Hugo Duncan: It was Danish delight as couple make the trip to Spain to see the wee man from Strabane
It is often said that seeing is believing. I have to say that I was definitely provided with proof of this when I travelled to Spain last Sunday to perform at Declan Nerney's legendary Hooley in the Sun.
I have listened to people telling me that they would rather go off and spend a week on the continent listening to country music than attend events in this country and I must say I got my eyes opened.
For a start, I could not believe the number of people who attended Declan's Hooley, or indeed the diverse range of places they were from.
I heard Cork and Kerry accents mingle with the more familiar Ulster accents and all the people were there simply to derive maximum enjoyment from their stay.
I think I spoke to more people over a 24-hour period than I would over the course of a week here and, take it from me, that is saying something!
Declan himself was at the hub of everything, going out of his way to ensure that everyone had a truly memorable time.
But the greatest surprise I received was when I was approached by a couple who asked me to confirm that I was, in fact, THE Hugo Duncan (surely there could not be another like me?). When I replied that I was, the lady told me that she and her husband had travelled from their home in Denmark to Spain to be part of the Hooley and it was all down to the Wee Man from Strabane.
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It turned out that, some years ago, her husband had, quite by chance, come across my radio programme and, after they had both listened to it for a few days, they seemingly became hooked on it and are now avid listeners.
And when they heard mention of the Hooley on it, they promptly made their bookings and hence their chance meeting with me by the poolside last Sunday afternoon.
I told them that I was very flattered to think that they had travelled all the way from Denmark to be part of the Hooley and they are obviously fast learners, because they both told me that the craic was mighty!
I also had the pleasure of meeting a lady from Australia, who was totally fascinated by all that was going on around her.
When I was on stage later on Sunday evening - I brought the show to a conclusion along with Declan and his band - I looked down on the crowd of some 800 people and I was suddenly transported back to the great days of the showband boom, when dancing was a seven-night-a-week activity, with people simply spoiled for choice in relation to venues.
I was not alone in indulging in nostalgia. A couple of other old hands, Mick Flavin and Brendan Shine, were also clearly knocked out by the reaction they had received both on and off the stage, while comedian Gene Fitzpatrick was keeping everyone in fits of laughter.
It was great to see people from Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, the US, Australia, Denmark and I'm sure, if the truth be told, from other countries as well united under the country music banner.
The country music weeks on the continent which feature Irish acts are now an integral part of the country music calendar and it's easy to understand why.
People who support them are assured of the sun, top-class hotel accommodation, non-stop music, a chance to meet and greet the stars and an opportunity to make new friends.
I lost count of the number of requests I was asked to play on my programme. Suffice to say that in the warm, friendly atmosphere that prevailed, everyone soon got to know everyone else.
And to think that I have to do it all again when I take in Nathan Carter's sold-out week in Spain at the end of next month.
There is just no rest for the wicked!
Day I was nearly taken for a ride
When I arrived in Spain on Sunday last for Declan Nerney’s Hooley in the Sun, I had to wait for a period of time before my Hooley transport arrived to take me to the hotel.
As I waited, I had a flashback to an incident several years ago when something similar happened in Barcelona.
I got in touch with the people who were to pick me up and, after some confusion, they confirmed that a mistake had been made and arrangements had, in fact, been made for me to be collected the following day. I was then instructed to avail of the first taxi I could hail.
As I was getting into the taxi, I inquired as to what the fare might be. I was told that it would be approximately €240! This certainly knocked me out of my stride. But imagine my relief when I got to my destination and the people who were responsible for booking the taxi in the first place for me were waiting with payment for the driver.
Given that I could have been left at the roadside for a lot longer, I did not want to inform the driver that I was not actually making a down payment on the purchase of his vehicle!
Talented (and very busy) Cliona Hagan looks like she's only getting started
Cliona Hagan is certainly living life in the fast lane these days. The popular Tyrone singer will be the big attraction with her band at the Ryandale Hotel, Moy tomorrow night, where she is assured of a very warm reception.
Cliona and Derek Ryan have teamed up to release a new single, Only Getting Started, which is already creating quite a stir.
A bouncy, catchy song that confirms Derek Ryan's incredible enticing lyrical ability, while showcasing Cliona's fantastic vocal skills, the song will have listeners singing along to the memorable chorus after they first hear it.
No strangers to working and singing together, Derek and Cliona have shared the stage on many occasions in the past.
And Cliona certainly will be in the limelight herself when she appears at the Dancing with the Stars special live show in the INEC Killarney at the start of next month.
Meanwhile, the Bannville House Hotel, Banbridge is hosting a charity concert in aid of PIPS Hope and Support tonight.
I will be along myself and joining me on stage will be Ritchie Remo, David James, Ger Long, Maeve Farrell and Kaytlyn Molloy, while the Bannville's own country dancing troupe will be parading their skills.
The PIPS charity undertakes tremendous work in helping those in distress and that's why tonight's show is worthy of your support.
There are some fine acts on the bill and it's certain to be a lively show.
I am certainly looking forward to seeing some of these acts perform in what will be a very warm and hospitable environment.
Tyrone will be alive with the sound of music...
There is certainly going to be plenty of music in the north Tyrone air over the course of next weekend.
We have not one but two big events there, both of which will see a host of country stars strut their stuff.
What promises to be a hectic period of entertainment will kick off on Saturday night when a monster Barbecue and Barn Dance will take place at Beattie's Yard, Plumbridge Road, Newtownstewart - all proceeds from which will go to the Air Ambulance.
Obviously, this is a very worthy cause and I have no doubt that many people will wish to lend their support to the occasion. They will certainly enjoy themselves, as The Senators band, always firm favourites in the area, will be there, as will Boxcar Brian, Darren Burke, Shona McStravock, Jack Lowry and Joe Mahon, while I will act as compere. You never know, I might be persuaded to sing a wee song or two.
The Beattie firm is celebrating 70 years in business and the event is being held to mark this milestone, as well, of course, as to raise funds for the Air Ambulance.
Then, on Sunday afternoon, the spotlight will switch to the O'Cahan Arms in Drumquin, where Andy Lowry's Country Jamboree is certain to set feet tapping.
Andy, in his guise as the Singing Diggerman, will be there to set the tone for the entertainment, along with Shaun Loughey, Anthony McBrien, Simon Peters, Patricia Maguire, Shona McStravock, Joe Moore and Jack Lowry.
Again, I find myself cast in the role of compere and will no doubt have to find my singing voice at some stage.
This show at the O'Cahan Arms is now an annual affair and it is expected that country music fans from over a wide area will attend.