Concertina Player Mollie is 104

The Secret of a Long and Happy Life

On the 13th February 2000 Mollie McCarthy celebrated her 104th birthday at home in Shean Kilmaley in the company of her son Johnny and daughter Catherine.

She wanted no fuss, she enjoyed tracing old times with the few neigh- bours and friends who called in and she played a few of her favourite tunes on the concertina.

Still enjoying good health, Mollie has a wonderful memory, she can recall with unbelievable detail different events in her life right back to her childhood.

One of the fondest memories of her school days was the day she made her confirmation, there was great excitement at school that day she said, the Bishop, Dr Fogarty arrived on horseback.

Mollie went to school in the neighbouring townland of Lisroe until she was 12 when she left to help her parents work the family farm. Milking by hand their 10 cows morning and evening was one of her many chores. They made their own butter and sold it by the firkin at the butter market in Ennis. A firkin was around 561bs in weight.

‘Do you know’ said Mollie, ‘I was crippled with arthritis until I was 80, then it just cleared up, and thank God it hasn’t bothered me since’. Mollie’s husband Michael, who passed away 42 years ago at the age of 68, was also a concertina player, he came from the neighbouring townland of Letteragh. He and Mollie were married in 192ó when he returned from the US after living and working there for 10 years.

Mollie recalls that during the time of the Black and Tans her home was a well known safe house for people on the run.

She can only recall going on holidays once in her life, she was 17 or 18 at the time, she when to Lisdoonvarna with two other girls and the three of them slept in a single bed.

Mollie has lived through the reign of nine Popes,from Leo the thirteenth to John Paul the second, she was 18 when Clare hurlers won their first All-Ireland in 1914 and she was 99 when they won their second in 1995.

There were some great musicians around Kilmaley and Connolly when she was growing up Mollie recalls, there was Sandy O’Sullivan, Kate Conlon, and a Eustace man, a cousin of Tom who played with the Kilfenora Céilí Band. Mollie said she learned a lot of music from them.

Mollie played a lot at wedding dances which were always held in the home, American wakes and Christmas house dances.

She was sent to music classes as a child, and while she plays by ear she can also read music. Her first concertina cost 8 shillings and 10 pence at Powell’s music shop in Parnell St. Ennis. The two girls who ran the shop never married. So the business died with them.

I have a few tunes that you would never hear now, I’ll play them for you.

Mollie took up the concertina and played two jigs, Mollie’s No.1 and Mollies No.2. She also played a well known Clare tune called ‘The Gabharín Bui’ and with a beautiful voice sang a song called ‘New Year’s Day’

Andrew Newland and Catherine Kingcomb well known artists are neighbours of Mollie. They are both musicians as well, Andrew plays the concert flute and Catherine plays the fiddle. Mollie enjoys their visits and delights in sharing her music with them … Will you play the Heather Breeze with me.