It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

What to do on Christmas Day – that was usually the big question, especially back in the mid-’70s in rural Ireland. We were quite lucky, being close to the North, that we could get the BBC as well, so we weren’t limited to just RTE for Christmas viewing.

Of course there was the Christmas dinner (and the cooling off period after it while you recovered from a severe case of over-eating), there was the Christmas edition of Top of the Pops and Billy Smart’s Circus and who knows what after that – maybe Morecambe & Wise or The Riordans or Hall’s Pictorial Weekly.

All I remember is by six o’clock we were back eating (even though we weren’t in the slighest bit hungry) and then it was boiled bacon and turkey sandwiches washed down with a milky cup o’ tea.

There was no ‘drink’ in our house when I was growing up. I’m sure the idea behind that was if we didn’t see it when we were young then we’d never drink it later when we grew up. Right!

I can’t remember the first time we played Castlerahan on Christmas night but I do remember the thrill of having someplace to go that evening. It was a means of getting out of the house, doing something.

If my memory serves me well the gig went alright because I have no recollection of any particular incident(s) during the gig. It was after the gig that things got interesting. A couple of auwl fellas drifted into the ‘dressing room’, talked a bit about this and that for a while and then one of them produced a bottle of Irish Whiskey from his pocket and proceeded to pour a glass for everyone. Up to that point, I’d never tasted a whiskey and was unsure whether to say yes or no to it but decided to join in the spirit of things and so I took a wee sip. Wow, that warmed my throat, I can remember that – and nearly brought a tear to my eye as well.

Not being one to let something get the better of me I polished off the glass eventually and felt that whiskey reach every part of my body and thought to myself – now this beats sitting at home watching Christmas TV on RTE and stuffing my face for the 4th, 5th or 6th time!

It may not have been sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll on The Stones’ level, but for a seventeen year old kid getting to play on Christmas night (even if it was in the middle of nowhere) and follow it by drinking some neat Irish whiskey was about as ‘big time’ as it got in Co. Cavan in those days!

Merry Christmas everyone. It really can be the most wonderful time of the year!     

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