for musicians, young, old and of all types, as the eclectic gathering in the Market House these past few days clearly illustrated.
Sean Keane was there, so too Johnny Moynihan, that legendary troubadour and free-spirited bohemian who refuses to grow old. Johnny used to travel the country in the 1960s with Andy Irvine search of ceol agus craic, staying in haybarns along the way like Malty McDonagh’s place on the Ennis Road. The haybarns have gone, but Johnny is still on the road and that’s why he came to Miltown.
PJ Murrihy, Noel Shine, Mary Greene and the Soggywellyboys were others to pay tribute to Woody Guthrie on this 100th anniversary of his birth. Why Miltown Malbay? That’s what people said when it was revealed that Arlo was coming to town.
Why not, said Sean Malone on Monday just before Arlo took to the stage – just near where the cinema screen operated by Tom Malone in the 1970s showed the film Alice’s Restaurant that featured Arlo. And, it was the way Sean told it. “I often tell the story about Arty McGlynn seeing Dessie O’Halloran with a glamorous looking woman. ‘What’s that about Dessie,’ says Arty. ‘She’s very fond of me,’ responds Dessie.
“Well,” added Sean, “Arlo Guthrie is very fond of Miltown Malbay.”
And, it’s true. You see, Miltown’s link with the Guthries goes back a long way, about 30 years, give or take a few.
Kevin Burke of the Bothy Band fame was living in Miltown at the time, staying out in Clohanemore with the legendary singer, songwriter and dancer Marty O’Malley.
Arlo was in Ireland at the same time, for all the world like his hobo father touring around the country, playing as he went.
It so happened that he landed in Miltown Malbay during Willie Week, met Kevin Burke and the rest is a piece of musical history that’s up there with Luke Kelly coming through the toilet window of the Central Hotel to play tunes and sing songs with Willie Clancy, Liam Clancy, the McPeakes and many more.
Guthrie and Burke repaired to Mickey Wilson’s pub to play – starting early and finishing late.
It was time to have Arlo back and in a way it couldn’t have come at a better time.
What would Woody Guthrie make of Ireland.
As Arlo sang ‘this land is your land, this land is my land…..’ – the real national anthem of the America that lived through and endured the dustbowl, it certainly had a relevance to Ireland.
The International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank might think they own Ireland, by having the Government in their employ, but they don’t.
Woody, the friend of our own Pecker Dunne after they met in the late ‘50s, would have play on this, coming up with new and original lyrics to the air of ‘this land is your land, this land is my land’.
Well done Sean Malone for brining Arlo Guthrie to the Market House in Miltown; well done too to Anne Rynne, Pat Costello and Tim Dennehy who were also involved in this event.
Let’s make it an annual gig.
Tom Malone would want that. He loved good music, after all, from his days of managing the great Travelling troubadour, Maggie Barry.


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