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Cruising with the Quiet Men of Cong

South of the border
Cruising with the Quiet Men of Cong

Willie McHugh

The places I go to get the stories for Mary Ann below in Geesala. Mary Ann likes to get all the Mayo news when she’s devouring the contents of her favourite paper on Tuesday evening. She leaves the sports section until last. But before Mary Ann goes to peruse Austin and the golf this week I have a nice news story for her.
There’s a mighty festival coming up in Cong on the week ending August 24, 25 and 26. I heard all about it cruising Lough Corrib on Friday morning last with Patrick Luskin on Inisfree. The Corrib Cruises was the brainchild of his dad John, a good businessman but an even better raconteur. The apple fell beneath the tree. Patrick Luskin spins a good yarn too as he proudly skippers the baton dad handed him. This is not a boat trip but rather a sailing experience.
John O’Brien is First Mate and Ray McHugh is Master of Arms. At Lisloughrey Quay Nuala Gilligan from Ballyglass waits with members of Claremorris Family Resource Centre to board for their summer outing. That grand old man of Mayo transportation Luke Cavanagh is their coach driver today.
We sail among the inhabited islands of Inishmacatreer and Inchaquin. Lady Guinness’s Ardilaun is to our right with Ashford Castle dwarfing in our wake as we face Oughterard and the Maamturks.
This sailing is a must if you want to live the experience of what Ireland of the welcomes is really about. Tourism lectures doesn’t teach what Patrick Luskin affords his clientele. There’s fun, banter and enjoyment shared between passengers and crew. And John efficiently provides light refreshments to quench the thirst.
Paddy Rock and Ray McHugh gave me the jist of the upcoming festival. Cong are celebrating the 60th anniversary of The Quiet Man screening of John Ford’s tale about the fierce rumpus in Inisfree when Seán Thornton (John Wayne) took a shine to Red Will Danaher’s sister Mary Kate (Maureen O’Hara). Like most women around here Mary Kate was a stunner too but her brother was a cantankerous auld weasel. Throw the dowry in the mix and God Himself wouldn’t sort it but I’ll not spoil the ending on you Mary Ann.
Initially the film didn’t sit well with the social climbers of the Irish diaspora in the marbled halls of Manhattan and the East River. They felt it portrayed a wrong image of the Irish but then the bigger picture emerged of the beauty of Inisfree. Even today Irish tourism couldn’t buy Ford’s publicity.
Cong hasn’t forgotten either and they’ve long since adopted Maureen O’Hara as one of their own. So much so there are now plans afoot to have an imprint of Maureen’s hands as the first mould on Cong’s Hands of Fame trail. She lives in Glengarriff in West Cork and she attended last year’s celebrations. It’s hoped she’ll visit this year also.
Celebrities and dignitaries like Pierce Brosnan, Michael Commins, Tony Blair, Phil Coulter, Tom Watson, Demi Moore and a plethora of others will have their paw marks added over time.
This is not your bog standard ‘pub exemptions and a bouncing castle for the kids’ fête. Like everything else they do in Cong, imagination went into this planning too. The official opening by Mayor of Cong Parish John Joe McGrath, the Cong Festival Queen with a special guest (I can’t reveal their identity yet Mary Ann) and a parade by the Balla Pipe Band.
Saturday and Sunday has showings of another must see film titled ‘John Ford Dreaming The Quiet Man’ in and the arrival of the High Nelly bikes, a blind date, The John Wayne lookalike competition, a fight between the Danagehers and the Thorntons every night (bad blood there still), a Maureen O’Hara bonnet race with music with Streetwise, The Rambling Rogues and Conor Duffy.
SOTB extends an official invitation to Mary Ann from Geesala and you should come along too. And let Patrick Luskin take you cruising on Inisfree.
It’s something you’ll remember fondly.