Songstress, Irish Celt. Host of WRITER'S BLOCK with Miriam
AN IRISHWOMAN’S VIEW. Blog by Miriam O’Gara Kilmurry – The Celtress.
It’s my absolute pleasure to welcome Alison Arngrim to my show WRITER’S BLOCK with Miriam, available Saturday, 17th April, 2021, for a fun chat about her wonderful and inspirational memoir, CONFESSIONS OF A PRAIRIE BITCH. You can just tell it will be fun. Catch this on Saturday, as well as her show, The Alison Arngrim Show http://@TheAlisonArngrimShow, not to mention her Live Readings on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/alison.arngrim …..Can’t wait!
Today, I went on one of my regular walks, 5 minutes by car (about 15 – 20 by foot) to the magnificent site of the Battle of the Boyne. Holland’s William of Orange, King of England, Scotland and Ireland in 1690, brought 36,000 soldiers to my town and set camp north of the River Boyne, while James II, who had been ousted by William in 1688, amassed 25,000. They were two Kings of England fighting for the throne. Jacobite James, occupied the south side of the River. In a Battle that would stretch to Drybridge (where I live and where King William entered the fight with 3,500 of his men) and the main theatre of war, Oldbridge. Battle reached as far as Slane, and Ardee.
Many factors led to James II retreating, perhaps over stretching his lines did not appeal to the 60 year-old. Two reigning monarchs of England, both directly related, could hardly have had the stomach to fight such a ferocious battle, as the Battle of the Boyne turned out to be. Meanwhile the younger, King William, was carrying a shoulder wound. Large sections of both sides were dressed similarly and found it hard to tell each other apart. William was almost killed in friendly fire.
William had wanted to surround James in a pincer motion, but old James was no fool. The retreat by James II, may have saved thousands of lives. Only 1,500 men were lost out of the 61,000 soldiers who fought in the battle.
Oldbridge House is stunningly beautiful, and although I couldn’t go inside (I’ve been in many times), it is the battle fields and gardens that impress the most.
I highly recommend this to my Irish diaspora friends when hopefully you visit Ireland next year.
Next week on WRITER’S BLOCK with Miriam, my special guest will be Alison Arngrim, AKA Neille Oleson from THE LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRE. BLOG: 6TH APRIL I am currently prepping for an interview I’ll be recording on 15th April. It’s with the amazing actress, Alison Arngrim, who played the antagonist, nasty Neille Oleson, in the 1970s series, THE LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRE. I’m enjoying every minute of her book CONFESSIONS OF A PRAIRIE BITCH. Published by DEY ST. (2010). It is funny, tragic and inspirational. l can’t wait to have her on the show next Thursday week. I will also make the video available to you on this site on 17th April. I hope you’ll tune in. The Celtress Miriam O’Gara Kilmurry – host of WRITER’S BLOCK with Miriam CLICK STAR TO LIKE, COMMENT OR SUBSCRIBE.
“I told you I was ill.” SPIKE MILLIGAN’S FAMOUS EPITAPH
During the first part of the pandemic, both myself and my husband were thankful that nothing too serious happened regarding our health. In this second year, however, it’s become a looming worry. My poor husband is in a lot of pain. A mere whipper snapper of 53, he has found himself in need of a double hip replacement that should have happened last year only for the arrival of COVID-19. The big issue is pain relief and this Easter he sadly got caught out. His pharmacy was the only one in the town to close over the Easter and mine couldn’t give him an emergency supply because they didn’t hold his original prescription. It was a long drawn out process to get access to an emergency supply medication that would cover him for 4 days till his own pharmacy reopened, but it also set us thinking about access to medical aid in general. I want to state that I am fully supportive of our hospitals and the hard decisions they are having to take, but some kind of support is needed for the likes of MS suffers and anyone who has PTSD or even damage to a limb which another friend of mine suffered a few weeks ago but couldn’t get to a hospital. It occurred to me that my friend who damaged her limb, could have been seen by the Army Medical Core. Or St. John’s Ambulance or the Knights of Malta, and if these organisations, or similar, have opened their doors, well, we are just not hearing about this; neither where they are or how to contact them. Not everyone is social media savvy, this information needs to be disseminated over local, national radio and TV along with social media. Sadly, many of the websites only give COVID and Vaccine updates.
No information is available on where to go in a non-life threatening emergency, particularly one where phoning the a medical practice is not an option because they are so busy they only answer the phone at certain times. I appreciate that these campaigns cost money, but this is a very real concern that has people all over the world losing sleep at night
I would suggest phoning a cottage hospital. They are wonderful and always pick-up the phone. Only AN IRISH WOMAN’S VIEW and worry, but one that I think is shared.
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THE SINGER. NOT THE SONG.
You may not remember this famous 1961 movie but the title has always stuck in my mind. When I was young I used to wonder what this enigmatic title really meant. Today, aged 55, I totally get it and oddly enough it’s making a comeback in my life.
As I write, Irish global social media strategists such as Samantha Kelly @tweetinggoddess, are keen to stress to me and anyone growing their social media platforms, ‘that people, link with people.’ Your unique selling point, is YOU!
So, ask yourself, who are you? What constitutes Miriam, Sarah, Jack or Steve? Whatever the answer is, remember your culture adds value to you and your brand.
While you think on that, allow me to introduce myself.
Today, as a singer, I style myself as, The Celtress. In my early career, I used my maiden name O’Gara, and a stage name St. Lawrence (due to people mistakenly correcting O’Gara to O’Hara). I also sang in two medieval castles as a younger woman which laid the foundation of a thirst for all things Irish Celtic.
I’m a Dubliner, born and bread, currently living in Drogheda, Co. Louth, in what is called, The Boyne Valley, Ireland’s Ancient East, in an area close to where the High Kings of Ireland are buried (New Grange). It is so incredibly beautiful there. I really never thought that I would ever leave Ireland for a protracted period of time, however, aged 21, I migrated to Europe and over my 55 almost 56 years, I have lived a total of 17 years outside of Ireland in various different countries, returning when I was 40 years-old, some 16 years ago.
I’ve been a professional singer all my life (perhaps that’s another reason I was intrigued by that movie title) and a corporate language trainer. As a young woman I felt I was born to sing, but I soon realised that success as a singer was not all down to having a good voice. It meant getting in touch with your soul. Irish Celts have a need for contact with the land, sea and air, which also develops and helps us evolve. With these, we navigate. They permeate our spirituality, our prayer life and our exercise routines (if we are not GAA training, we are walking or jogging).
In my youth, I was looking to better connect with my audience. Being young, I felt it was my responsibility to convey wisdom and insight in every tragic song I sang. It never dawned on me to trust that the lyrists and composers had done this already. I presumed it was solely my job. I also tended to go against my gut instincts, choosing totally wrong repertoires all to please other people. Sadly, this was one reason [along with a few others] why I left Ireland. It was a time when the idea of a woman singing a man’s song was something you could be heavily criticised for, a thinking that still exists in some amateur quarters, but much less so outside Ireland and definitely not in professional circles. I also felt I had to learn hundreds of songs to be as good as the legendary singers I loved, as though I was in some kind of race.
Just like an actor, a young singer will often feel the need to throw themselves into life. I have lived and sung all over the world, but looking back it seems I started out on a quest to gain experience and broaden my mind, in the hope that I could do a better job on this or that song, but there was always a cost. I still had to learn that it really is about THE SINGER. Not the song. By that I mean, the singer must have confidence in who they are to perform a piece well. You have to feel at ease in your own skin. You need to have found yourself, enough to bring your own unique interpretation to the song. Unless you can do this, the industry won’t respect you. Anyone who tries to persuade you otherwise simply doesn’t know what they are talking about.
Once you go professional, you are expected to bring something unique to your performance. You can break the rules if it means making the song yours. That may mean, a totally new vision and arrangement of a well known song. Not to mention singing in a totally different key. Amateurs frown on this, professionals expect it, and when you learn this, you join the world of ‘the professional.’ And guess what, this concept holds water no matter what line of business you are in. YOU are your own unique selling point. You have to get creative. Choose the songs that suit your voice and stop changing your voice at the behest of other people to suit songs.
Caught up in this and other things, I was blinded to the fact that I had wondered away from my clan, family and Irishness. Slowly, I started to become unwell and couldn’t understand why. Don’t get me wrong, broadening your horizons and flying the nest to gain life experience is a right of passage in life, but I had accidently walked away from my roots and for way too long. Something that had worked well for me before, was now missing. I failed to notice that my Irishness was becoming more and more diluted. My identity was being chipped away. Finally, it took illness to bring me home in 2005, but gosh, am I glad it did.
It took a few years to be accepted back. My family were delighted to have me back, but in this country, returning Irish, i.e. those who have lived longer than 5 years outside the country, have to wait along time, in fact years, before employers will trust them again. This was a total eye opener to me. It seemed I was pounding at the door but the land I loved, the land of a hundred thousand welcomes, was shouldering the door shut. I can’t count the amount of times I sat for hours in waiting rooms only to finally be called into the interview to be told, “Oh, you left. How do I know you won’t leave again?” But I persevered, and I was soon accepted.
Slowly, I began to reconnect, and thus heal.
I realised that I had starved myself of all the things that had been familiar to me growing up. Not just people, but the landscape. I had removed from my line of sight the actual topography of the land. I had no idea what a huge part of my identity and my Celtic-mindset this was, and it had been totally neglected. Suddenly, I longed for places and groups I had sung with as a younger woman. I had been one of the celebrated BUNRATTY CASTLE ENTERTAINERS, in my mid to late twenties, a medieval styled world famous group of singers, who are based in a number of authentic medieval castles, in Co. Clare. Bunratty Castle is the oldest medieval banqueting centre in the world, and I could literally feel the healing as I reconnected, touching the very walls of that 14th Century Castle.
I wanted to find out just how Irish I was. So, I did a DNA test. I fully expected a mix of other nationalities to appear. After all, the Spanish had come here as traders along with many others, such as the Egyptians, even the Turks, but to my amazement my results came back reading 99% pure Irish Celt, in fact pinpointing the area to Co. Sligo, where the O’Gara Clan is from along with my paternal grandfather, and … 1% Caucasus. What the heck! That was so unexpected. Where do the Caucasus come in? I had no idea, but 99% Irish Celt was very high and I was delighted. It was all good fun, but that DNA test pushed me into action. I was starting to feel more and more drawn to my Irish Celtic background.
That was 16 years ago, and since then other changes have taken place. Right now, though still a performer, author and broadcaster, I am exiting my middle age, a time when EVERYONE, male or female, takes stock, often asking these same questions – who am I now? What am I physically able for workwise? Is life over? Can I start a new career? Must I retire? Will I ever work again following the pandemic? But be careful, do not chaise naysayer friends for their views this. This is the most delicate time of your life. Use your discernment when seeking out friends choose the ones who will motivate you. Trust your gut, really successful people do this daily. Again, it is about, ‘The Singer, Not The Song. Thankfully I have some great friends, many of them former castle singers and dancers. Former Bunratty Castle singers and dancers. PHOTOGRAPHS. left: Elaine O’Shaughnessy (singer), Dr. Mary Honan (dancer), Ger Stack (dancer), Gill Ni Rian (Singer) and Miriam O’Gara Kilmurry (signer), pictured at a Bunratty castle reunion. Photo right: 14th Century Bunratty Castle.
This is just an Irishwoman’s view, but I standby every word. It is not designed to reflect anyone else’s view, or in deed all products. It is simply highlighting that the people flogging them are part of the product.
In the meantime, I am broadcasting my show WRITER’S BLOCK with Miriam, every week on YouTube where you can watch my interviews with special guests giving their advice. From the actor Richard Chamberlain, to author Maureen Jennings author of Murdoch Mysteries and screenwriter on the TV show.
I also have top Irish global experts in social media such as Samantha Kelly, as well as UK debt management expert Sabrina George (The Debtologst), and self-publishing expert, Ruth Kelly, of Ruth Kelly Publishing and many, many more who offer their advice and expertise.
So back to my question – Who are you?
Has your answer factored in your roots? Are you Irish? Never forget that your DNA plays a huge part in your identity but remember too that your personality and approach to things was nurtured by the landscape you grew up around, whether that was good or bad. Even the landscape will be something you thirst after in your middle age. And if you are of Irish heritage, expect this to be very intense? Remember, regardless of the country you come from, it has left it’s mark on you. It is a huge part of who you are – it too makes up THE SINGER, so cherish it dearly.
I JUST CANT WAIT to interview Alison Arngrim, A.K.A. Neille Oleson, from The Little House on The Praire, on my show WRITER’S BLOCK with Miriam. She is great fun and full of stories. In 2010 she published her memoir, CONFESSIONS OF A PRAIRIE BITCH, (Dey St. 2010) and we’re going to have lot’s of fun … Continue reading “Neille Oleson and The Celtress! Sure is.”