Last night I was out in rural Longford. It was a black night and we had mislaid our way. The long dark Longford lanes were deserted. Fortunately we came across a large grey isolated church (as one does in Longford) spilling out its ancient congregation. Suddenly we were caught in the glare of a hundred headlights and mobbed by crowds of old people shuffling along the road dressed in raggedy jackets, hoiked up trousers, mismatched twin sets and wearing large, creased weathered faces. In a roundabout fashion, we got directions and soon arrived at our destination: The Haggard, Moyne. We parked (there was a good crowd) and walked around a rather fine stone building which turned out to be artists’ studios. Around the corner was a thatched clay cottage, built in all the old traditional materials. We popped in for a peek.
No one was there. A fire was burning in a rather fine grate. Blackened cooking instruments and kettles hung above. Four empty, cushioned comfy chairs were waiting to be sat in. So we did. I felt like Goldilocks. The room was full of firelight. Suddenly a door to the left opened up and Oscar Wilde came rushing out. He nodded a greeting and sauntered up the stairs to the wooden open balcony that stretched across the room above.
“Don’t worry, take your time,” he said, and he disappeared into a room off to the right.
We were there to see a monologue about Oscar Wilde performed (by Michael Judd from Dublin). The performance was taking place in the converted outhouse next door. We sauntered over and were given two chairs to sit in (the place was packed) and a glass of wine to enjoy. A young harpist from Abbeylara, Laura O’Reilly, was playing some rather fine music. This was the Haggard. It is a comfortable space with a wooden pitched roof with beams from which hung old small hand ploughs. The floor was concrete and wood, there was a small corner stage, though Oscar was performing from the centre of the room. There was a blackened range, dressers stacked with old tableware, shelves stuffed with different artefacts like an old trombone and squeezebox. We chatted with our neighbours and there was a great intimate atmosphere.
The performance was grand. You can’t go wrong with Oscar Wilde, except not to have enough of him! But it was the setting that made it and the man who created it, Michael Masterson. He is a good looking, enthusiastic, passionate host who gave the lingerers who hung around after for a bit of an aul sing song, tea and sangwiches. When we needed to leave, Michael showed us out and around the whole place, studios, cottage as well as the small out house packed with gorgeous tiny kittens. He was as proud as punch, as if he had made them himself!
It’s a great venue for community performances, sing songs, story telling, anything. Check it out. It’s The Haggard, Moyne, County Longford. God knows where it is. Go to Moyne and just ask for Michael Masterson’s place. Everyone knows him.