The Green and White of Limerick, Forever a Part of Me

Tim Collins

“Music speaks what cannot be expressed, sooths the mind and gives it rest,
Heals the heart and makes it whole, flows from Heaven to the soul”
This is a quotation, author unknown, that has always been a favourite of mine, and I can’t think of any place that it fits more than the story I’m about to tell.

The year 2018 has been Limerick’s year, one that will be talked about, toasted, and dined out on for many years to come. For the ladies Junior football team, it has seen the dream of being All-Ireland Champions being realised. For one Rathkeale man, Pa O’ Dwyer, it has been the year he gained the title of Ireland and UK’s strongest man. Tournafulla girl Kori Goad gained a bronze medal in amateur boxing at the European Championships, Tourna-fulla hurlers won the junior A county title for the first time in the club’s history, and I’m quite sure there has been other amazing stories that happened in Limerick that may not have made news headlines.
The stand out moment for everybody who lives, or ever lived in Limerick was the return of the Liam McCarthy Cup, after an absence of forty-five years, to the Limerick senior hurling team, and the proud title of All Ireland champions. All manner of trophies accompanies these victories, to be photo-graphed, admired, and held in high esteem for a long time. But nothing lasts longer than musical notes plucked from a spiritually attuned place. And that’s exactly where the song, written by Tim Collins, “Forever Part of Me” originated.
I have known Tim since he was a boy in college. The common factor between us was music. He taught music in the locality for many years, continuing a tradition that was very much part of his family and his psyche. As years rolled in to decades, I watched him, and his music evolve in to what can only be described as genius. And nowhere, in my view, has this incredible talent been more evident than in his newest song “Forever Part of Me”, not just because of the beautifully melodic refrain, but because of the genuine sentiment expressed in a song that is partly autobiographical, and will no doubt resonate with Limerick people both at home and abroad. Tim, long -time concertina player with the Kilfenora Ceili Band, has lived very happily for the past seventeen years in his adopted county Clare. While he and his wife Claire were on holiday with their two boys at the end of July this past summer, he was struck by words that came from somewhere in the recesses of his mind. Those words became the lyrics of his song.
“I’d no plans to write a song” he said, “I was watching the Limerick semi-final on my phone. I find every year when the GAA championship comes around, it has a way of re-igniting your real sense of identity” he reasoned. “The hurling championship brings out the green and white in me”
Returning from holidays, the words that were to be the chorus of the song were still with him, and within a couple of days, he’d written the verses. “Once you get in to that space, and you think about your sense of place, it just flows for you,” he told me. “I was remembering my own happy boyhood, growing up in West Limerick, and the things that meant the most to me. I don’t deliberately try to shape a song, I just work within a space of inspiration.” I asked him what he credits his inspiration to.”
“I believe it’s spirituality, it’s a channelled energy from a higher source, without a doubt,” he answered with conviction. He wrote about the physicality of the places he loved, Barna Hill, Glenquin Castle, places including Strand, Monagea, Newcastle West, Tournafulla. “Then there are the historical dimensions of the place I grew up in. My family were involved in the path to Independence, and that also instilled a sense of place in me” The song has a line that says, “I held the hand of a man who fought the Black and Tans.” That was a reference to his grand-uncle Tadgh. “I’m very proud of him and the fact that I’m called after him”
His long-time friend and neighbour, Deirdre Scanlan, had declared many times that if Tim ever wrote a Limerick song, she wanted to sing it. Deirdre, a native of Monagea and now living in County Clare, is a remarkable singer with a very distinguished voice. She fell in love with the song. With Tim’s wholehearted permission, she brought the song home when she sung it during Monagea GAA’s Willie Hough Commemorative Mass in September. Accompanying Deirdre on the day were Michael King, a native of Strand and a past pupil of Tim’s. Catherine Clohessy on piano, and of course Tim himself. It was a proud moment for him. “The ink was still wet on the song” Tim said. ” I was amazed at how well it was received” But there was certainly serendipity around it. The previous night, Tim went to the local pub with his brother. He met up with Deirdre and Liam Herlihy, who was an organiser of the GAA event. The conversation turned to the charity organisation CRY, Cardiac Risk in the Young. It’s an organisation close to the heart of the people in the area. “It was like a light bulb went off in my head” Tim told me. “Deirdre on one side of me, Liam at the other, both of whom had lost loved-ones to Sudden Adult Death Syndrome at a young age. I just told them that I would donate the song to CRY, in the certain knowledge that this was the purpose of the song” Tim offered to take care of the technical recording of it. A few days later, Liam got an offer of funding from Tom Cavanagh for the recording. It was truly remarkable because it meant that every cent of profit from the sale of the recording would benefit CRY. The organisation now has full mechanical rights to the CD. Tim believes that every aspect of the song and its purpose was divinely engineered. Liam Herlihy spoke about the importance of raising funds for CRY. “The organisation in Tallaght is moving to a new facility in the Summer of 2019. It hopes to be able to take on more staff. Up to this, it operated out of a pre-fab type venue. Every penny from the sale of the CD will go to the organisation. We’re very grateful to our neighbour Tim for donating the song, Tom for his sponsorship, and to Deirdre and all the musicians involved in it’s recording,” he said. Deirdre is full of praise for the song. “I feel so privileged and honoured to sing it,” she said. “It means the world, not just to Limerick, but to the organisation CRY”. She was referring to her nephew Darra and Liam Herlihy’s daughter Niamh, friends and neighbours who were lost to SADS within eight months of each other.
The song was recorded in Miltown Malbay. Deirdre, of course, is the voice behind the singing. And Tim put a great team together to accompany the song. Once again, Catherine on Piano, Mike on Low Whistle, Tim’s nephew Darragh Collins on guitar, Brian O Grady on double bass, Danny Byrt on percussion, Sharon Howley on Cello, her sister Eimear on fiddle and of course, Tim himself on concertina. A formidable team, to say the least. “It is a Limerick song. It’s a great year to have a Limerick song. My hope is that it will serve CRY well, and that the organisation will benefit financially from it”
I have listened to the track many times, and each time I hear a new nuance. It moves me, it takes on a special meaning, the notes in perfect harmony with the lyrics, and it’s easy to understand the belief that it has been divinely inspired. The musical gift that is unique to Tim becomes apparent when he speaks of a new direction that his music has taken. He’s written many pieces and songs that are currently being recorded by the Filmharmonic Orchestra in Prague, which is one of the most sought-after orchestras in Europe. They are famous for recording film scores. They have worked with artists such as Celine Dion, Dionne Warwick, Sarah Brightman and the Irish Tenors, to name a few. The album will have fifteen tracks, all of Tim’s original music, half of which are songs. It will surprise people who are accustomed to Tim’s traditional music. This will be of a different genre, but incredible all the same. It’s a 2019 launch, one to watch for.
I asked Tim about all the letters after his name. “Do you mean C.L.O.W.N.?” he asked laughing. I was having none of it. “Tell me” I demanded. “Well, I’ve a bachelor of Education. He teaches in Gort. Then I did a Masters in Musical Performance, (MA) and then a Phd (Doctorate)” In a not-so-strange coincidence, his doctorate was about Music and Place. Tim channels music, it’s his healing, that’s the best way to describe him maybe, when all is said and done. When he’s writing music and lyrics, he’s almost in a meditative state. He’s compelled, again enforcing his belief that everything he writes comes from a spiritual place. “What I write is like a fusion of traditional and classical, it’s kind of strange for me, but it’s what comes to me” he admits. But nonetheless, it’s compelling and beautiful.
“Will your boys wear the green and white?” I asked. Tim laughed. “Of course they will, especially when they come to Limerick matches with me” he answered. “But they are Clare boys. I want them to be as proud of their county as I am of mine. That’s their right and their privilege. I want them to have good memories like I have, and bring it forward in to their adult lives”
“I’m thinking tonight of our brave hurling men,
Who’ve brought honour upon our field of play,
And I know in my heart that the wait is over now,
And the treaty men will have their day”

Forever on my mind, flowing proudly upon a Shannon breeze,
The Green and White of Limerick, forever part of me”

Having known Tim for almost thirty years, I’m aware that my writing may reflect a biased opinion. It does. I’m proud to call him my friend.
The CD launch takes place on Saturday December 1st in the Ballintemple Inn, Newcastle West. It promises to be a great night of music and song, benefiting that wonderful organisation CRY. The concert itself will be a musical joy. Musicians on the night will include members of the Kilfenora Céilí Band, the All-Ireland Wrenboy Champions Killeedy, and of course, those involved in the recording itself. To miss it would be regret for life.