Still on the poteen/poitin theme I got to thinking about how very few famous people I’ve actually encountered. But here are some of the famous Irish people that I have come across in my time.
Liam Neeson – I pulled Liam a pint of Guinness in the Globe Bar* in Bryan Street Ballymena. The year was 1974. Liam was a handsome, quiet aspiring actor at the time. He was also incredibly tall. I spotted him again a few years ago walking outside Cushendun. *The Globe Bar is now the Halifax Building Society.
Seamus Heaney – There was me standing in Antrim at a bus stop in my school uniform and there was a very dishevelled Seamus wandering up the street looking like he’d just spent the night on somebody’s sofa. It wasn’t long after Death of A Naturalist came out. Seamus was famous then in a poety kind of way, which is to say not very famous at all.
Luke Kelly – I was about 14 and it was backstage with Sheena in Ballymena Town Hall (she knew Ronnie) when Luke Kelly trod on my foot. Can you believe the Dubliners played in Ballymena Town Hall? This was before the DUP were invented.
Mickey McIlhatton – as made famous by Christy Moore and Bobby Sands. Mickey was friendly with the people next door. I only met him the once when I was a child. He was quite a character and always wore plus fours, long stockings and boots. He was a fiddler as well as a poitin-maker. Soon afterwards he was sent to prison for poitin-making and I remember Sheena went to the Crumlin Road to visit him. It felt very worldly to have a connection with a jailbird.
In Glenravels Glen there lives a man who some would call a GodFor he could cure the dead or take your life and his price was thirty bob.Come winter, summer, frost all over, a jig in spring and the breeze,In the dead of night a man steps by- McIlhatton, if you please.There's a wisp of smoke to the south of the glen and the poitin is on the air,The birds in the burrows and the rabbits in the sky and there's drunkards everywhereAt Skerries rock the fox is out and by God he's chasing the houndsAnd the only thing in dacent shape is buried beneath the ground.In McIlhatton's house the fairies are out and dancing on the hobs,The goat's collapsed, the dog's run away and there's salmon down the bogs.He has a million gallons of wash and the peelers are on the GlenBut they'll never catch McIlhatton cause he'll never come back again.
‘McIlhatton’ sung by Christy Moore, written by Bobby Sands