By writing his first book, Mike Hanrahan has experienced a range of emotions, so much so that he declared it to be one of the best things he has accomplished.
Hanrahan’s book Beautiful Affair was shortlisted for the An Post Irish Book Awards in the Best Irish-Published Book of the Year category last year. Speaking to The Clare Echo ahead of returning to his native county, Mike admitted the reaction to the book has been “magnificent” which has provided great warmth.
“I got back to my childhood and a lot of people connected with growing up in Ireland in the 1970s, it was good for me to be able to get back into that and write about it. I half lived in the town and the country so I was somewhere in between in the middle, my parents were from Barntick and Ballyea whereas we were living in Ennis, we spent a lot of our summers in Ballyea in the farm so it was nice to revisit that, it was good to go over the history of Stockton’s Wing too. The fact that it was shortlisted for Book of the Year brought a real buzz for me, I’m delighted with it, it is one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life”.
Cooking had always been a hobby for Mike but it was his time training with Ballymaloe’s Darina Allen that saw this become a second career. He shares his favourite recipes from home, friends and professionals and brings the reader into the kitchens of Ronnie Drew, Finbar Furey, Maura O’Connell, Leslie Dowdall, Pat Shortt, Eleanor Shanley and Sharon Shannon.
Three years ago, the former IMRO Chairman stopped working as a cook. “I learned a lot and became a much better cook, I had enough and thought about writing a book on why I moved from music to food and what food meant to me. The book was the natural progression for me to bridge as I went back into music, now I’m doing the music full-time with some nice gigs for the book coming up, I’m so looking forward to the Ennis gig, I’ll be around the corner from streets and places that I wrote about in the book. I owe an awful lot to Ennis and my upbringing there, that’s where my music started so it’s really special to be back in Ennis”.
Returning to Clare for the Ennis Book Club Festival is similar to performing in the Banner County at a Stockton’s Wing gig, he explained. “Because it’s home, it’s not like any other gig, some of the people at the book gig I’d have written about them in the book. The early part of the book is what shaped me, my childhood in Ennis and the people I met along the way so we’re getting right into the heart of it”.
His band members also played a crucial role in the success of Beautiful Affair. “They’re never surprised with the things I do, I keep myself guessing never mind the rest of the world, I’m always jumping from one thing to the next. They were delighted and they were very helpful because I had to do a lot of research for the book, there was a few stories I had to research and make sure I was telling the right story and not telling lies, they all remember different angles from stories, they’ve celebrated the success with me”.
Having returned to music full-time with Stockton’s Wing, Mike outlined that they have received a new lease of life with the next generation of the band’s followers. This extra platform has given their music “another rerun”. “That is the greatest gift that the last album has given us, I always said when Universal came with the proposal to release the album that it was a great opportunity for our music to go into new generations and that is what is happening, young people get a chance to listen to the music we recorded”.
A Journey in Music, Food and Friendship with Mike Hanrahan takes place on Saturday 7th March at 6pm in St Columba’s as part of the Ennis Book Club Festival. Tickets are available from €8 to €10 and can be purchased through glór’s box office.