Irish-born Sinead Diver wins Melbourne marathon

 Sinead Diver

Sinead Diver

Mayo-mum Sinéad Diver has won the Melbourne Marathon in record time.

Diver, who moved to Melbourne in 2002 and now calls Australia home, set a new course record with a time of 2:25:19 making her the fastest ever Australian female athlete to complete the 42.195km distance in Australia.

It’s also the second fastest marathon ever run by an Irish woman after Catherina McKiernan’s record of 2:22:23.

“Today was the best marathon experience I’ve ever had. It’s really special to get a PB in my hometown. Finishing in the ‘G’, with all my family and friends cheering me on was so emotional,” said the Irish Australian.

Diver is a three-time World Championship representative, and has a spate of wins to date including the Launceston 10, where she broke a course record and ran the fastest 10km road race by an Australian since 2006. 

Diver’s best performance came at the Sunshine Coast Half Marathon where she ran 1:09:20, the fastest time by an Australian in eight years and second fastest ever recorded in Australia. 

She now sets her sights on the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

 Sinead Diver crosses the finish line at the MCG.

Sinead Diver crosses the finish line at the MCG.

Melbourne to host global Irish famine event

 Dr Val Noone next to the Famine Rock at Williamstown.

Dr Val Noone next to the Famine Rock at Williamstown.

The famine monument at Williamstown in suburban Melbourne will host this year’s International Commemoration of the Great Famine, the Irish Government has announced.

It is the first time Melbourne has hosted the event which takes place in a different country each year.

The ceremony will take place on Sunday, October 28 and Melbourne Irish Famine Commemoration Committee’s chairman Dr Val Noone said he and his team were “honoured” to be chosen.

The Williamstown Famine Rock was erected 20 years ago to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the arrival of 191 Irish orphan girls into Hobson’s Bay aboard the Lady Kennaway.

The impoverished girls from Irish workhouses were brought out to Australia between 1848 and 1850 to become servants and wives under the Earl Grey Emigration Scheme.

Dr Noone said descendants of the orphan girls’ will attend this month’s commemoration which will also include Irish music and song, flower-laying and speeches.

“We pass the microphone around and give them a chance to tell us who they are descended from, what age they were when they came, and what ship they came on,” he said.

“When you think of what it was like for those girls, many of them only 14 or 15 years of age, to step ashore in Melbourne, 20,000 kilometres from home facing a terrific challenge.”

Irish Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan said some 1700 of the 4000-plus young Irish women who came to Australia under the Earl Grey scheme first landed in Melbourne.

“This year’s commemoration represents an opportunity to not only honour the work of the Irish community in Melbourne in preserving its history but also to pay special tribute to the memory of those young women and their contribution to their adopted homeland,” she said.

Sadly when the girls first arrived, some of the local press whipped up anti-Irish feeling. 

The Melbourne Argus newspaper was particularly harsh, describing them as “ignorant creatures, whose knowledge of household duty barely reaches to distinguishing the inside from the outside of a potato”.

Dr Noone said they would have needed “courage and determination” to deal with the discrimination, prejudice and racism they encountered.

“It is moving to think that those girls, scorned and libelled by the local press when they arrived, are being remembered and honoured,” he said.

Irish studies Professor Elizabeth Malcolm is a great-great granddaughter of Margaret Cooke from Co Kildare who came to Australia on the Earl Grey scheme when she was just 16.

“I have often taught the Famine to students, so I am very familiar with its horrors,” Prof Malcolm said. “When I discovered I had an orphan ancestor, it was exciting at first, but, on reflection, I found it very sad. Margaret must have had a pretty terrible early life.”

Dr Noone said they’d been having annual community commemorations at Williamstown since the memorial was first erected 20 years ago.

Expat Dub’s Grandpa yarn a big hit with little readers

 Children’s author Paul Newman.

Children’s author Paul Newman.

A DUBLIN author living in Sydney has followed up his best-selling debut children’s book with a second story which aims to help children deal with fear of the dark. 

Grandpa’s Space Adventure by Paul Newman sees a grandad teaching his young grandson that he does not need to be afraid of the dark, with the help of some ‘tall stories’ brought to life by award-winning illustrator Tom Jellett. 

Paul Newman, originally from Portmarnock, told The Irish Echo: “The first book is a grandfather trying to get his grandson to swim and he just tells some real tall stories in order to get his grandson into the pool. 

“It was amusing to me but I went off to work that day and I came in that evening and read it again and thought, ‘this is not a bad little idea’.

“In the second book, the kid is afraid of the dark. Grandpa says: ‘we’ll go camping in the backyard tonight. You have to have the dark, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to see the stars or the moon and if you can’t see the moon, you can’t go to the moon’.” 

Grandpa’s Big Adventure became a bestseller in Australia and was last year shortlisted for the Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Award. It also attracted praise in the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards.

“I think one of the reasons that the schoolteachers like it is because they can ask kids: ‘Is there anything you are afraid of? Are you afraid of swimming?’  It is nice when you hear that it is used as a teaching aid. Reviews are all saying it’s nice because it’s not sentimental and adults will get something out of it reading it for kids. 

“There’s always a little line in there for the grown ups or maybe something thrown into the illustrations.”

Newman has lived in Australia for 30 years and now calls Sydney home. He is the father of 16-year-old twins and says his experience of being a parent informs his writing. He is also the author of the novel, Fin Rising, a mysterious, dark Irish comedy.

He says he is very keen to continue his series but “that’s entirely up to the people at Penguin”. 

Grandpa’s Space Adventure and Grandpa’s Big Adventure are both published through Penguin.

Magpies sign Mayo GAA star for AFLW

 Sarah Rowe will play for the Magpies in the AFLW competition.

Sarah Rowe will play for the Magpies in the AFLW competition.

Mayo forward Sarah Rowe has signed a deal that will see her join Collingwood in the forthcoming AFLW season. 

The 23-year-old follows long term Mayo team mate Cora Staunton (Greater Western Sydney Giants) and Laura Corrigan-Duryea of Cavan who played with Melbourne Demons for the AFLW’s first two seasons before being delisted recently. 

Rowe has represented Republic of Ireland at soccer and has declared her intention to return to Mayo after her five months in Australia to help her county in their bid for the All-Ireland. 

Rowe travelled to Australia in April, meeting with several clubs before choosing the Magpies. 

“I’m really looking forward to it,” she told the Irish Echo. “I don’t know exactly what to expect. It’s a complete new challenge for me, a new sport, a lot to learn but really looking forward to that aspect of it as well and putting myself out of my comfort zone.

“Football is what I grew up doing so instinct tells me what to do next and I would be able to help people around me whereas now I’m going to need a lot of help off other girls on the team and going to the manager with a lot of questions and stuff. It’s going to be a different role for me completely. You want to try prove yourself in one way but you need to learn all the skills first. It’s just gonna take time.”

Sarah had never been to Australia before she also visited the clubs Carlton, Western Bulldogs, Melbourne, Geelong and North Melbourne. 

“Collingwood was the first club I saw. I was extremely impressed, I thought they were so professional with their presentation. They made me feel very much at home very quickly.”

Rowe and Mayo were defeated by Dublin in last year’s All-Ireland Ladies final. This campaign saw them exit to Galway at the quarter-final stage: 

“Hopefully I learn stuff that I can bring back to Mayo. It’s always been my dream to win an All-Ireland so I would never turn my back on that but it’s great that I get to do both. Going professional is hopefully going to stand to me big time. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s very appealing for Irish girls at the minute.”

Sarah herself has spoken about the inequalities between men’s and women’s sport in Ireland. She was encouraged by what she saw in Australia in this aspect: “The girls get as much of an opportunity as the boys to be in an environment where they can excel so I really liked that side of it. In Ireland at the minute it’s improving an awful lot, things are looking up but it’s still not there yet.”

Sarah will arrive in Australia ahead of pre-season training with Collingwood on November 1. 

Eighteen other Irish women have arrived in Melbourne to try their luck at the Australian game.

Electro-folk duo on first Australian tour

 Saint Sister have won praise in Ireland for their ‘atmosfolk’ sound.

Saint Sister have won praise in Ireland for their ‘atmosfolk’ sound.

The Irish Times says, “their haunting performance is impeccable”, while Hot Press laud their “tremendous vocal depth and vulnerability”. 

They once sang with world conquering Hozier at Trinity College and now, Irish electro-folk duo Saint Sister are headed to Australia for their first tour which will include Sydney Irish Festival and Mullum Music Festival. 

Described as a mix of early harp traditional, folk and electronic pop or simply ‘atmosfolk’, Saint Sister is made up of Gemma Doherty and Morgan MacIntyre, who first came together in 2014. Their first trip down under comes immediately after the October release of their debut album, Shape of Silence, produced by Alex Ryan (Hozier’s bassist). 

“I’ve always wanted to come and see Australia and we definitely weren’t expecting to be able to go this soon,” Doherty tells The Irish Echo.

MacIntyre adds: “It’s a dream come true to be able to get to go to Australia at this stage. We’re really looking forward to it.”

The band will join big names like Damien Dempsey, Mary Black and Lunasa for the Sydney Irish Festival that takes place over the weekend of 10-11 November and also includes a hurling match between Kilkenny and Galway. 

Gemma says: “It’s very exciting. I came from a very traditional Irish background so it’s where a lot of our influences come from, maybe they don’t come directly out on the surface but that’s kind of the world I grew up in so it’s really lovely to be able to cross over into that more traditional Irish folk world sometimes. I’m really excited about that line-up.”

MacIntyre believes expat audiences will relate to Saint Sister’s sound with its innate sense of longing.

“I think Irish music in general has a lot of nostalgia and longing and yearning,” she says. 

“Every kind of Irish music somehow has that innate sense of longing. I think it’s just the make up of us as a country and because we have such a big diaspora, that longing is exacerbated and exaggerated in those forms (music, literature).  

“Music is such a big connector as well. I think we’re lucky as Irish musicians that when we’re travelling around the world , we have this ready made group of people that understand us and it’s probably not the same for other people whose nationalities doesn’t have as big a diaspora. 

“I think that makes it very easy to relate to and it makes it easy for touring musicians from Ireland because you can go away and know you’ll be understood and that your sense of identity and longing and all that stuff that comes with being an Irish person will translate.”

Doherty adds: “It’s incredible to be going to the other side of the world and having a huge bunch of people who have already come from where you’ve come from. Hopefully there’s a connection there already.”

From Derry and Belfast respectively, Doherty and MacIntyre moved to Dublin in 2010 to study at Trinity College where they met. They sang in the Trinity Orchestra together with Hozier before deciding to join together for their own project. Their sound can be described as dreamy, a feeling that is created by their atmospheric sound and beautiful harmonies.  

Their album title, Shape Of Silence, comes, MacIntyre says, from their interest in “the idea of space and what can be said and what can be felt in the gaps, whether it is gaps in the lyrics or the music.  And what can be said when you’re not saying anything. 

“Silence is quite a deadly thing and quite a powerful thing. We thought it was interesting to think about it as something you can touch and hold and that had weight and was very heavy, so that’s where Shape of Silence came from. It seemed to suit the kind of world we were going for.” 

The album has slowly come together over the last three years as the offers to gig kept coming in, disrupting what could have been writing or recording time. However, this suited them as they still were able to put out material such as their Madrid EP or Tin Man single, both tracks that feature on the album. 

Saint Sister play Sydney Irish Festival on Saturday November 10, Northcote Social Club, Melbourne on Sunday November 11, The Lansdowne in Sydney on Tuesday November 13 and Mullum Music Festival on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 November. For more information, go to www.saintsisterband.com

Irish soul singer keen to reconnect with Aussie fans

 Damien Dempsey has a huge following in Australia.

Damien Dempsey has a huge following in Australia.

One of Ireland’s most distinctive voices and passionate performers returns to Australia this November.

Since the release of his debut They Don’t Teach This Shit in School in 2000, Damien Dempsey has earned the admiration of performers as diverse as Sinead O’Connor, Morrissey and Bruce Springsteen.

His style has been called ‘urban folk’ but he prefers to call it ‘Irish soul’ and the Dubliner is never inhibited about weighing into political debates and championing community causes.

He returns to Australia in November to headline the Sydney Irish Festival which will also feature Mary Black, Lunasa and Saint Sister (see page 6).

“I never performed with Mary but I would know her kids well,” Damien tells The Irish Echo. “You never know, we might do something at the end of the night if she’s into it. With Lunasa and that, get a bit of a singsong going. I always stick in a few of the old Irish songs because they have such great memories, the songs of our ancestors. They’re just like old ghosts and you just have to breathe new life into them and they come alive.

“I want to get everyone in those showgrounds to feel on cloud nine, make them feel as high as they can. A natural high. Get them all singing. Singing is a great way to get people high. To get them all singing in unison, it releases endorphins. It’s great.”

Dempsey is no stranger to playing to huge Irish crowds abroad and has played to St Patrick’s Day crowds in Australia before.

“Years ago, [playing to large crowds] might have frightened me but I’m kind of ready now for big venues. It took me a while, the nerves used to kill me but I’m ready now. I’m kind of ready for anything now, I think.”

 Damien Dempsey lends his support to many community causes. In 2014, he and Glen Hansard performed at a protest against water charges. Picture: Niall Carson

Damien Dempsey lends his support to many community causes. In 2014, he and Glen Hansard performed at a protest against water charges. Picture: Niall Carson

He recalls a memorable night in Sydney in 2013 when he played the Opera House on St Patrick’s Day.

“The Sydney Opera House have never seen a crowd like it. They were up on the seats with the tops off, arm in arm, singing the songs and they drank the bar dry in about 40 minutes. They had to close the bar because they drank every bit of alcohol, everything was gone so the Opera House (officials and staff) were just going around with their mouths open, just ‘what the hell?’

“They had never seen an audience like it but they were no trouble, just everybody in great form and singing the songs. I’ve done a couple of Paddy’s days there (Australia) and it’s always very emotional.”

The Dubliner’s music resonates very strongly in emigrant communities and he empathises with those who may have been forced to leave home.

“A lot of them have had to leave Ireland and maybe leave old parents behind that they’re worried about, but they’ve no choice. My parents are in their seventies and they wouldn’t be in great health, the thought of having to live abroad and not be around for them, I would find it very hard. I feel for the guys who have to be away.”

Having lived in New York and London as well as elsewhere in Dublin in spells, Damien now lives in his native Donaghmede: “I was always being told by people during the Celtic Tiger: ‘Buy a house now, get on the property ladder now. It will never go down’. I kind of felt there was a recession coming so I waited and then when the market was rock bottom, I had some savings and got a house in Donaghmede.”

Two recent Irish TV appearances have thrown him into the public spotlight even more than usual. He appeared on the Tommy Tiernan show where he spoke about battles with depression and his ancestry was explored on an episode of Who Do You Think You Are?.

“I had ancestors in the Irish Citizen Army that fought with James Connolly and it went in depth into stories of other people who fought during the famine and were imprisoned with Daniel O’Connell.

“Then there was protestant blood on one of the sides which was a shock for a lot of people. Not to me, I don’t go in for all that really.

“Then my family went to America working in cotton mills over there in horrendous conditions. Some of them disappeared and some of them came back. I was in the school in Letterfrack getting the story of what happened to the children. I was in prisons in Dublin where Fenians were sent and City Hall where my great aunt took the building in 1916. Fairly interesting.”

His Australian tour coincides with the release of his ninth album, Union.

“It includes collaborations that I’ve done with people like Maverick Sabre who is a great singer. Imelda May is on it, Seamus Begley, Finbar Furey and John Grant. I think they’re all fairly powerful (songs),” he says.

Dan Sultan, the Irish-Australian indigenous singer, also joins him on the song, It’s Important.

“Dan wanted to come to Ireland, to Mullingar to see where his people came from. They asked me would I bring him on tour with me around Ireland. I hung out with him down there and he taught me a lot about Aboriginal culture. He’s a great old friend. I’m looking forward to seeing him when I get to Melbourne.”

Rebel Wilson to star in Beauty Queen Of Leenane

 Rebel Wilson is a big fan of Martin McDonagh’s work.

Rebel Wilson is a big fan of Martin McDonagh’s work.

Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect, Bridesmaids) will play the female lead in Martin McDonagh’s Beauty Queen Of Leenane for the Sydney Theatre Company next year.

The star of movies like Pitch Perfect, Bridesmaids returns to the Sydney stage in the ink-black modern classic by Academy Award-winning writer McDonagh who wrote and directed Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Wilson’s appearance in this Sydney Theatre Company production is sure to generate plenty of interest when it premieres next November.

The play is part of McDonagh's Leenane Trilogy alongside A Skull In Connemara and The Lonesome West.

The Beauty Queen of Leenane is one of my favourite plays,” Wilson said.

“It’s a fascinating look at a complicated relationship between a mother and daughter, written by my favourite playwright, Martin McDonagh. He writes such dark and comedic characters – I've always been drawn to his work.

“I am really excited to come back to STC to be in this play. The Beauty Queen of Leenane was the first professional play that I ever saw and I saw it at STC when I was 19 years old. I was just blown away by how talented the actors were and how great the play was. Then I performed in that same theatre a few months later in my first proper play, Spurboard, for ATYP and STC Education. So, to me, the play holds a lot of significance – I hope I can do it justice."

Set in a small Connemara town, Maureen Folan lives a lonely existence with Mag, her aged mother. Their relationship is more arm wrestle than warm embrace. Right now, when Maureen stands the chance of having her first romantic relationship, Mag’s cantankerous presence is simply unbearable.

This play was the first big hit for McDonagh, whose films also include the hugely popular In Bruges.

Rebel Wilson said she is excited by her return to live theatre.

“There’s something very special and very magical about seeing theatre. I can’t get enough of going. I love that it’s an immediate experience. The cool thing is that every theatrical performance is different and it depends on the audience and the energy in the room. Just those people there share that one, live, personal experience. You can’t get that from a movie or a TV show, it’s such a particular experience. That’s why, despite all the technological advances in entertainment, people still go to the theatre – and have for hundreds of years. You just can’t beat the shared experience of theatre.”

The play is part of the Sydney Theatre Company's 2019 Program.

Limerick band Hermitage Green eager for Australian return

 Hermitage Green return to Australia in November.

Hermitage Green return to Australia in November.

Limerick folk/pop outfit Hermitage Green have developed a strong affection for Australia, which is why they are returning down under for the second time in 12 months. 

Guitarist Darragh Griffin said the reception they received last year was motivation enough for a quick return.

“When we were there last November, we kind of said, ‘We need to do this regularly; this can’t be a once every three years kind of thing’,” Griffin said.   

“What we’ve tended to find as well is you have to do a bit more work to win the crowds over but that can be kind of an enjoyable challenge.” 

Darragh shares vocal and guitar duties with the Murphy brothers Dan and Barry, the latter of which had a successful career with Munster rugby before taking up music as a serious pursuit.  

The band have been coming to Australia since 2013.

“Our first time going to Australia was a surreal stand-out experience for us. We played a couple of weeks in Perth and had built up a bit of a reputation and people got to know us and enjoyed us and then we did the east coast. 

“We were coming back (to Perth) for one gig at the end of it and for that last gig, there was literally this enormous queue of people up the road where they couldn’t get any more people into the pub so we ended up actually going out and playing to the fewer [number of] people who were waiting, because we knew they weren’t going to get in.

“When you see that kind of hype being built up in the space of two weeks, that’s all it was, and I suppose that news had spread from coast to coast literally between the community and it was absolutely amazing. It’s something we weren’t expecting to happen on that sort of scale at all.”

The Limerick band’s Australian preoccupation is not just about audiences. They’re travelling with a didgeridoo as the instrument features in the song The Lion’s Share.

“I can tell you it’s not the easiest thing to travel with,” Griffin joked.

 The Limerick five-piece played at a special memorial concert for The Cranberries Dolores O'Riordan earlier this year.

The Limerick five-piece played at a special memorial concert for The Cranberries Dolores O'Riordan earlier this year.

How did an Australian crowd react to seeing an Irish band with the quintessentially Australian instrument? 

“It definitely raises the eyebrows. I think you can recognise if someone is doing something from an angle of a gimmicky thing but it’s essentially the foundation the rest of the song is built on top of. You couldn’t have a bunch of Australians coming over to Ireland and jumping around with a fiddle on stage. That wouldn’t be appreciated [just as] it wouldn’t be appreciated in Australia to be disrespectful to the didgeridoo.

“As soon as people recognise that it’s an integral part of The Lion’s Share, I think they appreciate what are trying to do with it; we’re trying to incorporate it into our own sound.” 

The band’s last tour got off to a disastrous start when some band members couldn’t get into the country in time, meaning that their Prince Bandroom gig, the first of their tour, had to be cancelled. They won’t repeat the same mistake again.

“We’re going to Melbourne a week and a half early this time to make sure. A monumental mess-up was what it was and a little bit of naivety on our part. 

“We were just really devastated that people had been coming from far and wide and then suddenly the gig was cancelled. We were just really, really gutted. We do not cancel gigs, it’s got to be something absolutely monumental to cancel a gig because we know the effort people make to go to gigs because we make it ourselves. It’s devastating when it’s called off. We 100 per cent will not be making that mistake again. Hermitage Green will be there on stage as planned.” 

All of Ireland was shocked by the sudden death of Dolores O’Riordan in January and nowhere more so than in her native Limerick. Hermitage Green paid tribute to one of Limerick’s most famous daughters at a special gig in King John’s Castle when they played the famous Cranberries’ songs Dreams and Zombie.

“It was phenomenal, I’m getting [the] shivers thinking about it. 

“There were 2,000 people screaming these lyrics back at us and we ended Zombie and the crowd just kept singing it and it wasn’t really planned out like that. They kept singing the end of Zombie and we had that 15 seconds where we all just stood at the front of the stage and looked over 2,000 people, over the wall of King John’s Castle and onto the city and the Shannon and it was just really, really emotional. It was an incredible moment. It’s a hard one to top. We’re going a few years and that’s a stand-out moment. I’m emotional talking about it. It was incredible.  

“Noel Hogan [Cranberries guitarist] was at the gig, so knowing he was in the audience watching this, on top of everything else, really kind of brought it all home. It was absolutely amazing.”

Hermitage Green kick off their tour in Perth on November 10 before gigs in Brisbane, Melbourne, Newcastle, Sydney and Thirroul. 

Australia to get another quick round of Coronas

 The Coronas are heading back to Australia for a whistle-stop tour.

The Coronas are heading back to Australia for a whistle-stop tour.

Just a year after releasing their Irish number one album Trust the Wire and their last Aussie tour, Dublin rockers The Coronas return to Australia for three shows in November. 

Since establishing themselves in 2003, The Coronas have built up a loyal fanbase in Ireland and cemented themselves as one of our best live acts. 

Fresh from playing to 14,000 fans at Dublin’s 3Arena, lead singer Danny O’Reilly told The Irish Echo how excited the band are to be heading back down under. 

“The reaction we have been getting there is just amazing so we’re really excited about going back,” O’Reilly, the son of singing legend Mary Black, said. 

“We had a cool gig in Sydney in March, just to launch the gigs, and we love going there. We’re really excited and hopefully by the end of November, it will be nice and sunny as well so we’ll get a bit of sun on our skin.

“Often times we don’t get to enjoy the cities too much but hopefully we’ll get a few days either side just to enjoy the place. It was cool to be back in Sydney for a few days. We have a couple of friends living there now. 

“Hopefully when we go back in November, we might have a few days to enjoy it and chill out and catch up with people again.”

It was just last year that the band released their fifth studio album but in June they followed it with new material in the form of the EP, The Reprise, a collection of loose-end songs that did not fit on previous albums.

“We’ve been playing a few songs off it. It’s been going well. It’s always nice to have something new out there.

“I think the EP’s a little bit different for us, it’s a little bit of a departure from what we’ve done in the past. I mean it’s still Coronas, it’s still three and a half minute songs of my whiny voice on top of some pop songs but I think musically it’s slightly different for us. 

“It’s been getting an amazing reaction, much better than we even thought. We thought we were gonna release it under the radar just to have a release for our really eager fans who want to hear some new music but I think it’s helped us garner some new attention and some new fans so it’s really encouraging.

“We had more freedom because we produced it ourselves. It’s the first piece of work that we self- produced. It was very free and easy and like, ‘Okay, there’s no pressure on it to be a big successful album, we don’t need a load of hits, this is just something for us’. And I think taking that pressure off made it more enjoyable.

“Sometimes when you get too caught up in trying to write singles you can get off track a little bit. With this, we didn’t worry at all about getting radio play; this was more of a self-indulgent … undertaking. It was nice to be able to do that and scratch that itch and let ourselves just go with it.”

The lead single on The Reprise is The Note, striking for both the singalong and triumphant tune and the heartbroken lyrics it is married to. 

O’Reilly has often spoken about how he writes about his own life in his music. This song could very well be from the period after his high-profile break-up with television presenter, Laura Whitmore. 

“It’s about the struggle after a break-up and sometimes that maybe things aren’t great and they might not get better and having those depressing feelings so it’s definitely darker lyrically,” he said. “People are loving it and that’s really great to see. It’ s nice we found a home for it because it’s a song we’re really proud of.”

The band have started putting together material for their next album and O’Reilly reveals this comes as a relief after the last album’s difficult preparation.

“I’m really excited about the new stuff, more so than years gone by. With the last album Trust the Wire we’re really proud of it. I definitely think it’s one of our strongest albums but I think it was the closest I’ve ever been to having writer’s block. 

“I was definitely struggling creatively for a while so I just thought: ‘We’re getting older, trying to continuously improve creatively, it’s going to be difficult and it’s going to just get harder as you get older’. 

“That’s sort of what I had resigned myself to but then we went down to Dingle and had these two weeks where there were just songs falling out of us and I was like, ‘Oh my God. These are great’.”

O’Reilly will not be the only family member in Australia in November as his mother Mary Black will perform at the Sydney Irish Festival.  

Asked if there could be some overlap of their time here, O’Reilly replied: “It will be great. To be completely honest, I had no idea we were going to be in Australia at the same time, so thank you for that. It would be so cool. 

“If I can do it, I would definitely consider going over a week early maybe to Australia, seeing her show and just chilling out for a week. I hope that might work out, make a family holiday out of it.” 

The Coronas play Prince Bandroom, Melbourne on 22 November, Metro Theatre, Sydney on 23 November and Capitol, Perth on 24 November. For more information, go to www.troubadour-music.com

Harp In The South a Strumpet City down under

 Kate Mulvany's stage adaptation of Ruth Park's Harp In The South runs until October 6. 

Kate Mulvany's stage adaptation of Ruth Park's Harp In The South runs until October 6. 

 

REVIEW: “There are no literary tricks, no displays of cleverness, little rhetoric and less sentimentality; it is full-hearted, astutely observed writing at its most cohesive.”

Eileen Battersby wrote this in The Irish Times as a way of describing James Plunkett’s novel Strumpet City (successfully adapted for the small screen by Hugh Leonard in the 1970s) but it could have been written about Ruth Parks’ The Harp In The South.

Different city and a slightly different time but its epic scale, its large cast of characters and its essential Irishness are common threads.

Actor and playwright Kate Mulvany, whose resume is already bulging with fine stage work, has adapted Parks’ three novels about the Darcy family - Missus, Harp In The South and Poor Man’s Orange – for the Sydney Theatre Company. The resultant mammoth production, directed by Kip Williams, is both impressive and captivating. 

The ‘harp’ of the title is Ireland and we are taken on a dramatic journey with the Darcy family from the rural NSW town which they first call home in the new land to the grimy Surry Hills slums to which they move in search of a better life.

The streets of Sydney are not paved with gold and their lives become a daily battle of survival against the forces of poverty, violence, illness, crime, alcoholism and prejudice. 

For all that, there’s warmth and humour galore interwoven into the script along with a number of Irish songs tastefully punctuating the narrative.

While this is a new play, it is immediately familiar to Irish eyes with shades of Sean O’Casey, John B Keane and even Brian Friel.

Emigration is a common theme for Irish playwriting but few are written from the perspective of those who have left, looking back over their shoulder, wondering if the grass beneath their feet is indeed greener.

The opening words of Siúil A Rún, which is used to great dramatic effect in Part 1, spell it out.

“I wish I were on yonder hill, ’tis there I’d sit an cry my fill”. 

Harp In The South is steeped in that immigrant world and for the Darcys, Australia does not ultimately deliver a better life for them or their descendants even if the play (six and half hours of theatre delivered over two performances) ends on an optimistic note.

In the #metoo era, Harp In The South resonates with feminist themes as we see three generations of women battle to keep their families together as their own dreams - and indeed their very lives - are sacrificed and abandoned.

As a consequence, the female characters get all the best lines, whether its Anita Hegh’s relentlessly-aproned Margaret Darcy or local brothel madam Delie Stock, beautifully played by Helen Thompson. The Irish-born matriarch Eny Kilker, played by Heather Mitchell chastises her Australian-born son-in-law Hughie Darcy at one point “Irish? You’re about as Irish as a feckin’ wombat!”.

Sadly, the male actors are not given as much to work with as their characters are either lazy drunks, sexual predators or gormless fools. 

Part 1 is a significantly more satisfying theatrical event than Part 2 and one wonders whether the adaptation could have been more comprehensively edited to create one single production.

But make no mistake, this is a very important addition to the Australian theatrical canon and one definitely worth seeing. For all of its Irishness, it is an Australian story. We see the seeds of Sydney’s multicultural, secular, pluralist, hedonistic present through the eyes of these spirited women and the flawed men who take their loyalty and love for granted.

4/5 Stars.

Global Irish fun run gets into stride again

 Tadhg Kennelly and former Sydney Swans team-mate Michael O'Loughlin at the 2017 Sydney 5k run.

Tadhg Kennelly and former Sydney Swans team-mate Michael O'Loughlin at the 2017 Sydney 5k run.

Seventeen cities, eight countries, one global nation.

The Ireland Fund’s Global 5k run will get into stride again on September 22. 

Events will take place in Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne to raise money for causes in Australia and Ireland. 

The global patron for the run is Irish Olympian Sonia O’Sullivan, who will take to the field in Melbourne this year. The Sydney run will be led by former Sydney Swans star Tadhg Kennelly. 

“It’s hard to believe we’re in the fifth year of this event,” said John Gallagher, chairman of the Ireland Fund Australia Sydney Young Leaders.

“It’s grown every year but we are really hopeful that this is the year that the run becomes a really established, fun event for runners, walkers, families, pets, anyone who likes, on the Irish Australian community calendar in all three cities. 

“We’re thrilled to have the support again of both Sonia O’Sullivan and Tadhg Kennelly, helping us to raise much-needed funds for worthy causes in Ireland and Australia.”

Starting in Brisbane at 7am, with the baton handed to Sydney and then over to Melbourne, the young leaders will run 5kms in their respective cities before passing the virtual baton. 

The Global 5k will conclude when the last young leader crosses the finish line in San Francisco. 

“It’s a really excellent event,”
Kennelly said. “I brought the family along last year; tried out my knees again for the first time in a few years. 

“And it’s a very Irish take on a fitness event – we all get the exercise in first, and the sausages and goodies afterwards! I enjoyed the chat and the craic and meeting everyone last year.” 

People can support the event by signing up to run, by volunteering on the day, by sponsoring a runner or making a donation. 

All runners get an event T-shirt, plus a delicious breakfast BBQ after the race. Sponsorship packages are also available. 

Global 5k runs take place in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, New York, Boston, Dallas, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Toronto, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Belfast, Dublin and London.

Pope Francis meets Irish victims of clerical abuse

 Pope Francis speaks to the audience at Croke Park Stadium in Dublin, during the Festival of Families. Picture: PA

Pope Francis speaks to the audience at Croke Park Stadium in Dublin, during the Festival of Families. Picture: PA

The Pope has met with victims of church abuse and mistreatment in Ireland after expressing pain and shame over failures to tackle the scandals.

The 90-minute private encounter with eight survivors at the Papal Nuncio's residence in Dublin came hours after the Pope acknowledged that Irish people had a right to be outraged by the church's response to the crimes.

On the first day of his historic visit to Ireland, the pontiff also prayed for all victims of clerical sex abuse. The Pope's decision to address the dark legacy of abuse in a speech in Dublin Castle drew praise in some quarters, but others criticised Francis for not saying enough or offering a public apology.

With the reverberations of a litany of clerical sex crimes casting a shadow over the first papal visit to Ireland in almost 40 years, Francis acknowledged the gravity of what had happened.

"With regard to the most vulnerable, I cannot fail to acknowledge the grave scandal caused in Ireland by the abuse of young people by members of the church charged with responsibility for their protection and education," he said.

"The failure of ecclesiastical authorities - bishops, religious superiors, priests and others - adequately to address these repellent crimes has rightly given rise to outrage and remains a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community.

"I myself share those sentiments."

Later in the day, Francis sat in prayerful contemplation inside a Dublin cathedral at a candle perpetually lit for those abused.

On a full day of engagements in the Irish capital, the Pope also visited homeless people who receive support from a centre run by the Capuchin Fathers' religious order.

In his Dublin Castle speech, the pontiff also expressed hope that remaining obstacles to reconciliation in Northern Ireland could be overcome. Ireland has undergone seismic social changes in the four decades since the last papal visit in 1979, when John Paul II was lauded by a nation shaped by its relationship with an all-powerful Catholic Church.

But the church's response to clerical sex abuse scandals, most of which emerged years after John Paul II's visit, have severely damaged trust in the religious institution and seriously weakened its influence on Irish society.

While thousands lined the streets of the capital to catch a glimpse of Francis passing in his famous Popemobile on Saturday afternoon, the crowds were certainly not on the scale witnessed when John Paul II made a similar trip. And among the well-wishers lining Dublin's streets there were also protesters, who vented their anger at the pontiff as he drove by.

During his address at the castle, Francis referred to steps taken by his predecessor Pope Benedict, as he insisted the church was acting on abuse.

"It is my hope that the gravity of the abuse scandals, which have cast light on the failings of many, will serve to emphasise the importance of the protection of minors and vulnerable adults on the part of society as a whole," he said.

Afterwards, one abuse survivor, Colm O'Gorman, branded his response as "disgraceful".

"He could have talked to us all in a way that was blunt, that was clear, that was frank, that was human, that was accessible," he said. "He refused to do so. And that's a huge shame. I think frankly it's rather disgraceful".

 Pope Francis and President Michael D Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin.

Pope Francis and President Michael D Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin.

In the speech, the Pope said he also wished to acknowledge women who in the past had "endured particularly difficult circumstances".

Later, he passed close to the site of a former Magdalene laundry as he arrived on Sean McDermott Street in the north inner city to meet well-wishers outside

Our Lady of Lourdes Church. The notorious laundry institutions run by Catholic religious orders effectively incarcerated thousands of young women from troubled backgrounds and forced them to work under harsh conditions.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had earlier urged the Pope to "listen to the victims" in his own address at Dublin Castle. In forthright remarks, the Taoiseach said there had to be "zero tolerance" for those who abuse and anyone who facilitated them.

Mr Varadkar also acknowledged the Irish state's failings in the mistreatment of many in the past, describing the nation's history of "sorrow and shame".

"Wounds are still open and there is much to be done to bring about justice and truth and healing for victims and survivors," he said.

"Holy Father, I ask that you use your office and influence to ensure this is done here in Ireland and across the world."

Mr Varadkar said he hoped the Pope's visit marked a "new chapter" in Ireland's relationship with the Catholic Church.

Earlier, the Pope met Irish President Michael D Higgins at his official residence in Phoenix Park. Mr Higgins also raised the issue of abuse, conveying the anger felt by many Irish citizens at the scandals.

The Pope also used the first day of his visit to praise those who helped forge Northern Ireland's historic Good Friday peace agreement in 1998.

In an apparent reference to the current political deadlock in Northern Ireland, which has seen the region without a properly functioning devolved government for 20 months, Francis said: "We can give thanks for the two decades of peace that followed this historic agreement, while expressing firm hope that the peace process will overcome every remaining obstacle and help give birth to a future of harmony, reconciliation and mutual trust."

Francis is ostensibly in Ireland to attend the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) - a major global church event focused on promoting family values.

He ended his first day of engagements by joining 82,000 others at a WMOF musical celebration in Croke Park. Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli was among those to sing for the Pope, delivering a powerful rendition of Ave Maria. The Pope's Saturday itinerary also included meeting with engaged and recently married couples in Dublin's Pro Cathedral.

On Sunday, the Pope will fly west to Co Mayo, where he will follow in the footsteps of John Paul II and take part in a religious service at a holy shrine in Knock. He will then return to Dublin for the closing centrepiece of the WMOF event - an outdoor Mass in front of an expected congregation of half a million people in Phoenix Park.