Poetry & Music 5

On Thursday, 8 November 2018 at 7pm, poet Nessa O'Mahony and fiddler Dermot McLaughlin are taking the stage in Poetry Ireland. Start to imagine what might be in store when their words and music meet. Explore samples of Nessa and Dermot's poetry and music from the ITMA Collection.

Nov Pi
Poet Nessa O'Mahony & fiddler Dermot McLaughlin feature in the November edition of "Soul Clap Its Hands and Sing."

What do Donegal fiddlers Con Cassidy, James Byrne, Francie Mooney, Dinny McLaughlin, Vincent Campbell, Francie Dearg Ó Beirne have in common? 

Dermot McLaughlin and Danny Meehan, 2011 / Danny Diamond
Dermot McLaughlin and Danny Meehan, 2011 / Danny Diamond
Dermot McLaughlin and Danny Meehan, 2011 / Danny Diamond

Dermot McLaughlin and Danny Meehan, 2011 / Danny Diamond

© Danny Diamond

They were all sources of inspiration and learning for Derry-native Dermot McLaughlin. Regarded as an authority on its history and players, Dermot is among the leading exponents of Donegal fiddling. He is active as a solo performer and teacher, but also contributes to the arts in Ireland through wide ranging activities in the culture sector.

He worked at the Arts Council for many years before becoming CEO of the Temple Bar Cultural Trust and taking a leading role in the organisation of Derry-Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013. He has served on boards of directors for a number of organisations, including ITMA, Irish Theatre Institute, Irish Architecture Foundation, Rough Magic Theatre Company, Cairdeas na bhFidiléirí, and Scoil Cheoil Frankie Kennedy.

The references to Dermot and his work in the ITMA catalogue are wide-ranging and too numerous to list here. They include field recordings, lectures, articles, images, and policy documents (search the ITMA Catalogue and start planning your next visit).

A number of Dermot’s performances also are available online in our digital library. One of these performances features Dermot alongside Paddy Glackin at the first-ever concert held in our premises at 73 Merrion Square.

Dermot McLaughlin and Paddy Glackin take the stage for the first concert held at ITMA’s Merrion Square premises, 14 July 2012.

Dermot recalls hearing Paddy Glackin as part of the Bothy Band when they played a concert in Derry during the 1970s:

One of my early fiddle teachers was Paddy Glackin. When I was about 14 I saw Paddy play with The Bothy Band in The Embassy Ballroom in Derry. My ears were opened. I was hooked. Not long after that, I wormed my way into his fiddle class at the Scoil Éigse in Buncrana, in 1975 and I’ll always remember his answer when I asked him what’s the best way to practice? Paddy’s answer was ‘Listen. Just listen. Keep listening.’
- Dermot McLaughlin (2018) on Paddy Glackin, from dermotmclaughlinmusic.com

In an earlier performance at the William Kennedy Piping Festival, Dermot gives a nod to another of his influences. Con Cassidy’s reel is the second tune in this set.

Dermot McLaughlin performing an air and two reels at the William Kennedy Piping Festival, 18 November 2006.

Visit Dermot’s website to learn more about his music. 

Award-winning poet and novelist Nessa O’Mahony was born in Dublin. She teaches creative writing with the Open University and facilitates creative writing workshops in Ireland and the UK. Her poetry is published in four books:

  • Bar Talk (1999)
  • Trapping a Ghost (2005)
  • In Sight of Home (2009)
  • Her Father’s Daughter (2014)

In one poem that features in the ITMA Collection, Nessa helps to map a hidden element of the city's musical history. She describes a small shop, tucked between storefronts on Capel Street. In it, she encounters the materials and behind-the-scenes processes of music making. The tools of a musicians trade—their instruments—are imagined for their potential to sound:

As he worked you browsed
from shelf to shelf, ear cocked
to some internal tune
among the lutes and mandolins
till a bouzouki’s soundboard
curved to swell a song
you promised I might one day sing.
- from “Flute-fixing in McNeill’s of Capel Street” (If Ever You Go: A Map of Dublin in Poetry & Song, Dedalus Press, 2014)
Cover for If Ever You Go
Get it at ITMA

Visit Nessa’s website to learn more about her work. 

Book now to hear what happens when Nessa O’Mahony and Dermot McLaughlin take the stage in Poetry Ireland.


Rebecca Draisey-Collishaw
ITMA Archive Assistant (Digital Collections)
6 November 2018

Nessa O'Mahony & Dermot McLaughlin