The following article was written by Taba Dale, and was published in The Clare Champion, a regional newspaper published in Ireland.
Ann takes her place on the Liscannor Strip
The Strip has a newcomer and oh what a star! She’s beautiful but not flashy. She’s charming in a way that people are when they are comfortable in their own skin. She’s funny without meaning to be. She’s talented, and for sure, she’s meaning to be.
No, it’s not Celine Dion. Not Britney Spears. It’s Ann Daly, the painter that has just opened a new art space called The Atlantic Way Gallery. Sandwiched in-between last year’s new headliner on The Strip—the bustling “Come In, We’re Awesome” bakery, and the stately 19th-century stone church.
The single story, nondescript building is set back from the road behind a carpark. A sign, now removed, used to say ‘Community Centre’.
Oddly enough, I learned later on, that when Ann’s mum came for her first visit to the new gallery, while drinking her Bailey’s coffee, she told Ann, “I used to go to school in this building, and now here you are!”
I bumbled in and discovered a room full of paintings, mostly of the sea, in all its many moods. I know its temperamental nature well because we live just steps away from Liscannor Bay. From dark and brooding to playful and shimmering, Ann’s works capture the sea and rocky west coast of Clare exquisitely.
There is quite a selection, ranging from large originals painted with a palette knife to masterfully rendered miniatures in many layers on primed wood. Tastefully matted prints, both framed and unframed, are attractively displayed.
“These look like they’re all done by one person. Are you the artist?” I asked the lovely brown-haired woman who was sweeping the floor beside a small white desk.
“Oh, sorry, we just put down this floor five weeks ago and I’m a bit precious about it. Yes, I am,” she answered quietly, almost in a whisper, not wanting to wake…what was under that blanket?
“Oh! It’s a dog! Oh! It’s two dogs!” I was surprised because they were not little dogs either.
One dog was brown and white speckled and absolutely gorgeous. “What kind of dog is that?”
“They are German Shorthaired Pointers,” Ann answered.
“Both of them?”
“Yes, actually they are rescue dogs,” Ann explained as she petted the more energetic one, whose name was Penny.
“She was in bits, this one. Nearly dead. We nursed her back to health and named her Penny, for when she came into my life, she was my Lucky Penny.”
Just then, a man I had seen a few minutes earlier, as I was about to enter the gallery, appeared inside. He had cheerfully said to me, “Thanks for coming,” which I found friendly and a bit strange at the same time, since he seemed to be leaving. Now I knew why. He was obviously connected to Ann. But not merely connected—married sixteen years this very month.
I learned that when I had commented on one picture, not just different because all the seascapes were in oil and this one was in watercolor, but because the subject matter was a complete departure. It was a painting of two young people kissing—a very sweet portrait of young love.
Ann told me that the image was, in fact, used as their wedding invitation. Upon asking how she met her husband-to-be, Ann, flashing her dazzling smile said, “We met at a music festival in Tipperary. Neither of us had any tickets and we didn’t see any music.”
When I was introduced to Ronan, who had a spectacular crown of thick, George Clooney-esque salt and pepper hair, I said, “Did you know the owner of the Cliffs of Moher Hotel (at the beginning of The Strip) is named Ronan and so is the owner of the woolen shop on the corner?”
To which he replied, “Ronan used to be such an uncommon name. It comes from the word “ron” and means “baby seal.”
Well, that’s a story in itself. Or rather a legend.
The dogs were getting frisky now, fully awake from their slumber.
Penny was jumping on Ann and the brown one came over to give me a sniff.
Ronan commented, “Look at that. That’s something she would never have done when we first got her…gone to people. Never. Tessy, good girl.”
Apparently that wasn’t the case when she was first adopted. In fact, Ann explained, “Tessy was so nervous, she used to jump at her own shadow.”
Still petting Tessy, I observed, “They both have short hair, but this one seems shorter.”
“She certainly is a purebred. We think she was a breeder,” Ronan replied with obvious pride.
By now I realized that Ronan’s pronunciation of certain words was slightly different and I ventured, “You sound like you have a Northern Ireland accent.”
He confirmed, “I’m from Belfast originally. When I was living there before I moved, I could tell the difference in various parts of Belfast—nearly every five or ten miles—there is a different accent!”
I was astonished. “Really? Every five or ten miles?”
Ronan affirmed, “Not only that, I could even tell the difference in accent from different counties…Antrim, Derry, or Armagh.” And with a hearty laugh he added, “And now they all sound the same—north of Cavan—they’re all just Northerners to me!”
I thought that was pretty hilarious. I could listen to him all day. With the Northern accent there is an intonation pattern where you hear a lift at the end of a word or a sentence. It’s very endearing to the American ear. Well, to mine anyway.
He did point out one other interesting fact. “My father’s from North Antrim—all my cousins are from North Antrim—so I can definitely tell a North Antrim accent.”
I guess it’s like being able to tell the difference between a Brooklyn and Bronx accent. If you are from there, that is. It just never occurred to me that there are such a micro-regional variations, in what seems to be, such a small area as is Northern Ireland.
Now give me someone from Boston, Alabama and Chicago, and I can identify where they come from as soon as I hear them tell me how they pahk the cahr.
We had house guests showing up later that day, so I needed to get going. I explained that, coincidentally we were on our way up to the North on a charity golf tour. We’d be playing Royal Portrush on the Antrim coast, Royal County Down and a bunch of courses in the Dublin area.
It wasn’t until I was about to leave that I noticed a small sign, written in lovely calligraphy, taped to Ann’s gallery door. It read:
Come on, on, on in.
When I read it out loud, Ann volunteered the actual way of saying it. Drawing out the words more, it goes like this:
Knowing that I would appreciate the play on words, she joked, “It sounds more Northern.”
I thought I was leaving, but that led to another story.
Ann revealed that just when the gallery was about to open, she found a large pile of freshly picked wild flowers laid on the doorstep. There was no way of knowing what kind souls took it upon themselves to gather the flowers and place them there.
There might have been some people who knew that Ann’s grandfather used to live in Liscannor, just up the hill on Holland’s Road.
I often walked up that way myself. Just five minutes from our house, I would pass by what is now the Liscannor National School. Continuing onwards the road leads to a cluster of little holiday homes.
Ann shared, “I used to care for my grandfather, when my uncle went away. He lived in the very last house before Knockrahaderry (the holiday houses). He was housebound. When I would go off to walk around Clahane and paint scenes from my walks, without fail, they would lift his spirits. ‘This is God’s Country’ my grandfather would always say, when he saw my paintings.”
It made complete sense when Ann added, “When I had my first solo show in Limerick, I titled it God’s Country.”
The tradition of spreading flowers on thresholds, apparently, was most common in the North—the area that is now part of the province of Ulster. It is thought that the flowers brought luck and provided protection from mystical forces.
Ann said, “The wildflowers ward off bad luck and the fairies. There is even such a thing as a ‘fairy wind’.”
That sounded funny and ominous at the same time. The briefest definition would be: a sudden gust of wind or a whirlwind. Believe me, there is a lot more to it than that.
After she found the flowers on her doorstep, Ann told me, “Then the priest came in. He’s an artist too.”
I found this very touching—that he made time to welcome her and that he himself is an artist.
It brought a tear to my eye when she told me the priest said, “You’ve come home. You’d make Mick Howe very proud.”
And so the truth is, the star did not just blow in.
She has come on, on, on home.