Fear an Ti Sonny Egan
ONLY ONE IN EUROPE
According to one regular attendee, shopkeeper Tim Joe Lyons of Mountcoal, it's the only one of its kind in Europe. Certainly that grand claim does not find disagreement with the hordes of Polish, French, Americans and Australians who have been welcomed at Egans and, of course, signed the Red Book to prove the fact. Each Tuesday night in the winter the clock is turned back in Garrynagore. There is no special preparatory designing or decorating. The expansive kitchen is now as it was in 1932 when Sonny Egan's father built it. "It has managed to escape time, " he says. "I wouldn't change it for love or money". It isn't altered a whit for the scores of guests who trek diligently there each week. Clearly to these people, a seisiun is their intoxicant.
Anyone is welcome - there is only the one pre-requisit - no drink, or nobody with drink on him is entertained. The walls reverberate to the sounds of banjos, mandolins, guitars, accordians, fiddles, tin whistles and keyboards from anytime after 10 p.m. until the small hours of the morning. There is no need for prompting from the Fear an Ti. "Everyone knows what to do. People even bring a bit of cake or a packet of biscuits with them most times" says Sonny. "The dancing is taken very seriously - there is no messing around like. If somebody messes up a reel, they are not looked kindly upon". One night recently the Seisiun drew an incredible 112 people to the house like a latter day Pied Piper of Hamlin. This extraordinary aspect of the whole thing is that it has lost none of its appeal over the years, if anything support for the night has accelerated recently. It was cash starved Crotta O'Neills Hurling club in 1983 who approached Sonny Egan for the use of the house as they went on the Wren to raised funds for the club. "They needed practice at the time and the word obviously went around after that", Sonny reckons. "Certainly, we never publicised the fact that it was going on". The format from those early days is virtually still intact, although a few new initiatives have been added. The setting is gloriously antiquated. Sonny turns off the main room lights relying on the white glare of the open fire and an old paraffin lamp as the dancers light up the room with jigs, reels, hornpipes and sets. The only trace of present day infiltration into this time warp is the amplifier and speaker necessary for the sound effects. It's an understandable intrusion. The gatherings recess for the summer as the nights get longer and the hurling and the land take over. Usually the group start up in October. "People are still coming up to me in the last few days and asking me what exactley we have going here" states the Fear an Ti. "I don't take any notice of it at this stage, but new arrivals are flabbergasted that seventy or eighty people will congregate at a house for a night of music without any porter available".
Musicians at Sonny Egans
Front Row (l to r) Son Egan, Fiona Hannon, Pat O'Connell.
2nd Row:Michael Sheehan, T.J. Lyons, Gene Sullivan, Moss Hannon.
At Back: Danny Connell, J.Twomey, Willie Leahy, Pat Sheehy.
by Michael Harrington
Young boys and girls to me pay attention,
A few simple verses I now must relate,
Of a house I went into in the month of November
And stayed there that night until it was late.
As I entered the door a young man he approached me,
He held out his hand saying " you're welcome a stor",
And as I stood gazing at a big fire there blazing,
Some young boys and girls they danced on the floor.
Musicians were plenty - somewhere about twenty,
The likes in my life sure I ne're saw before,
Nowhere in my ramblings through all County Kerry,
Have I seen such a gatherine as in Sweet Garrynagore.
They came from all over the sweet County Kerry,
From Causeway, O'Dorney and the town of Tralee.
They came from Mountcoal and the town of Listowel,
They came from Lixnaw and down from Rathea.
Some Yanks who came over, came one night to see,
This now famous house between Lixnaw and Tralee.
And when they arrived there and stood at the door,
"You're welcome", Says Sonny, to sweet Garrynagore".
Those young boys and girls all night would keep dancing,
To music so sweet that you ne're heard before;
And then in the morning its home they'd return,
And talk of the great night in Sweet Garrynagore.
Some great rebel songs, sure its there you will hear them,
Of the brave "Aero" Lyons who fought at the shore,
Dan Keane, Sean McCarthy and great storytellers,
They came all the way to Sweet Garrynagore.
The greatest musicians they all came and played there,
And the best of stepdancers have danced on that floor,
To finish I'll say to the young boys and girls,
"Good luck and God Bless you in Sweet Garrynagore!"
Sonny Egans home in Garrynagore