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One of the most vivid memories I have of the day I left Ireland was my youngest sister Micheala heading to the shop and waving to me with one hand while in the other hand clutching the blue oil can I had carried up and down the road to the shop many times. I didn’t realize it as my fathers car left our street it would be the last time I would live there as I was supposed to be going on a weeks holiday to Scotland that was in December 1980 I was sixteen years old.
I remember my father seeing me onto the coach in Dungiven with my bag, a guitar and an accordion and telling me to watch myself I got a little hug from him My father was not given to hugging I wondered afterwards did he know I wasn’t coming back home?.having sang and played my guitar on the ferry and some accordion tunes much to the delight of many passengers who threw money into my guitar case.
A man asked where I was getting picked up in Glasgow I said “The Gorbals” he said, “oh dear you better be careful, it’s full of gangs with knifes “. I worried the rest of the journey on the coach imagining myself getting kidnapped or stabbed or worse, I had managed to survive the troubles in N Ireland what kind of place was I going?
I think it’s a fair assumption that music has touched us all in our lives at some point but its usually when you hit your teenage years that you start listening. and choosing who your favorite band is or your favorite singer/songwriter Depending on your surroundings and what is going on in the world but you start to know what you like and what you don’t…
I was into The Bay City Rollers when I was about thirteen and Top of the pops was on the tv weekly that is when I started to realize what I liked. I was a bit rebellious as a teen and liked punk rock like the undertones My father didn’t like us watching “Top of the pops” that was until Paul McCartney had a hit with Mull of Kintyre and he used to stand at the TV with tears in his eyes when the pipers started playing.
On the bedroom wall, I had posters of Roy Wood who my father described as looking like the devil as time went on and new trends happened and I had started to go to the hop in the local chapel hall My friend at the time Christine McGaughy and I went to Derry and between us bought Tell me more a single from the Greece soundtrack I remember us singing into hairbrushes so that was my first record . I never got to see the film in The cinema but some time after it came out I went to The Canice hall in Dungiven to watch it.
Whilst I liked all this different type of music my ear was always drawn back to Country and folk and my real roots. When I had my first Job in Glasgow as a waitress in The Yellow Bird Cafe in Buchanan Street John Lennon had just been shot and Imagine was being played daily that’s when I first really began to appreciate songwriters and the meanings behind the song lyrics.
As a musician and singer, I stuck to what I knew best, Country music and Folk music, Growing up in N Ireland there was always country music and folk music. I like the melodies and real stories. Aged nineteen I sat and wrote my first ever song ” My Scotsman and thee” A tale of yearning lament for Ireland even though I had made my home in Scotland. I never did record the song until many years later on my debut album ” A song in her heart” I wrote the concluding verse. I have included the song on this blog.
My Scotsman & Thee. Written about missing home and being married to a Scotsman who refused to take me back home so I had to make a choice . I was only ninteen then and had my daughter that year. The concluding verse was written in 2008
Hello world, Welcome to my website. My name is Mary Kathleen Burke I am a singer /songwriter recording artist with a few other handles to my bow though this website is dedicated to my music journey, where it started, where it took me, where I am now and my hopes for the future in music I currently own an internet-based radio station and run every aspect of it which has taken a lot of my time but of which I am very proud of and passionate about. It has compensated for the nonexistence of gigs and opportunities that used to be on offer. This is true of many artists today. I have also had a lot of health issues so because I do the radio from home it accommodates that
.The music business has changed dramatically since the year I signed with Greentrax 2008 it was the year in which the sales of hard copy CDs started tumbling and trends were changing Everything was becoming digital There I was after dreaming for years of becoming a professional recording artist and finally feeling that later in my life after a lot of hard work and effort my talent had finally been recognized and I could finally do what I wanted to do and play concerts and tour and record.
The thing I had worked so hard to achieve, My dream from when I was a child, I was now living and it was so great at first I will come back to that in a later blog and tell you the highs and lows of that journey I am not chasing that dream anymore because for me it was short-lived and turned into somewhat of a nightmare at times, however, I’m still a musician at heart it’s in the blood, in my veins, even though I have lost the motivation I once had.
I do hope my story and experience will help younger artists embarking on a singing career to consider every aspect of it and not put all their eggs in one basket. That said, I wouldn’t change all the experiences I have had and believe what is meant to be will happen it’s your life path even if sometimes you have taken the wrong road or the wrong turn. I sing now not to impress anyone but just because I find music cathartic and good for the spirit and the soul.
As I write this I am in the 4th week of Covid 19 lockdown and have been out only three times. Boy, it is hard to do a lockdown. Like many people I live alone which can cause a feeling of isolation at the best of times but this situation has compounded it and some days I wonder what is the point of getting up at all ? because you know the day is going to be no different. I haven’t been sleeping, I am insomniac this has made it worse. I feel alone and anxious not just for myself but for friends and family.
I have had to stop watching the news .my own daughter is on the front line she is a nurse and not even six months into her nursing so its a worrying time. I miss my little grandson in six weeks and wonder what’s going through his mind. My very dear friends in London who have been like a second mum and dad to me are in their fifth week as well and are traumatized because one of their daughters has the virus, their other daughter is seriously unwell with an unrelated illness. I feel at a loss to help my friends and worry all the time about them. I was too ill to go home to Ireland to see my family at Christmas and I had planned to go for Easter but it couldn’t happen I miss my family and cant wait to see them again.. I don’t think the world will ever be quite the same again for a long time and to the people who have lost family and friends in such strange and horrid circumstances I feel so sad for them, then the positive side of all this like Captian Tom, there has been so much good going on and there are so many good and kind people in this world.
I will finish today’s blog by including Danny Boy which is live and raw. I was singing to Dementia and elderly residents of a care home last year and I worry so much for these vulnerable people during the present time
I will end this blog here and continue as the days go by
Hello again , Mary K here , I will give you some background here on how I started in music.and probably the things that shaped me into a music lover and some memories of childhood
when i was aged 8 I knew I had music inside me . I knew if I had an instrument of some kind I would be able to play it. At primary school Mrs Donnelly told the rest of the class they should sing like Maire Burke, yes she called me Maire , My family called me Marie but I was actually officially Mary Kathleen. Mrs Donnelly was a very stern teacher but I always managed to get a little smile from her when I sang I used to tinkle with the piano in the school hall and thats when I knew for sure music was what fascinated me , comforted me , made me both happy and sad in equal measure. I used to hear my mother singing lovely airs and there were many music gatherings at home. we lived in a housing site in a small hamlet which had a forest and a castle some fields , 4 pubs ,two shops a chapel and a church ,a chapel hall a post office and an old water mill.when I was growing up there were two housing sites there is now four . I played on the street with Susan Boyle who has relatives beside us
I used to go for holidays to our aunt Mary Ann’s house in Tyrone. It was a farm and I loved waking up in the morning, hearing the birds singing and the cows being brought to the byre for milking ,Aunt Mary Ann with her apron on shooing the cows with uncle John. I just loved the whole vibe , going up to the hen house and getting the fresh eggs for the breakfast . Then going to the dairy where you could smell the fresh butter . There was a water pump with a big wooden handle so i would fetch water fill up a creamery can put it on a wooden wheel barrow and set off down the lane to put in the troughs for the cows to drink. Aunt Mary Ann couldn’t understand how I loved the farm so much she used to say “You have electricity and running water at home and yet you love all this? I dont understand it at all.” But I did love it and I still find a great stillness and peace in that same place all these years later . I cant explain it maybe its the good memories .
We used to wash outside with a basin and I had my own soapbox and face cloth and tooth brush. in the evening at 6 o clock we would all be called in to say the rosary ,a very serious ritual everyday but some days it was very funny My cousin Packie would usually find something funny to laugh at and we would all be in stitches at times but uncle John and Aunt Mary Ann prayed and paid no mind to us during the Rosary but we would sometimes get reprimanded after it 🙂
I loved the evenings we would get tucked into bed which was in the sitting room in an in shot with curtains pulled over a tiny little window and a holy picture on the wall. The gas tily lamp would be on and friends would gather in the house to play cards ,then the music and singing would start and Maryann would play the mouth Organ she was really good its the happiest times I recall in my childhood. I used to visit an old lady up the lane and sit with her for hours.
when the hay was cut in the meadow Uncle john used to throw us up to dance on the hay stack to flatten it down then take us down and more hay would be thrown up and then us after it. I also helped with the rickleing of the turf.. Aunt Mary Ann predicted I would be a farmers wife one day . It never happened 🙂 If we could go back in time thats where I would want to be .
Aunt Mary Ann was very good to me maybe because I was her God Daughter. One of the delights of being there is when The bread man came around , I used to buy creamola foam of him every week and a cream cake . We didn’t get to the shops and there was no car all my cousins had bicycles and Aunt Mary Ann and Uncle John . Once a week i would go to mount field on the back of Aunt Mary Ann’s Bike I had to keep my feet stuck out and Aunt Mary Ann peddled away .all the way to mount field we visited a woman there then the shop and back again.
Aunt Mary Ann would also go into the loft and bring down things for us to play with ,Chalk and a blackboard an old typewriter . There was two bedrooms and the sitting room between them we used to call them the upper room and the lower room . The sitting room had the huge in shot where the big bed was. As I got older I was delegated to the lower room . The toilet was outside at the top of the back garden and it was very dark so we used to have a PO under the bed I hate the smell of Jeys fluid Mary Ann used to put a drop of that in the PO and I could smell it at night.
I had access to a button row accordion at Mary Ann’s and used to play The rose of Arron more and a couple of other tunes . there was a lot of tears when our holidays were over .and we had to leave Aunt Maryann’s behind for another year I missed her so much and it was always hard to readjust to living at home and going back to school which I hated so much . When i was about ten I got an old guitar got strings and a book and Sean quigg showed me how to read chords I practised every day nearly drove my mother round the bend but as the weeks went by I got better and better .
One day I was sitting at home my father looked out the window as a big lorry pulled up ” Northern Ireland Carriers ” I was so shocked when the man came in to the door with a big box and my mother handed it to me . It was a brand new guitar she had ordered it from a catalogue for me . I was just elated and when I tuned it up and started to play My mother and father were delighted My father said she will never do the dishes now 🙂 It was the most precious present I ever received from my mother and father it was black with a red rose on it I went around the housing site showing it to everybody . Then weeks later I told them Malachi Divine was selling an accordion for £5.00 They took me up to his house in Dreen and I was playing a load of tunes on it on the way home . There was no stopping me now there was a few broken keys on the accordion but i managed to work my way around them
A few weeks after that I joined Feeny accordion band and was issued with a new button 2 row accordion I learned every March tune and was out marching in parades by 13 years old . It was great fun I loved it but things in N Ireland were very dangerous then so I was taken out of it . My next adventure in music was with a band I was 15 it was a man my father knew through work got me started Jimmy Mulgrew .The fourth member of the band joined us later Christopher Logue who would go on to become very famous in Ireland as the other half of the duo Logue and McCool.
I cant finish this blog without mentioning Learmount forest where I spent many hours as a child I always seemed to like to be close to nature and to have a forest on the doorstep was a great thing I won an orienteering competition there when I was 15 because I knew every part of it and I was a great sprinter then as well . There was a castle there as well which was a bit spooky and I had heard all sorts of ghost stories about . I still get very vivid memories of that time so in today’s blog I am going to share a song I wrote about it called Childhood days in Learmount I also recently done a video there for one of my releases ” I never had it so good ” which I am including