SHE may have been born in Liverpool, but musician Ruti Lachs’ heart has long belonged to Ireland.
The 55-year-old has spent most of her life in this country — first in Kerry, and latterly Cork — and now she has the Irish passport to prove her allegiance to her homeland.
Thirty years ago, Ruti was a “new-age traveller living in a truck” on the roads of England. Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister at the time, and Ruti found the new laws and regulations being introduced by her Government contrary to her free-spirited way of life.
“There was just a real clampdown on our way of life at the time,” she recalls. It prompted her move to Ireland.
“Most of my adult life, I’ve been in Ireland. I never really felt British,” she says. “My grandparents were from Poland and Germany and Belgium. Jewish people who’d moved to England.”
Ruti moved to Cork city almost three years ago and this year, she decided to give an air of legitimacy to her sense of Irishness by applying for citizenship.
She says her passport was about to expire in June and the Brexit chaos had left her with little appetite to renew it.
“I thought, there is no point in being British anymore,” she says.
Since March 3, Ruti has been Irish, by heart and passport.
To celebrate, she organised a night of storytelling and Jewish music at Maureen’s Pub in Cork city a couple of nights later - the ‘Just became Irish’ show.
She relays one of the main benefits of being legally Irish, with joyful excitement: “You know when people ask you, ‘Where are you from?’ Now I can tell them that I’m Irish.”
Ruti, who is also a piano teacher, says the intimacy and the welcoming aura of the country’s pubs have allowed her to thrive as a musician.
“Ever since I moved to Cork, it has always been like, ‘come, sit and play’, there is this whole thing of being welcoming of other musicians,” she says.
Ruti insists, however, that she has never played music with fame and fortune in mind. Instead, she says, her life journey revolved around finding a quiet space that allowed free self-expression.
“It was always about expressing myself. I write original songs. I play my own music and some of them are funny tunes, it’s always been welcome here,” Ruti says.
Gary Baus, an Irish-American jazz musician who lives in Cork city, agrees with that sentiment.
“We have the best music venues here. We’re so spoiled in Cork,” he says.
“When I go abroad, I have this longing just to come back here to have those kinds of intimate concerts.”
Gary moved to Cork in 2001, initially on a tourist visa, and began busking around the city. Soon his legal time in Cork was up, but he couldn’t bring himself to leave and is now a full-time resident
Just like Ruti, Gary laments the fact that some of us take Ireland and Cork’s fertile art scene for granted.
“I think the more [Irish artists] travel, the more they realise how special their home is,” he reasons.
Ruti is also on a mission to empower more female musicians to dust off their instruments, step into venues and ask for a spot.
“A woman came up to me once and said that her adult son had died a year or two before. She said, ‘thank you so much, I’ve got an accordion at home, and I haven’t played it since he died. Now I feel like picking it up again’,” Ruti recalls, proudly.
The Cork musician plans to take a one-woman show, called A Different Kettle, about the joys and pains of watching her children grow up, to the stage of Cork’s Art Centre this August.
A musical play titled Green Feather Boa, which chronicles the life of Cork’s Jewish community, is another of Ruti’s theatrical projects, planned for the Nano Nagle Centre in June.
Gary shares his groovy tunes, in the Franciscan Well on Sundays from 6-8pm.