Monday, May 20, 2024

Barley and Grape Rag in Ballymaloe Drinks Theatre. Rory Gallagher on the road.

Barley and Grape Rag. 

Rory Gallagher on the road.

“When I'm walking down mainstreet, feeling no pain,

Along comes a cop, he can take my name,

And explain to me what a federal case is,

I'm mixing the barley with the grape again.”

“The road is a dangerous place” said Robbie Robinson of The Band in The Last Waltz. And anyone who saw the recent film 27: Gone Too Soon will

have seen why.

The mid-day chat though at the Ballymaloe Drinks Theatre was more on the light-hearted side with Rory’s brother Dónal heading a panel that also included wine importer and music lover Pascal Rossignol, wine writer John Wilson and Lee Tiernan (a chef whose Black Axe Mangal restaurant in London has been called “the Sex Pistols of the culinary arts” by the McKennas).

Before it all started, we enjoyed a sup of cider, the unreal Cockagee from the Slane Cider Mill, produced with the traditional “keeving” method  by Mark Jenkinson. If you haven’t tried this, you should!

Pascal introduced this and also the first wine, the Ciape, a gorgeous Piemonte white made from the Cortese grape. More grape to follow as the session began in earnest, including the story that Dónal Gallagher once won his weight in wine in a raffle.

John Wilson, who did a stint on pirate radio, told us that the first album in their house was by Rory and bought by John’s sister. The wine writer also mentioned that he has seen music used in a very different way in a few vineyards around the world, employed to put the vines at ease and improve the final outcome.

A good few years back, again at Ballymaloe, Skillogalee winemaker Dave Palmer told a yarn. He was having trouble with the kangaroos helping themselves to the young vines and tried a few counter-measures. Nothing worked until he rigged up a few radios (weather-protected) and when they played, the roos stayed away. But what did Dave play? We were thinking heavy metal. “No,” said Dave, “Current affairs.”

Dónal Gallagher

On the previous evening, Lee and Kate from Black Axe Mangal - FKABAM and West Cork’s own Fingal Ferguson from Gubbeen (Lee once worked on the Ferguson’s farm) presented a meal in the Woodshed at Ballymaloe, a fantastic experience according to some attendees that I met.

Lee remarked on Rory’s remarkable energy, saying he had a great interaction with the crowd. “He invested heavily in his audience and they gave it back”.” I’d seen that myself at Shandon Boat Club in the 60s. Rory’s gigs were supposed to be over at a certain time but that hour was rarely honoured as Rory and the fans were enjoying themselves so much.

He got the action, he got the motion
Rory sculpture in Ballyshannon,
his birthplace
Pascal told us about our first red as it was poured, the Terre de Feu, light, fresh and vibrant. It was truly excellent and now on my wish list! It is a light blend of Carignan and Grenache Noir and produced in the Languedoc by the rebels of Les Foulards Rouges.

The opening lines (top) are from Rory’s Barley and Grape Rag, a favourite song of Ronnie Drew’s. “Rory and Ronnie became great friends,” said Dónal as he continued through his memories of touring the world with his brother.

I just wonder how many spotted this talent in Rory’s early days. My first memory of him was at a secondary school competition where a question time was followed by a talent show. Rory was a crew-cut competitor with his acoustic guitar and played If I had a Hammer.

In a year or two, the brothers persuaded neighbour Michael Crowley (who had a music shop in MacCurtain Street) to sell them a one hundred pound Fender Stratocaster guitar and “hid” it under Dónal’s bed. But Mr Crowley met Mrs Gallagher and asked how Rory was doing with the guitar. The game was up but the Stratocaster stayed. 

MC Colm McCann introduces the Barley & Grape panel (l to r): Pascal Rossignol,
John Wilson, Lee Tiernan and Dónal Gallagher.

It vanished temporarily though when stolen but, thanks to an appeal on Garda Patrol, they got it back. Indeed around this time, long-haired Rory was appearing on TV on the Showband Show with a group called the Fontana. Here he learned the craft of a touring musician and eventually led the band in a new bluesey direction and the rest is history.

Our final red wine was another gem,  from Burgundy, home of Pascal. Lively, precise and a real thirst quencher. Irresistible! And the final drink was right up my street as the John Lane whiskey by Power’s is one of my favourites! 

And so ended another enjoyable visit to the fantastic Drinks Theatre, in the capable hands of Colm McCan and his support team, who always keep the show going!

Calling all music buffs to the Rory Gallagher Music Library

Come along to the Rory Gallagher Music Library for Albert’s ‘Listen Back’ session, this time enjoying Dr. Strangely Strange’s 1969 album ‘Kip of the Serenes’.

Join us on Wednesday 22 May at 11.00 am when the album will be introduced in person by band member Ivan Peter Pawle, who will talk us through his most formative record!  

Followed by teas, coffees & chat. 

All welcome!

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