Music activities have been so curtailed due to Covid... I'm glad to be doing a gig at Cork Folk Festival

Con O’Drisceoil joined the Four Star Trio in 1989 for one gig — he’s still playing with the group, who will perform as part of Cork Folk Festival on October 3 in The Kino
Music activities have been so curtailed due to Covid... I'm glad to be doing a gig at Cork Folk Festival

Con Ó Drisceoil of Four Star Trio

Tell us about yourself:

My name is Con O'Drisceoil. A native of West Cork, I have been living in Cork city for many decades, and spent my working life teaching in Douglas Community School. A passion for the Irish language, nurtured at home and developed over many years holidaying in Corca Dhuibhne, led me to a deep interest in traditional music and song.

I started playing traditional accordion in the mid ’70s, when the Phoenix Bar on Union Quay was a wonderful venue for all types of music. My acquaintance with people such as Diarmuidín Ó Súilleabháin, the great singer from Cúil Aodha, and Cork bard Jimmy Crowley, led me to have a go at writing comic songs, beginning with The Pool Song, which was recorded by Jimmy and later by the Dubliners.

In 1989, I joined Johnny McCarthy and Pat ‘Herring’ Ahern to form the Four Star Trio, just for one gig. We’re still playing together.

Where were you born?

I was born in the parish of Aughadown, near Skibbereen — best-known now for its world- class oarsmen.

Where do you live?

For the last four decades, I’ve been living happily in Douglas.

Family?

My wife Gabriella and our two sons, Liam and Conor, both in their thirties.

Best Friend?

Surely a trick question. I’m lucky to have some great friends, be they musicians, songwriters, singers, neighbours, former colleagues or the lads and lassies in the Corner House. Don’t ask me to rank them in order of merit!

Earliest memory?

Starting primary school at the age of four, scarcely aware that my entire primary education was to be provided by my parents, who were the entire staff of Gurrane School. Mind you, I often envied the other children, for whom school ended at 3pm each day.

Person you most admire?

Couldn’t pick one. I admire people who are decent, tolerant and kind. Those who help others, or who speak up for the oppressed, are the heroes. Looking around the world, I appreciate our own President as a civilised, compassionate man.

Person who irritates you most?

A composite monster called Donald Boris Vladimir Bibi Bolsonaro Lukashenko Erdogan Orban (and I’ve omitted some of his middle names). Seriously, those who thrive on hatred and ignorance, and the people who believe them and vote for them.

Most memorable holiday?

When our sons were small we spent many holidays camping in France, and any one of those would qualify as most memorable — if only I could distinguish them from each other at this distance. My Gaeilgeoir background gave me a passion for languages, and I love getting to use my French or Spanish or my very patchy Italian while on holiday.

Favourite TV programme?

The most important feature on our TV set is the one that enables us to record programmes. We can build up a series (anything from nature documentaries to Inspector Montalbano) and watch it at our leisure. Over the years, series such as Breaking Bad have stood out.

Favourite Radio Show?

Claire Byrne is the one I hear most often, as a matter of routine. Mooney Goes Wild, which I hear only occasionally, is great, especially the erudite and witty contributions of Richard Collins.

Signature dish?

Douglas open-air market on Saturday mornings has a great fish stall with little choice but guaranteed freshness. When they have fresh hake or cod I like to do it very simply in the oven with some blue cheese and basil pesto on top. Foolproof as long as you don’t overcook it.

Favourite Restaurant?

Pigalle on Barrack Street. My chronic weakness for Italian food means I must also mention Da Mirco on Bridge Street.

Last book you read?

I’m currently reading Joe Country by Mick Herron. Imagine the MI5 we know through John le Carré, and ask yourself where all the failed agents go: the answer is Slough House, where the “slow horses” live out a miserable pen-pushing existence. Herron has written a series of Slough House books, and while being very funny he also builds a suspenseful plot.

Best book you’ve read?

Impossible question. The one that comes to mind from recent reading is Fernando Aramburu’s Patria (Homeland), telling the story of two families in the Basque country. The son of one family joins ETA and is jailed for the murder of the father of the other family. The book traces the relationship between two families who were once close friends, and depicts the misery political violence brings on society. Any Irish person reading it inevitably thinks of the suffering of families in Northern Ireland during, and after, the so-called Troubles.

Last album you bought/downloaded?

Traditional music is said to be about the young learning from the old, but Irish music is blessed with some brilliant young players. A young band called Nuadán includes three Ó Faoláin brothers from An Rinn in Co. Waterford. Their album, Dén Díobháil, is one I’ve been enjoying.

Favourite song?

Most songs by Tim Lyons, Brian O’Rourke or Seán Mone, three of the traditional-style comic writers I try to emulate.

A person you’d like to see in concert?

John Prine’s last gig in Cork Opera House was sold out before we got a chance to book. Sadly, Covid-19 took the great man this year.

Your pet?

Pedro, the handsome mongrel who currently owns us. He never ceases to surprise us.

Morning person or night owl?

I’m lucky enough to sleep well and to enjoy the morning.

Your proudest moment?

Many of the things we feel proud of tend to happen over a long time, rather than in one brilliant moment. This is true especially of family success, but also of musical achievements. If forced to pick a moment, it’s probably being awarded TG4’s Gradam Ceoil for my song writing in 2009.

Spendthrift or saver?

Somewhere between the two. I’m not rash with money, but I’m also aware that we can’t take it with us.

One thing you’d improve in your local area?

Douglas is a good place to live. Everyone complains of the traffic, and it won’t change until public transport becomes the first option for everyone. We have the 24-hour bus service which is great, but we need to build on that.

What makes you happy?

Being alive. Playing music with people I like (especially Johnny and Herring of our Trio) and simply enjoying the sound we’re making. Reading and learning.

How would you like to be remembered?

I don’t worry about that.

What else are you up to at the moment?

Musical activities have been so curtailed by the Covid plague that very little has happened this year. I’m glad to be doing a gig on October 3, from 6pm in the Kino for the 41st Cork Folk Festival (which runs from 30 September to October 4) with the other lads from The Four Star Trio. See www.corkfolkfestival.com.

I’m also trying to learn German (online, of course) and that’s a challenge.

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