By Ciaran Tierney
When a musical friend invited guitarist Pat Quinn to come to Inis Oirr to play a few tunes over a weekend in June 2001, little did the County Longford native imagine that the windswept island on the Wild Atlantic Way would become his permanent home.
Pat had such good fun playing three nights in a row at Tigh Ruairi that the manager asked him to stay for the summer – and he’s still here more than 21 years later!
Along the way, he met a woman from Wisconsin in the USA. His partner Mary, like Pat, only intended to stay on Inis Oirr for a few days but also fell in love with the place.
“I am here since 2001. It was so rough the first day I came over on the boat that I swore I was never getting back on a boat or a plane again. I am afraid of planes too. But, seriously, coming to Inis Oirr was the best move I ever made. There’s just a great little community of people here,” says Pat.
The singer-songwriter who has been covered by the likes of Christy Moore is now one of the best-known musicians on an island famed for its music. He’s hosting an intimate show in the Áras Éanna theatre, with some very special guests, on Saturday, August 27.
After two years of enforced enclosures at arts venues around the country, Pat is really looking forward to returning to the Aras Eanna stage and to welcoming musicians to the island for what should be a special night.
After living in Sligo, Cavan, and Germany, where he spent 12 years, Pat was working as a labourer on a building site in Dublin when he was invited to come to Inis Oirr for that weekend in 2001.
“A friend of mine who was a banjo player, Larry Donnellan, wanted me to come out and back him. He was playing one of the pubs here. We came out on the Friday and there was a piano player waiting there for us who we’d never met before. Robbie was his name. Robbie turned out to be a real hot shot on the piano and we had great fun,” Pat recalls.
“We kind of strayed from the trad thing quite a bit. It was supposed to be a trad gig but we ended up playing ‘Baggy Trousers’ and all sorts of stuff. We had a great night. We ended up playing three nights in a row. Then the pub landlord asked us would we stay on, to become the house band for the summer.”
Pat was happy to leave the building sites behind. Although the Co Longford native admits that he has never mastered our native language, he has fallen in love with the island and visitors and locals alike have fallen in love with his satirical, witty, and political songs, many of which take inspiration from day to day life on the tiny island.
Before the pandemic, Pat Quinn’s annual gig with his musical friends was one of the musical highlights of the year on Inis Oirr – although you could just as easily find him belting out a few tunes at Tigh Ned, Tigh Ruairi, or Óstán Inis Oirr on any given night of the year.
Pat is thrilled by the guests he has lined up for this gig at Áras Éanna, many of whom are regular visitors to the smallest of the three Aran Islands.
Two of the original members of The Saw Doctors, Leo Moran and Padraig Stevens, are among the musicians who will be joining Pat Quinn at Áras Éanna.
Leo and Padraig shot to fame as co-writers of the huge 1990 hit ‘I Useta Lover’, which spent nine weeks at the top of the Irish charts. Like Pat, they are gifted storytellers and love to tell a good yarn between songs.
Leo has toured the world with The Saw Doctors, but also loves an excuse to visit Inis Oirr and enjoys taking time out her on the island.
Also lined up for the ‘Pat Quinn and his friends’ gig is Limerick-based comedian, actor and musician Jon Kenny, who tends to come up with the unexpected on his visits to Inis Oirr. He could launch into a monologue or play a few reggae tunes.
Guitarist Mick Lane, from Longford, is an old friend of Pat’s who is delighted to return to the island for the occasion, as he spent a few summers participating in sessions at Tigh Ned.
Galway-based musicians Ruth Dillon and Yvonne Tiernan, both members of The Raines, both have strong connections to Inis Oirr and are delighted to join Pat a week after their own gig with their own full band here at Áras Éanna.
“I can’t wait for Saturday night,” says Pat. “I can’t think of a better place to play. The acoustics in the theatre at Áras Éanna are brilliant. It’s just about the right size. You wouldn’t even need a microphone!
“Leo and Padraic have played here before. I met them out here on the island. We just hit it off. There is something unique about Padraic’s stuff. I love his quirky delivery. I’m as curious as anyone else to see what my guests come up with. We do have a chat beforehand, but it’s a very informal gathering. Jon Kenny was very funny the last time. He came up with a monologue.”
Before the pandemic, Pat’s annual concert with his musical friends at Áras Éanna was always one of the musical highlights of the year on Inis Oirr. Make sure to buy your tickets in advance to avoid disappointment. Tickets cost €20 (adults) or €15 (students, OAPs, children, penguins). https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/pat-quinn-agus-a-chairde-ag-aras-eanna-tickets-395981460207