Chris – Closing the circle

I had a good feeling travelling up the N4 to Boyle yesterday evening.

Chris Baillie (below, right) had asked me to come and play a gig with him. His folks were over from New Zealand, had seen videos of all his theme night performances over the years, and had expressed a wish to see us play together live.

Eddie and Sylvia in Creightons pub kindly provided the venue on a Tuesday night and off we went.

And I knew immediately that the good feeling I had driving up was on the money.

We were treated like kings all night. Paul (above, in the background) had a system set up and ready to go for us, the landlord and landlady looked after us from start to finish, and the people who came out for the gig were keen to show us that they enjoyed what we were doing and to thank us for coming out to play on a Tuesday.

It wasn’t in any way a difficult gig. Any theme night regulars will know of Chris’ quality as a performer and singer, and the sound he makes between his big voice and the 12-string guitar means he often doesn’t need much else to augment his sound. So I could sit in the background and try to add to what he was doing, but in fairness to him he did most of the heavy lifting.

But it was a special night for him and his family. And towards the end, his Mum – Felicity (above, centre) – stood up and made a short speech about what it meant to them to be able to come to the other side of the world and see so many people out to support her son.

It was extra special though – because Chris, as a New Zealander making a life as a musician in Ireland – was specifically significant for their family. You see Chris’ great-great-great grandfather had emigrated from Ireland in the 19th century – first to New York and then to the Waikato province of New Zealand. Along the way his son learned how to play the squeezebox, and brought music to his new home, teaching all the children how to play and also how to dance. It developed over the generations as the locals learned to play other instruments – piano, brass – and now one of his direct descendants plays gigs and sings songs in his home country.

Closing the circle. A great story – and a great night.