Eleanor McEvoy On Tour In Australia – Interview at Wollongong City Diggers, 2014

Eleanor McEvoy with Danny Priestley and Lindsay Martin of Riogh. Image courtesy of Danny Priestley.
Eleanor McEvoy with Danny Priestley and Lindsay Martin of Riogh. Image courtesy of Danny Priestley.

Eleanor McEvoy landed in Australia this week on tour from now until…. well, until Ireland warms up again in roughly six weeks’ time.

On St Patrick’s night, Monday 17 March 2014, Eleanor was a very special guest of Riogh and the Illawarra Folk Club at what’s starting to look a lot like a St Paddy’s tradition in this south coast of New South Wales town centre. Accessible from anywhere and a short walk from the train station.

(Our correspondent Bill Quinn later that night ventured down the road to another raucous Irish venue, and couldn’t help but notice that, despite the number of prone young bodies decked out in over-sized corporate green Irish hats, the music on the tannoy was Canadian Scots.)

But before that, and after one or three very large jars of piping cold very special St Patrick’s Day tea, Bill spoke a little with Eleanor about the tour.

*** Audio file will be removed at the end of February 2020 ***

Bill Quinn: It’s getting on for 10.30pm on St Patrick’s Day in Australia, which means that over in Ireland, it’s roughly midday. People are at lunch, they’re settling into the snugs, they’re in the bars, they’re making St Patrick’s Day what it is.

Meanwhile, in the sweaty, sweaty, sweaty, hot climes of the Illawarra, at the back stage of the Diggers Club, I’m talking with Eleanor McEvoy. Hello, Eleanor.

Eleanor McEvoy: Hello, how’re you doing?

I can tell you that at home what they’re doing, they’re getting ready for the parade. The parade’ll be at midday.

BQ: Your home town/county is?

EM: Well, my home town where I was born is Dublin, a place called Cabra on the north edge of Dublin, but now I live in County Wexford in a more rural environment.

BQ: And so in all of these cities, all of these towns, in all of these places, they have their own separate parades?

EM: They all have their separate parades. The biggest one is in Dublin City, but I like to think the Wexford one is pretty cool too.

Image courtesy of Eleanor McEvoy

BQ: Now, having said that, Eleanor, you’ve been beating the boards for a long time. Is it fair to say that St Patrick’s Day finds you on very far-flung shores?

EM: Very often it does, but I’m not a real Paddy’s Day act, you know, because what I do isn’t intrinsically traditional Irish. I draw from the traditional heritage, but what I do is quite indy, it’s quite modern, it’s quite a different twist.

So when I play in Australia, I might have a few Irish in the audience, but that would be it. It’d mostly be Australians.

It’s 2014, and it’s not that I don’t have respect for my tradition. I have enormous respect for the whole, not just Irish folk but English folk; I buy June Tabor albums, I love it.

But I think to be writing songs nowadays about, you know, a woman with the derry going off to Ameri-kay over the foam never to be seen again…

That’s not what’s happening any more!

We don’t have derries any more, we’re meeting on the internet. That’s what I’m writing about. Saying people going off to London over the foam?

You can get a flight on EasyJet for 50 quid and come back the same day!

We live in different times.

BQ: But on that point, do you come to places like Australia or Canada or America and find there are people who came out in the diaspora and are still stuck in that headspace?

EM: Yes, there are. In fact, they seem to be stuck in the headspace than anyone else.

There’s a great saying at home: we have sushi and cappuccinos, and you go over to America and it’s all shamrocks and bacon and cabbage!

So there is a lot of that, and of course I understand it because I suppose we’re all nostalgic on some level from where we’ve come from, or remember things for good and bad.

Image courtesy of Eleanor McEvoy

BQ: So how do you react to people like me who say, [in a broad Australian accent] “G’day, my name’s Quinn. I’m from County Clare, but not since 1840 so we’ve sort of lost the accent!”

EM: It’s great! I love it! I really do.

There’s not that many countries where you can say that. There’s more Irish people living abroad than there are living in Ireland, so personally I love it because you have a flavour of it in places like here and America and Canada.

BQ: And finally, you’re here on a tour. How much longer are you here in Australia for?

EM: Well, I’ve been here for three days already, this is my third day. I’m getting over the jet lag. I’ve got another six and a half weeks; it’s a seven week tour in total.

BQ: Oh! So are you beating a well-worn track, or are there other opportunities?

EM: A couple of well-worn tracks, and a new one.

I’m doing the [National] Folk Festival, but I’ve done that one before. I’m doing Fairbridge Folk Festival, I’ve never done that one before.

I was up in the Blue Mountains yesterday, I did three gigs there. And then I’d say about half and half of gigs of gigs I’ve done before and new ones.

Which is lovely; it’s great to go back to places you’ve gone before, but great to do new ones as well.

BQ: So six and a half weeks: Eleanor McEvoy is just waiting until it warms up back at home, is that about right?

EM: It is! It’s going to be summer when I get home.

I’m not completely stupid!

BQ: Thanks for talking with Timber and Steel and Overheard Productions, it’s been lovely.

EM: It’s a pleasure.

Image courtesy of Eleanor McEvoy

*** Audio file will be removed at the end of February 2020 ***

Eleanor McEvoy’s tour is in the country up to and including Fairbridge Folk Festival in late April. Click here for a full list of tour dates.

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