I went to a funeral today; it was to celebrate the life of a man I shall call Jim.Some years ago, on the first Monday of the month there was a folk club in the Dolphin, and once my kids were old enough for me to leave them for an hour or so, I would pop down to see what was going on. My husband always went for the whole evening, taking his cajón, or a small drum kit, or a bass guitar, or maybe his bodhrán… whatever he fancied and he thought there would be room for. As the evenings became more successful it was usually the cajón as there was little space for anything else!
One night I went down and it was absolutely packed, no room to sit down, so i stood by the fireplace (thankfully no fire otherwise I would have sizzled) and watched and listened as fiddlers fiddled, accordionists accorded, guitars twanged, banjos banjoed, ukes uked, pipers piped, every sort of folk instrument you could imagine.
I was standing next to a man I didn’t know, a slight, smiley, man who was clearly enjoying the music. The next time I glanced at him I aw he had taken out a pair of spoons and was playing them. I’d heard of people playing the spoons but had never ever seen it and I was entranced! He ran them up and down his arm, occasionally on his thigh, standing on one leg to do so, Front of his hand, back or his hand, he could do anything! The song finished and I applauded him as everyone else was just clapping in general. I got into conversation with the old gent and asked him about the spoons and he demonstrated a little but then the music started again and he was off!
Several years later there was a letter in the local newspaper asking if anyone was interested in learning Gaelic and joining a group? I went along to the first meeting and was amazed and delighted to meet the father of a friend i hadn’t seen for over twenty years, now a bewhiskered old chap still with a twinkle in his eye! Sitting beside him was another old chap who I recognised but couldn’t place, until halfway through the meeting when it suddenly clicked – he was the spoons player from the pub!
This was Jim and we both continued in the Gaelic group for many years until he became a little frail and eventually moved into accommodation which could care for him and look after him. Sadly he died a few weeks ago at the grand age of ninety-five. Today I went to his funeral and there was much talk of what a wonderful person he was, and his love of dancing, singing and music… and playing the spoons.
Here are a couple of videos, the clarity is not that good in the first but just listen to those spoons!