A French man with a love of music and a degree in Geography hit the right note when he landed in Bandon at the age of 25.
Twenty years later, Leo Guedan is an integral part of the local community, married to a Bandon woman Irene, with three children who he says are “more Irish than French.”
“I have been playing the piano since I was five or six,” Leo told The Echo, “I also play the saxophone, the double bass and the flute.”
Leo, who is the musical director for the Bandon Concert Band, a community band for adults and children, said he learned the flute as there was a deficit in the band for that particular instrument.
“Once you know the theory, learning a new instrument is easy enough.”
The band play a number of concerts a year and often raise funds for worthy causes such as Dogs for the Disabled and Saint Vincent de Paul.
When not teaching music to the local community through the Bandon Concert Band, Leo is busy working in the local music shop, which just so happens to be one of the best piano stores in the country.
“Jeffers of Bandon is one of the top piano companies in Ireland. We sell, repair and rent pianos,” Leo explained.
“Renting is a big thing for us, we rent pianos for concerts, Vicars Street, the 3Arena and festivals from Bantry to Sligo, it’s a nice part of the job getting out and about.”
Alongside the piano store is the music shop, which Leo said was extremely busy before they closed for lockdown with adults buying new instruments to stay busy during the pandemic and getting children’s instruments repaired.
“Just before lockdown, we were mad busy and we have been getting a lot of phone calls so I think when we reopen it will be chaotic.”
The musician, who is originally from France, where he studied geography in college before moving to the UK to study piano technology, said he is very passionate about music.
Leo lives in Bandon with his wife Irene and their three children, Ailbhe (13), Louis (11) and Charlotte (5).
Irene is a software engineer, although she too is handy on a piano, and Ailbhe and Louis are members of the Bandon Concert Band alongside their father.
Leo and Irene met in a local pub in Bandon and were married locally, during a fine hot summer, at the Presentation Convent Chapel in Bandon 16 years ago.
“It was a great day, there was a lot of family and friends over from France and they all had a lovely time. There is no better place than West Cork in the sunshine!”
When not learning, playing, teaching or selling music, Leo and his family enjoy kayaking in the local Bandon River and Leo is an avid gardener.
“We have just a small garden but I am very dedicated. I enjoy looking after it.”
As well as his own family, Leo’s sister Josephine also lives in Bandon, while his other brother and sister are back in France.
“It is nice to have family close by,” Leo said. “She was living in the States and wanted to move closer to home, but not home — so she moved to Cork!”
Leo said normally the family like to hop into the car and head off for a drive around West Cork taking in the scenery.
“With beaches just 30 minutes away there is always somewhere to go, I don’t have a favourite route, it depends on the weather and the time, but there is plenty to choose.”
Here 20 years, Leo said he has always found Cork people to be open and kind and said he was shown a very warm welcome when he first arrived all those years ago.
Ironically, Leo’s friends often tell him he has become more Irish than the Irish!
“I love complaining about the weather and I have a lot of Irish habits and expressions — although I don’t go to the pub as much anymore, with three kids, I have a good excuse!”
Looking long term, Leo said his life is very much in Bandon.
“Married, with three kids and a mortgage, I couldn’t think of living anywhere else at the moment, although I like the idea of having somewhere in France as well to split our time when we retire.”
The piano man said he gets back to France around once a year and his parents have visited twice a year for the past 20 years so they know the place well.
“My grandmother in France is 99 years old, so I like to get home to see her every year.
“It is nice to go back, but home is here now.”