Little Huey’s Pub or Teach Hiudái Beag in Gaelic.
So who cares? Saint Patrick’s Day is come and gone. If you’re a fan of Altan you might. It’s the place where the family and friends got together before becoming world-renowned as one of Celtic music’s best. Clannad and Enya hail from Gweedore and so do some Coyle’s and O’Donnell’s who are my ancestors. Monday night is the night to go there. I went once about 10 years ago and heard some of the best Celtic music ever. It’s very informal and friendly. The Irish can chat up as good or better than anybody and Donegal is no exception. I wouldn’t recommend letting on you’re from England though given the history of the place.
The night I was there stayed with me. When my granddaughter, Anya, was laid up with a foot ailment the memory resurfaced and I wrote this…
The sun peeked through the window of the wattled cottage from behind Errigal Mountain.
Cait awoke from her dream of the boy with the green eyes. As usual he was riding a horse, singing and whistling his way to Glenveagh castle. She remembered today was the feast of Mabon, the autumn equinox – a time to plan for the future.
Her sister’s head was turned away from her in their shared bed. “Are ya awake, Maggie?”
Maggie rolled over. “Aye, it’s a beautiful morning.”
“I dreamed of him again.” Cait hugged her.
“The one with the green eyes?” Maggie sat up.
“Aye. Some tinkers are passing through Gweedore. I need to know if he’s in my future. I’m going to ask the gypsy in the wagon what the dream means. Will ya come with me?”
“Ma expects us to fish.”
“We can go after.” Cait’s second hug blotted the frown from her sister’s face.
“Don’t change yer mind on me. Whatever ya hear from that gypsy ya’ll want to hear from the wee folk. I know ya. Ya’ll want to see Grandma.” Maggie’s challenge came with a pout.
“I promise to fish. May I turn into a frog if I don’t.” Cait held up her fishing line. Her third hug of the morning was welcomed by Maggie’s smile.
“Might be fun to see what ya’d look like as a frog.”
The porridge and tea were still warm. So were the morning’s scones left by their mother. They ate quickly before walking to Gweedore past Poisoned – ‘neimh’ in Gaelic – Glen that was named by a myopic English mapmaker so that the Heavenly –‘neamh’ in Gaelic -Glen was no more. Poisoned Glen, such a shameful name, for one of the most beautiful spots in all of Ireland.
The tinkers’ wagons were in a circle outside the town that true to Irish townsfolk’s love for argument claimed it had the best music in all of Ireland. Six barefoot children in tatters ran to them. “What yuz want? Ya ken have this watch for a pittance.” A boy held out a pocket watch on a chain.
Cait pretended interest. “No thanks. I want my fortune told.”
“Yuz want me mum then. Follow me.” A little girl took Cait’s hand.
A half hour later they were back on the road to fish. The wind from the Atlantic was brisk and chilly – a sure sign that summer was over.
“How did she know about a whistling, singing boy riding a horse from turning that pack of cards? I’m scared. If I hadn’t promised to fish with ya I’d be on my way to Grandma’s right now.” Cait shook her head at the Tarot reading she’d heard.
“She didn’t say anything about green eyes but she said you were to meet him soon. So just be happy. You go to Grandma’s and you can start croaking right now, little froggie.” Maggie skipped a stone over the Clady River running through the blanket of peat bog leading back to Errigal’s maple trees.
A bent over sea captain with a fiddle case riding a horse toward them put a finger to his lips. “Don’t tell anyone you saw me. Come see me at Teach Hiudái Beag tonight.”
The girls turned to watch him ride into the mist blowing from Scotland and the cliffs of Slieve League. According to Gaeltacht legend, ghosts walked the waterways and mountains of this part of Donegal.
Maggie shivered a bit. “Ya think he’s the Captain of Inishinny?”
“Nah. They say he was a young man when the boat sank. Ya wanna go see him? It’s Monday. There should be great music at Little Hughie’s tonight.”
“If Ma’ll let me. Ya get to go to more places than I do cause yer older.”
“Maybe she’ll come too.” Cait winked.
They walked into their cottage with Cait’s string of silver fish as the sun sank behind them into the sea.
“Ahh, yer a sight for sore eyes and not a bit too soon. I was worried that it was gonna be potatoes again. And cleaned they are! I’m blessed with the 2 best girls in all of Donegal.” Mother put the fish skillet on the stove.
Cait took mother’s face in both her hands. “And we’re all goin’ to Little Hughie’s tonight, Ma. It’s Monday.”
“A wash up before we leave and I’m with ya.”
“I can’t hear a word yer sayin’.” The music was loud. Cait couldn’t hear Maggie’s whispers in her mother’s ear.
“Yer not supposed to. I was tellin’ Ma about yer dream and the fortune teller.”
“A tinker no less. I won’t ask where ya got the money.” Mother laughed and tickled Cait’s bosom.
They sat surveying the musicians. The sign swinging over the door read Teach Hiudái Beag, but it was Little Hughie’s Pub to Cait ever since she first sang “Whistling Gypsy Rover” there.
“So much for the Captain of Inishinny.” Cait leaned over to Maggie after not finding the captain’s face in the crowd.
By the way there were Irish women sea captains. This is one. Grace O’Malley was a real person more than 400 years ago.
Little Hughie came to their table. “Mairead, your visits have been too few and far between. Thanks for comin’ again. Please pleasure us with me favorite song?”
“Aye, yer a charmer, Hugh.” Mother blushed.
Cait noticed their fiddle player had the greenest eyes she’d ever seen. When they finished the “ay do day” he smiled at her. She smiled back. She saw the case when he put the fiddle inside.
“Isn’t that the Captain’s case?” Cait leaned over to Maggie.
“Ya didn’t have to wait long for yer whistling gypsy.” Maggie answered.
Cait closed her eyes and made a wish.