I would dearly love to visit Ireland. My grandparents were born there and a couple of famous forbears. And now I am married to an Irishman. But at least Ireland comes to Koroit for the Lake School of Celtic Music and Dance in January and with the Irish Festival in April/May.
The calendar issued by Moyne Shire had Anthony Evans’ photo of the festival crowning the month of April. There next to the man on the motor bike is Mary Fiorini, known as the Queen of K0roit, proudly carrying the Cork flag. Mind you I believe the Cork man living in this house could do this but no way would he.
There’s no way I’d miss the festival , and no way we could miss it, living on the edge of it as we do. Mind you last year I fractured my ankle in the Dandenongs on 24th April and was wearing a very new moon boot which confined me pretty much to the theatre. But there was plenty to see there, and seats to spare. Across the road from the theatre the flags of all the Irish counties rested after being carried in the parade, a feature of every Irish Festival.
In readiness for this year’s celebration of all things Irish a friend kindly repaired my bright green dress. The festival started quietly on the Friday with an Irish session in the Scout Hall that was once a beautiful old church. I loved playing my bodhran next to this man down from Broome, and to listen to glorious music from flute and uilleann pipes. The friends we invited to the Session loved it too. It turned out some new friends from Geelong we made recently had been there as well, discovering it by chance and they recognised me from that occasion which they too loved which goes to show events we do not expect to be memorable sometimes turn out to be.
After a night of heavy rain we woke to a fine Saturday morning but I seemed to have a gastric complaint. So I couldn’t make it up to the first busking engagement of the ‘Wednesday Whistlers’ the group I play my bodhran with on Wednesday mornings.
I was amazed by a phone call from a dear friend, Yvonne, from Kallista in the far away Dandenong Ranges. It turned out she was in Portland with Richard who lived there and wanted to know when the procession was starting. I couldn’t believe she would show up though.
Soon it was time to watch the procession from out the front, not getting a really good view. It was good to know that Mary, who was too frail to walk this year, was transported in a special carriage. This was of course photographed for the Moyne Gazette, (see at end of post).
Frank brought home gourmet potatoes for lunch then went over to the theatre for some ‘colcannon’, ie corned beef, cabbage and potato, in a roll. I decided then I would go up the road for the 2.30 pm busking engagement. How moved I was to bump into Yvonne and Richard who had been walking along asking people our whereabouts. So special to have them in the audience when I finally settled down to play my bodhran. Frank took the photo of our group on a bit of an angle but it is good to have it.
Time then to watch some performers in the theatre although the sun was out to bless the afternoon of the festival.
We had missed the Danny Boy competition, most enjoyable last year, And Maria Forde’s performance. We had bumped into Maria a couple of times in the street and exchanged greetings and we had heard her sing many times over the years. Her Irish relatives live near where Frank lived. She has such a beautiful voice and is a lovely person. To our surprise the theatre downstairs was full! Upstairs we went but the same result so we sat in the foyer to listen to Imogen Brough and Damien Leith, not quite the same as seeing them on stage.
A couple of long time locals commented that they had never seen the theatre so full! It turned out at least that Yvonne and Richard had scored seats and they loved the performances, especially Maria Forde. Incidentally Yvonne is now planning to go on a guided tour of Ireland with Maria in September. And she raved about the quality of the festival in general.
Sunday dawned fine. We bought our pies at lunch time and drove to Victoria Park to watch the Gaelic Women’s football I looked forward to so much. I was disappointed though that the opposing Koroitian team was men. But the football was skilled and graceful, a delight to watch.
Koroit had lent the women a goal keeper, and unfortunately he did nothing to help. We heard the Gaelic full back mutter to him, ‘You couldn’t shoot marbles!’
A highly acclaimed Irish/ Australian band played afterwards in the clubrooms, I so regretted I had forgotten that was happening. A couple of hours later we heard the young Gaelic women footballers singing loudly as their mini bus headed out of town.