Among women

Going Out

TRADITIONAL GATHERING More than 60 women gathered in the Clock Tavern for a Nollaig na mBan trad session.  Pic: Linda McNultyNollaig na mBan – go maire na mná go deo!

Nollaig na mBan – go maire na mná go deo!

Freda Hatton

On Friday evening, January 6, a special gathering was held in Westport’s Clock Tavern to celebrate Nollaig na mBan. The tradition of this day – Women’s Little Christmas – was that it was to be a reward to women for all their hard work over the Christmas season.
Nollaig na mBan was a day off from all housework for women and traditional roles were supposed to be reversed in the home: men did the women’s work in the house while women rested and gathered informally. For anyone who walked into the Clock Tavern in Westport last Friday between 6 and 8pm, that tradition was well and truly alive, as the front bar was full to capacity with female energy, while the only males to be seen were the bar staff. John Blake, the bar man, took it all in his stride and served up the drinks with a smile on his face!
On entering the doors of the pub, lively traditional music was raising the rafters – and not a beard or a cap was in sight. To celebrate the 12th day of Christmas, more than 12 female musicians put rosin on their bows and tuned their strings and gathered for an all-female session.
Julie Langan and myself – resident musicians in the Clock Tavern’s Saturday Sessions – were joined by a mighty band of trobairitz, including Mags Gallen, Laoise Ní Chionnaith, Bernie Conneely, Dearbhla Ryan, Kathy Quinn, Catherine O’Driscoll, Mary Finn, Sorcha O’Grady, Maria Lynn, Deirdre Garvey and Irma Van Balen.
Commenting on the event, Lindsey Madden said she felt the evening captured the spirit of the celebration. “It was a true embodiment of Nollaig na mBan: a warm, beautiful space full of kindred women, some dear friends, some good company, and a spectacular session of so very many talented musicians.
“A gentle hush fell over the room as Mags Gallen began singing ‘Hard Times’. When the crowd of women raised their voices to join in the chorus, tears of gratitude pricked my eyes, and not for the first time that evening.”
Equally, Dearbhla Ryan evoked a powerful moment with her rendition of ‘No Woman, No Cry’.
Courtesy of Genevieve McGing of The Clock Tavern, pizzas were passed around on the tables, and one woman commented that it was literally ‘the breaking of the bread’. According to Genevieve, the new energy in the Clock Tavern since the introduction of the Early Evening Saturday Sessions.
“We are so delighted with the beautiful atmosphere the wonderful trad session creates every Saturday evening,” she said. “It has been such a positive experience for us, as a family and business, and our customers alike. We have always promoted local artists, live music and Irish acts, and we are currently working with Anneli and the All Time Club to organise small intimate gigs upstairs over the coming months.
“We have been involved in the Acoustic Yard Festival and Westival over the years and look forward to hosting an event as part of this year’s Westport Folk & Bluegrass Festival.”
The Nollaig na mBan gathering was such a success, it will undoubtedly become a much-anticipated traditional event on the Westport calendar. “It was such a lovely idea,” Genevieve added. “I keep hearing about what a special night it was.” All in attendance echoed that sentiment wholeheartedly. Go maire na mná go deo!

Freda Hattan is a Westport based arts project manager.