Nuala O’Connor believes that a significant element in the power and global reach of Irish traditional music is in its sense of place. She writes of “the pre-eminence of landscape in Irish music and hearts…. ‘dinnseanchus’, meaning, the lore of placenames.”
In a strange way this has been our experience these first few days as Irish in Vancouver. It has been twenty years since we first came here and although there have been several visits in the interim, they have been brief. Now, for the first time, we are getting the opportunity to feel what it is like to live here again: drive the roads, shop in the supermarkets, read the papers. But above all, we get the chance to view the landscape, not as tourists revisiting a popular holiday destination, but as those who belong returning home. Driving the iconic Lion’s Gate Bridge every day, seeing the names that are heavy with association, Kitsilano, Capillano, Burrard, Spanish Banks, Point Grey; names that are as familiar as Sandyford, Carlingford, Strangford.
Two contexts which were a significant part of our lives here were College and Church. Of course, both have changed. At church, some friends have left, moved or passed on – although thankfully many remain. At College, all but a handful of the faculty and staff we knew have left – although we have been glad to get to know a few of the new ones. In addition the College itself has expanded and developed since we were here with the amazing Allison Memorial Library, one of the best designed libraries I have ever seen in terms of light, space and work environment
However, regardless of the changes, there is something unmistakably familiar about being here. A sense of place.
Of course, it helps when kind friends give you the run of their mountain home near the Grouse cablecar station and introduce you to their iPad-controlled piped Sonos music system. So, just in case, I’m missing the sounds and dinnseanchus of Ireland as I write this, Van Morrison’s Hymns to the Silence echoes round the house.