Forget Google Maps. Today we are off the grid in West Clare. On the Doonbeg road 2km North of well known ‘Victorian seaside resort’ Kilkee. The road-sign on a bare, ascending left turn announces “L2024”. L2024? You’d never guess that just over the brow of this hill, descending into the mighty Atlantic towards infinity, this humble boreen leads to what not so long ago was a thriving Irish language village of fisher folk, kelp collectors and an award-winning storyteller with connections to Walt Disney.
Preferring anonymity, “Coosheen”, now mostly a combination of holiday homes and ruins, with its magnificent Atlantic vista North towards the Aran Islands, boasts no sign at all, let alone the Iar Ghaeltacht sign to which it is entitled, trumpeting its heritage on the “Wild Atlantic Way”. Join producer Deirdre Mulrooney who was lucky enough to spend her childhood summers in this remote spot, in her BAI-funded feature radio documentary “Coosheen’s Forgotten Seanchai and Son”, as she discovers a 1950 National Folklore Collection recording of the forgotten Oireachtas winning Seanchai even they never knew about – Padraig “Croaker” Ó Briain – who was born in 1873 and lived on the site where her parents built a traditional cottage in the 1980s. Enlisting the help of young Irish scholar Ailbe Van der Heide, Professor Angela Bourke (Voices Underfoot; The Burning of Bridgie Cleary; Maeve Brennan: Homeless at the New Yorker) and actor Pat Laffan (Father Ted; The Snapper; Barry Lyndon; The Queen; Abbey Theatre Company), together they decipher and unravel the magic of Croaker’s idiosyncratic and site-specific, yet universal fairytales.
Charting the transition from Clare Irish speaking Seanchai father to English language poet and memoirist son Paddy O’Brien (1920 – 1977), Aonghus Óg McNally (whose own grandfather Ray McNally, creator of Hugh in Brian Friel’s 1980 play ‘Translations’, had a house in Coosheen village), sings the poet’s Coosheen memoir and witty lyrics back to life. Val Geary, last indigenous child in Coosheen village, and Anne Daly, great-grand-daughter of the Seanchai, reminisce on Paddy “The Poet” O’Brien’s mischievous and unforgettable character, and his drive to immortalise his beloved, but disappearing Coosheen village in verse; while Margaret Kelleher, Professor of Anglo-Irish Literature and Drama at UCD (The Maamtrasna Murders), puts this intimate family story into the wider context of seismic language shift in Ireland.
Featuring “Caoineadh Chuaisin”, an original score by Rossa Ó Snodaigh of Kila, Irish language activist, author of several books ás gaeilge, and convenor of ‘Mindfield: An Puball Gaeilge’ at the Electric Picnic.
Anne Daly, great-grand-daughter of Padraig “Croaker” Ó Briain, fisherman and forgotten Seanchai of Coosheen
Val Geary, last indigenous child of Coosheen Village
Professor Angela Bourke, Author of “Voices Underfoot”, Famine Folio; The Burning of Bridgie Cleary; Maeve Brennan: Homeless at the New Yorker
Margaret Kelleher, Professor of Anglo-Irish Literature & Drama at UCD, Author of The Maamtrasna Murders (UCD Press: 2018).
Aonghus Óg McNally (whose grandfather Ray McNally had a house in Coosheen), performs song/poems and Coosheen Memoir by Paddy “The Poet” O’Brien
Pat Laffan (Barry Lyndon; Father Ted; The Snapper; The Queen; Abbey Theatre Company) as Padraig “Croaker” Ó Briain
1950 recording of Pádraig Ó Briain by Tadhg Ó Murchadha courtesy of National Folklore Collection UCD
1950 Clare Irish recording of Croaker Ó Briain by National Folklore Commission, translated by Ailbe Van der Heide (UCD)
Original score by Rossa Ó Snodaigh of Kila (Irish language activist, author of several books in Irish)
Sound Supervision by Neil Kavanagh, Newstalk
Produced and narrated by Deirdre Mulrooney