Oliver O’Connell’s new book “I Remember it All”

The oral tradition that transmits Ireland’s deep cultural heritage and history is a multifaceted channel that has long lifted the spirit of the Irish people through the centuries through good and bad times.

Along with a rich musical canon of songs, literary and spoken art such as poetry and prose and theater have long captured and informed us about the past, while giving them a sense of place and awareness of how it affects who we are as part of the Irish. nation at home and abroad.

In particular, shanachies or storytellers have a way of reaching the hearts and souls of their audiences by touching on emotions that define the character of the Irish themselves. Some do it through comedy like Eamonn Kelly, Hal Roach or Brendan Grace, and others through more thoughtful recitations or social commentary.

In the latter direction comes a new publication called I Remember it All, which is available virtually online by a very talented and intensely attentive man named Oliver O’Connell from the Burren country of North Clare.

O’Connell comes from Fernhill, Lisdoonvarna, the legendary spa town known by many for the matchmaking festival, usually held in September, which has its own colorful heritage.

The 73-year-old O’Connell is one of the most loyal Banner County advocates one could come across and who has wrapped a lifetime of stories and social commentary into the new unique and impressive autobiography.

It depicts a life of triumphs and heartache that paints a picture of the Ireland that made him who he is and that will be of great interest to those who share his sensibilities and experiences in one way or another. The collection of 18 chapters depicting his life “as a journey and not a destination” based on careful and sensitive memories along the way that shaped him as he embarked on many of the same paths from rural Ireland to England and America as it . done many others over the years.

I first met O’Connell and his late wife Maureen when they were part of a large touring group accompanying their young children, who happened to be students of Maureen Glynn Cronin Connolly in Ennis, Co. Clare, who had not succumbed to pancreatic cancer in 1998. long after marrying Martin Connolly and moving to Ireland.

Oliver and Maureen were a charming, well-matched couple and lovely stage dancers, as is often seen on that tour in 1999. Their young son Michael O’Connell was drummer in Glynn’s ceili band, which we would later get to know as Blackie, one of Ireland’s fiery uilleann pipers greatly influenced by the tradition of travelers, which also became one of Oliver’s areas of expertise.

Tragically, Maureen O’Connell fell ill later that year, and the cancer claimed another victim well before her time, affecting her grieving husband in a profound way from the day she died.

We kept in touch over the years, and because my own parents came from North Clare and Burren Country and my own wanderings to that part of Ireland, conversations and observations from Oliver always brought back memories of the hard life around an area that, although naturally beautiful, was a harsh environment to live off. Poverty and conditions were the third world right into the 1970s, yet music, song and dance kept a spirit and culture alive to offset gloomy conditions in everyday life.

O’Connell’s opus is a fascinating personal reflection of his North Clare upbringing told in a gripping narrative style that flows with colorful references to people, places and events in a historical context that has shaped Ireland over the last six decades or so. The journey involved many successful business ventures that also ended badly due to unfortunate choices in partnerships or even worse the economic disaster like the banking crisis that sank the Celtic tiger. The loss of his wife and his own battle with cancer could easily have made him complete.

His own commitment to the traditional music scene around Lisdoonvarna, Doolin and later down in Shannon kept hope alive for him and increasingly for his talented son Blackie, whom he nurtured along the same musical path.

O’Connell has become both an extraordinary link to an easily forgotten or overlooked Ireland as one of its greatest masters and a keen observer of what it has become for better or worse in modern times.

I Remember it All is worth tracking as an online publication only via Custys Music Shop in Ennis (www.custys.com) for the wonderful way O’Connell brings us on his eventful journey to a place of calm acceptance of all that life has to offer. threw his way.

There are some great musical elements from his longtime buddy Mickey Dunne from Limerick. He’s launching it this weekend with Dunne and a number of other Clare musical friends at his home in Tubber overlooking the Burren, the site of a series of pre-pandemic summer sessions, and it’s available on November 27 on his Facebook page.

The collection of true stories provides a wonderful seasonal gift (no worries about supply chain issues here) for € 25 for the digital copy, especially for Clare people and all Irish immigrants who value informed nostalgia with a sharp focus on making life a travel and not just a destination.


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