Youghal and its hinterland is an area rich in history. A few years ago, a project to research the town’s musical heritage led to an idea to create a musical pageant which would incorporate and interpret the stories, myths and characters of Youghal and its environs through a mix of new and traditional songs, music and dance.
The show was given the title Oidhreacht Eochaille (The Heritage of Youghal) and after months of practice and rehearsal it was premiered on Monday 24th June 2019 in the Mall Arts Centre, Youghal.
A Louth Lilt musicians Daithí Kearney and Adèle Commins, both based at Dundalk Institute of Technology, were instrumental in researching and writing the content for the pageant. The show includes several new compositions by them both which were inspired by their research, the stories they heard and the scenery of the area. They are sure to become classic tunes in the Ceolta Sí repertoire for years to come. Adèle’s ‘Lighting Capel Island’ has been incorporated into a radio documentary about Capel Island and the Knockadoon peninsula which has been aired on CRY FM.
Oidhreacht Eochaille was both a visual and musical celebration of Youghal and the surrounding area. The production was accompanied by photographic and video imagery by Liam O’Leary. Eaach section included informative and interesting narration to introduce and provide context to each piece. The show opened with tales and tunes celebrating Youghal’s maritime past with tunes and songs taken from existing musical collections. ‘Storm at Sea’, a new composition by Daithí Kearney, brings to life the storm that legend says changed the flow of the river Blackwater and created Youghal Harbour. Also inspired by local legend and story, The Ballad of Moll Goggins, composed by Daithí, is based on the lovelorn young woman who kept watch for a sailor who never returned.
The pageant then moved on to describe the influence of outsiders to Youghal. Historical personalities such as Lord Richard Boyle, Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Oliver Cromwell and groups like the Quakers were referenced, all of whom left a lasting mark on the town’s heritage. Daithí’s new tune, ‘Myrtle Grove’, captures the prosperity, class and status during the town’s heyday. Also remembered in the pageant through a new composition, ‘The Jewish Polkas’, is the lesser known figure of William Moses Annyas Easnes who, in 1555, became the mayor of Youghal and was the first Jew to hold such an elected position in Ireland.
During the interval the audience enjoyed delicious pastries kindly donated by Lidl, Youghal and a welcome cup of tea. The second part of the show began with a section on the Clock Gate, the most iconic structure in Youghal. Listening to John McGrath describe his experiences of growing up and living in the Clock Gate inspired Daithí to create ‘The Clock Gate Jig’ and the song ‘McGrath’s Clock Gate’. The audience were in fine voice, joining in to sing the chorus each time. We were delighted that John McGrath himself was present to say a few words to the audience during this section of the show, and he expressed his gratitude to Daithí and Adele for bringing his experiences to life.
The show continued with a visit to the town’s wider hinterland such as the Gaeltacht areas of An Rinn and Knockadoon. Both areas are notable for their poets and musicians, exemplified by a rendition of Piaras Mac Gearailt’s epic Rosc Catha na Mumhan (The Munster War Song).
The final part of the pageant concentrated on the future musical heritage of Youghal. Our younger musicians (many of whom only started learning an instrument in September) and dancers revelled in the opportunity to perform their new tunes and received a well-deserved standing ovation for their performance. The audience were then treated to a final set of tunes, or Grúpa Cheoil, from the senior musicians to finish off a wonderful night’s entertainment.
In his address to the audience, Micheál de Buitléir, Chairman of Youghal Comhaltas, thanked Cork County Council, East Cork Municipal District Community Fund, Comhaltas and Lidl Youghal for their sponsorship and support of the production. Plans are afoot produce a CD recording of the music. So, if you missed this very special production the first time around, make sure you keep an eye on the Brú Na Sí Facebook page for future dates.
Youghal Comhaltas are very proud to be continuing the musical heritage of Youghal and we were delighted to share this very special show with you!
Oidhreacht Eochaille was supported by the East Cork Municipal District Creative Scheme. We would also like to acknowledge the support of Cork County Council, Creative Ireland, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, The Red Store, Youghal Credit Union, The Mall Arts Centre & Yew Wood Venues and all the teachers, volunteers and musicians of Craobh Eochaille CCÉ.