It was the eve of St. Patrick’s Day here in Dublin. There was a buzz in the air as it was the beginning of a long weekend. Pubs were overflowing, more than usual, with people and drink. Hordes of tourists descend on the city every year to witness the colourful, week-long celebrations for Paddy’s Day. One of the many events that caught my eye was Candlelit Tales, which promised an evening of delightful storytelling. What was even better was that it was to be held at The Stag’s Head, an 18th-century Victorian pub that I had been meaning to visit for a long time.
It couldn’t have been a better setting. Irish myths and legends being retold to the steady strains of two guitars in a historical pub that used to frequented by another great storyteller – James Joyce. I had arrived a little early, so I got myself a chilled pint and settled down into one of the plush red chairs by the window. Even though this was a gloomy evening, I could imagine the pub floor stippled in bright, tinted sunlight streaming in from the big stained glass windows on good days. Looking around, I soaked in the atmosphere. The patrons were a mixed bunch. Corporate suits jostled for space with bespectacled professorial types, perhaps from nearby Trinity College, along with students and tourists. From the stag’s head and the old clock outside to the architecture, and the wood panelling inside, everything added to that old world feel of a Victorian pub. If you are familiar with movies like Educating Rita and A Man of No Importance you might recognize the interiors. The place has another claim to fame. The Stag’s Head was the first Dublin pub to turn on electric lights.
These facts swirled in my mind, even as I got up to go to the upstairs lounge where storytelling awaited me. Evidently popular, going by the large queue that had formed outside, my friends and I entered from the connecting door inside, which allowed us to beat the line to some extent. We managed to grab a table, ordered a round of drinks and settled in. A heaving mass of people followed us, surrounded us, and packed us in. There was even a blind woman with her guide dog. We offered her a seat at our table and learnt that she was a storyteller herself. The room was dimly lit but there were candles glowing on some tables. A string of lights dotted the bay window right at the end where the two young storytellers stood. Narrated by Sorcha and Aron Hegarty, a sister and brother duo, along with two artists strumming guitars, Candlelit Tales is an event that happens every month (at the Stag’s Head). There is a theme-of-the-month and stories are chosen accordingly. March’s theme was “Rising Myths of Ireland,” and in the next one hour or so, they took us through many a fable including that of Fintan, the first man who set foot in Ireland, and the great Dagda and his Magic Harp. Witty and animated by turns, the two alternate between different threads of stories, leaving us completely engrossed.
Thus, the evening flew. The wan light outside faded into darkness and the candles inside glowed brighter. The enchanting session drew to a close as Sorcha and Aron finished off to a round of well-deserved applause.
The best part of it all? The event is free to attend. It’s like a pay-it-forward cultural service, perhaps in the hope that these magical Irish legends will be passed on. So, go on. Make your evening special. Lose yourself in the stories that Ireland has to tell.
*Second image courtesy Candlelit Tales