HARD TIMES REMEMBERED Declan O’Rourke (centre) with several of the musicians who feature in his ‘Chronicles Of The Great Irish Famine’ album tour.
Westport Town Hall will host Declan O’Rourke’s live show ‘Chronicles Of The Great Irish Famine’ this Thursday, December 7.
Fifteen years in the making, this epic show, based on O’Rourke’s newly released album of the same name, combines the best of traditional Irish music and the heart of modern songwriting to present a series of extraordinary true tales from the most dynamic period in Ireland’s history.
Inspired by John O’Connor’s book ‘The Workhouses of Ireland’, O’Rourke wrote ‘Poor Boys’ Shoes’ the first song of the collection. “The hair stood up on my neck when I read the lines: ‘The man who carried his wife from the workhouse to their old home, mile after weary mile, and was discovered next morning dead, his wife’s feet held to his breast as if he was trying to warm them…’,” O’Rourke recalls. “I had stumbled into a chapter of history I knew almost nothing about. I wanted to be a witness, to share these stories the best way I knew how, through music.”
The Famine was by far the most impactful era in the recorded history of Ireland. The effect on the population was so devastating that seven generations and 170 years later, Ireland’s population is still far from where it was in the 1840s. As a result of the mass emigration that resulted, over 80 million across the world now claim Irish heritage.
The cover of the ‘Chronicles Of The Great Irish Famine’ album is a hyper-real photo illustration featuring O’Rourke and band members re-enacting a scene from one historical tale. Following the ambush and shooting of the landlord ‘Manning’ in Co Westmeath, locals formed a mob, found Manning’s body, hacked the corpse into pieces and threw it into a ditch.
In another story from 1849, 23-year-old ship captain Curry Shaw abandoned his passengers and made off in the only lifeboat when his vessel, ‘The Hannah’, struck ice in the frigid waters off Newfoundland. He left them to their fate.
In an age where people are still fleeing their homelands en masse, struggling to escape tyranny and poverty, too often in vessels unfit for human transportation, these stories are as relevant as ever and speak to us of our own humanity.
“The songs in this project are an attempt to bring fresh air to an unhealed wound, and to remind the Irish people of what we have overcome,” O’Rourke explains.
The show in Westport will feature nine of the album’s musicians, including Mike McGoldrick, Dermot Byrne, Floriane Blancke, Jack Maher, Chris Herzberger, Catriona Frost, Rob Calder and John Sheahan.
For tickets (€25 each), contact Westport Town Hall Theatre on 098 28459, or visit www.westporttheatre.com