About a year ago i got in touch about the possibility of a cartoon festival in the town where my family hail from in Ireland, with a family friend JONATHAN SMYTH who lives that little town in COUNTY CAVAN , called COOTEHILL, A name which caused much amusement of the cartoonist / caricaturist MARK NESBITT, (LUKE WARM). Infact he's doing the poster next year if it goes ahead again ,as we all hope....A lovely part of IRELAND very green with grass and cow dung ,off road....On road ,gravel and stones, the area is widely credited for inventing pot holes make driving an interesting and breathtaking experience....It is also the town where my mothers family come from and i spent a good chunk of my life visiting and loving every minute 'roughing it' with a mass of cousins on my 'Grannies' farm ,sadly no one is left there and the old house is falling to 'rack n' ruin....I always wanted to go back ,but suggested in passing about hosting a cartoon festival ,which they pounced on and before i knew it we were up n' running.
I got in touch with the ,mainly Irish cartoonists from the old and partially remembered wild insanity of the RATHDRUM CARTOON FESTIVAL organised by the late great TERRY WILLERS and his amazing wife ,that force of nature VALERIE, in the 90's. A few English lads jumped on board ,but i had to keep numbers down ,as money ,etc was at a premium...
As the year wore on ,there was a few bumps along the road as they say and at one time communications were few and far between and nerves started to fray and people started to pull out. When things were back on track and various suggestions were made and taken on board and we 'wuz cookin' on gas' and some of the crew were ,thankfully 'back on board'...And we were off!
The 13 September, Friday afternoon a group of us met up in ,suprise ,suprise !!! The bar at Dublin Airport!...Our lift and one of the organisers HARRY KEATING picked us up to take us from 'the Dirty awl town' out into the 'bogs' and the Craic was well and truly 'on' after not really seeing each other in a long time...But as with anytime friends get together even after a long time the conversation, piss taking and general bull shit carries on as if it had all been only yesterday!....Very soon our warm feeling was replaced by a full feeling eminating from out bladders, something to do with the bar in the airport! And a roadside emergency stop was urgently called for.....As we went about our 'business against some farmers gate, for some reasons ,of which i am not going anywhere near, the conversation turned to horses!...We had arrived!!!!!!!
After finding a very nice holiday home we were crashing in we stocked up on lovely Irish bacon ,sausages and eggs to keep us going in lovely greasy Irish breakfasts and late night butties as well as gallons of tea and coffee......Then!.....Into town and ....THE PUB!.....SMITHS BAR!.....Run by a highly disreputable character whom i knew years ago when he was slim, handsome with thick dark hair having 'a thing' with my sister.....As everybody in Cootehill told me they were aware as Don had told them , secrets never get kept or die the just get repeated and exaggerated over the years. Don is the official looking fellah next to me ,with the chain,seated 2nd from the right. Don ,gawd bless the swine was great with us all over the weekend ,everybody was great ,i've never been treated with so much friendliness as over that weekend!...
The guy on the left seated was another organiser ,Malachy Magee, a really nice enthusiastic guy who was so up for the festival to work.
The tall blonde lady in towards the middle was another organiser ,the lovely Elaine Grills who was ,again ,absolutly great ,god bless and thanks to them all. This was at the library where we were up to do a cartooning workshop ,noone had a clue where we were going with it ,i said "just wing it!".....Which is what we did and all of us contributed and the points ,techniques and ideas ,just bounced around like a pinball machine and was a great success ,the librarian MARGARET BANNONwas delighted and ,apparently a great time was had by all.
The 'HOLE IN THE HEAD GANG' consisted of ME..(of course,..Looking good after the excesses of the previous night!)....HUNT (The guv'nor ) EMERSON.....MARK ( Luke Warm ) NESBITT......ROGER ( I'm not dead yet!) O'REILLY.......JON ( Fries the best irish breakfast in Spain ) BERKELEY......GRAEME ( I didn't invite him ) KEYES.........AIDAN (Pain in the arse ) COONEY...And little Daniel kept hostage until they tore up our bar tab !...This is one of the last photos as Aidan drained the battery on my camera.....There wasn't a clean or nice word uttered over the whole weekend, but plenty of laughing ,mainly at others expense ,but ,such is life ,a good time was had by all and they all worked bloody hard ,which is amazing as non of them are even on nodding terms with hard work!
This is an ,apparently very rare shot of 'Mein Host ', DON SMITH smiling, as he said for me to "Make sure you get my best side!!!".....General hilarity ensued as the locals informed us in highly colourful terms their particular opinions on what constituted 'Dons best side!'
Don was quite annoyed that his entry into the COOTEHILL SCARECROW COMP' hadn't been accepted by the judges.....We asked where it was ,he told us it was just behind us. There was a table with a pair of shoes.......THE INVISIBLE MAN!!!!!!
THE FULL MONTY
Over the weekend was big music festival for a ,now deceased local man who opened a shoe factory in the town his name was GERRY WHELAN and the festival took his name,his daughter CONNIE was one of the organisers, but was away in Australia during the festivities , so except for a few phone conversations, we never met, sadly. Every pub was playing live music and the old town was bouncing. One pub Mullens had a quartet of beautiful young girls who were also an excellent band ,me and Aidan Cooney drew them and a heap of locals then went ,by way of a few other pubs 'back to base' at Smiths bar ,he had a band ,although a great band ,they were the other end of the scale ,old and ugly ,real characters ,a joy to draw ,one guy with an old hat and a beard about 5 feet long, he was wonderful and had me dripping tears of laughter on my drawing.
The following day the weather broke and the wind, rain and cold hit, proper Cootehill weather!!!!...The main street was blocked off to traffic as stalls were set up ,classic cars ,food ,music ,a town marathon race and local man ,the one and only VINCE PILKINGTON.....THE WORLD TURKEY PLUCKING CHAMPION!!!!!.....Was putting on his very popular crowd pulling display, tough competition, indeed!...Actually ,if i'd 've known i'd've gone to see it myself. We scribbled in a tent and as the winds increased and the temperature dropped, i started
to shiver and had to concenterate on keeping lines steady. Locals started to supply me with hot whiskies, of which i'd never had one ,love Irish coffee's ,but hot whiskies ,definitly warmed the system and steadied the line. The crowds seemed pleased and came from all over even on such a miserable day as the Sunday turned out to be. Then ,finally into the boozer and 'a few!' and once warm indoor pub scribbling...Its a good way of staying sober and helps the Guinness flow smoothly. A few of the lads were nagging over having a rest or going for a bite, but i find that can screw me up more than staying drawing 'on the pop!'
But all seemed to go well and the organisers seemed determined to go ahead next year ,onwards and upwards, bigger and better.....And it only took 5 days to sort of recover !
Cheers and thanks to all involved and esspecially the bunch of cartooning deadbeats i have to call my friends ....YOU WERE GREAT !
ME....ROGER O'REILLY....GRAEME KEYES
HARRY (Our faithful driver ,A star!).....HUNT (Another star )EMERSON.
A happy GRAEME KEYES....A cause for concern ?
THE REMAINS OF THE FAMILY HOME!