Paddy the Cope, written and directed by Raymond Ross, makes its world premiere at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in the delightful Netherbow Theatre at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, courtesy of The Objektiv Collective.
McColl’s lyrical Irish accent makes for easy and engaging listening
The work is a musically accompanied monologue in which John McColl relates the life and times of Patrick Gallagher (1871-1966), a colourful, comic and adventurous social revolutionary who was inspired and assisted by the Scottish Co-operative Movement. He became a zealous activist in spreading its principles and founded the Templecrone Co-operative Society in 1906 in his native Donegal, achieving the status of a hero and ultimately of a legend. He was a fearless character and in his time he challenged the vested interests of Dublin Castle, the British Army, the Black and Tans and the Gombeen merchants. It's clear from his storytelling that Gallagher had a particular dislike for the latter group, though I confess to having never heard of them. Resorting to Wikipedia I have since discovered that ‘a gombeen man is a pejorative Hiberno-English term used in Ireland for a shady, small-time "wheeler-dealer" businessman or politician who is always looking to make a quick profit, often at someone else's expense or through the acceptance of bribes’. McColl vividly tells of their machinations in maintaining their profits and wealth through high prices and interest rates at the expense of the people, making his loathing seem fully justified.
McColl’s lyrical Irish accent makes for easy and engaging listening, and it’s no big issue if those of us without an ear for it miss the odd word. The message is as much in his physicality and the wide range of tones he employs as it is in the story. He has a multitude of tales to tell that chart Gallaghers life from what amounted to childhood slavery, through the endless conflicts with authority, his marriage to Sally and family life and the ultimate glory of being Guest of Honour at the All Ireland at Croke Park, New York, in 1947.
Although a rational man and a Roman Catholic he had a deeply rooted cultural belief in the existence of fairies and that the pantheon of pre-Chirstian deities, the Tuatha dé Danann, were always by his side. In particular he returns time and again to the aid afforded by the Fairy Fiddler of Cleendra. Sue Muir becomes the incarnation of this most important helper. Her melodies and sound effects on the violin at times accompany the narrative, heightening its impact and also provide brief interludes that give time for reflection and often amusingly making a musical comment.
The Scottish Storytelling Centre maintains that its ‘ethos is summed up nicely by the old Scottish proverb, “The story is told eye to eye, mind to mind and heart to heart”’. McColl and Muir certainly take that on board in this production.