A Song from the Forest
By Tom Mongan
This book takes us from takes from Derryinver, Letterfrack, Co Galway on a tour around Ireland working in remote mountains by day for the forestry and coming out at night to follow the show bands in the towns and city’s and shake a leg to the Hucklebuck as Brendan Boyer ‘belted it out’ on stage, or seeing Eileen Reid with her beehive hairstyle make women that stood in the front beside the stage cry as she sang ‘I Gave my Wedding Dress Away’. Then there was always Larry Cunningham who was a carpenter by trade and it is a skilled craft that gives satisfaction). Larry would have his dancing audience well pleased as he guided us around and around to lovely Leitrim…ah yes, “Last night I had a pleasant dream, I woke up with a smile…I dreamt that I was back again, in dear Old Erin’s Isle” ….and nothing as soothing as a trip to Lough Allen.
I had, of course, learned to take to the dance hall floor in Ulick Joyce’s Pavilion Ballroom in Letterfrack, The Marian Hall in Tullycross, and the Michael Davitt hall in Leenane…but dancing far away from the ‘knowing eyes’ and tut tuts, took it to another level.
Learning to live away from home and finding places around the country with no transport for a while were not always joyful moments. Now and then the old saying that ’Far Away Hills are Green’ would make you wonder how you always seemed to miss the green ones, and feel you had much in common with the feeling of Welsh man Tom Jones as he sang ‘The Green Green Grass of Home.’
But never mind. Rainbows on a mountain side can look beautiful, as can the morning dew glittering on a spiders web on a furze bush behind a craggy rock. Indeed, the lovely white heads of bogcotton swaying in the wind is stunning and has a style all of its own. And if you closed your eyes for long enough you could imagine you were in the best seat at a ballet performance…..and this is especially true when you never were.
This book is not all about dancing and daydreaming. It is about being young and unskilled in the ways of the world back in the 1960’s in an era with no mobile phones and in many areas with no landline phones. The only way to contact people at home was the handwritten letter taking many days to get delivered.
It is the story of a young man leaving home with… as someone reminded me… ‘A bike and a suitcase’ and coming home with a wife and car, but there are a few roads with twists and turns not to mention the bumps along the way,
But we do manage to come out with a song at the finish, so if you can take a few steps along with me and join the chorus you are more than welcome.