Tag Archives: Orange Petals in a Storm

Musicians’ Week, by Niamh Clune

From English Irish pubs to Johannesburg, article by Niamh Clune

My singing career began by mistake when I turned fifteen. In those days, people paid me to sing. Getting gigs was easy; they landed in my lap. Music was live with no shortage of venues. The new era had come into its own. I learned stage-craft through the experience of doing the rounds: everything from singing at American bases in the UK, (many G.I’s were stationed in Britain on their way to and from Vietnam) to singing in The Playboy Club, West End Night Clubs, The Hammersmith Palais, The Lyceum in London’s Strand, and London’s vibrant and thriving pub circuit.

I had grown up in London Irish pubs where music was inwoven into the fabric of daily life. One of my father’s few redeeming features was that he was a good musician, some would say fabulous, even. He played big band swing and Bebop on sax and clarinet. When he wanted to torture me and my mother, he played Irish jigs on the silver flute (should always be played on the simple wooden flute).

Musicians such as The Dubliners stayed with us in the pub we ran in Finsbury Park and drank us out of house and home. Seamus Heaney, the poet laureate, also passed through our revolving doors as did many exiled and lonely young men full of music, poetry, politics and idealistic intellect.  They were attracted to our pubs like bees to honey, the honey being my mother’s sparkling blue eyes, astonishing charm, and generous supply of home-cooking.  They came also because the craic was great. Music pumped out of the bar every night, from Jazz and Bebop, to Blues, Country and Traditional Irish.

At a young age, my father hauled me up onto that stage to “sing us a song” to make the auld fellas cry and drown shamrock memories in copious amounts of the ‘black stuff.’ Children and mammies were remembered. Many had been abandoned for years and left to fend for themselves back in the auld country where there was little hope of employment. Paddy was forced to seek work in foreign, English climes. The lure of digging London’s Victoria Tunnel superseded all other needs. Earn the Queen’s shilling and put a crust of bread on now distant tables, was the prayer of the day. Home parlours were replaced by my mother’s public bar, where navvy’s found refuge through smiling, non-judgmental, Irish eyes that lit cold souls and warmed exiled hearts.

As was the way with most Irish families, if you could sing, then sing. It was expected.  If you could recite a poem, then recite away. If you could make a speech and blind all with oratory then “Fair play to ye!” Just make sure it was passionate, rousing and fired with history and enough whiskey!

Singing just happened. It was my first career that progressed organically moving from Irish pubs to being the chanteuse in rock bands, touring, and recording. I sang at the Tokyo Song Festival on the same stage as Kate Bush. I did sessions for Todd Rundgren on the Tom Robinson 2 album, and with Mutt Lange who produced Shania Twain. I did an album with Tony Clarke who produced The Moody Blues and sang with Chris Thompson’s band. Chris was the lead singer with Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. I even sang with Johnny Hallyday, the French Elvis Presley. All in all, I had fun and earned enough money to buy my first house in London and single-handedly raise and support my daughter.

I became disenfranchised with the music industry as the 70s rolled into the 80s and rock and melody gave way to punk and noise.  By then I had burned out on the glamour, met enough wrong men and stayed up for too many late nights. I became bored with the ‘scene.’ Instead, being a sensible mother and psychotherapist was of infinitely more interest. I put aside singing, writing and performing on stage. That is until my passion for protecting the environment proved motivation enough to make me jump back in and write a song for the World Summit in Johannesburg in 2002.  Having penned “We Are the Voice” as a campaign song about impending climate change, my then grown-up daughter and I performed it together on a distant, African stadium stage.  It was the opening concert littered with the famous and good. It was a shock after all those years, and at that age, when no longer the ‘dolly-bird’ to stand upon an international stage once again and perform a song that I had written. I did it simply because I could! I had something to say. And I wanted to say it.

These days, I write books. Music plays a huge part in my writing process, as I am aware of the rhythm and sound of words and the way in which they make music. Being and thinking as a lyricist and singer of melody all that time ago plays still through all I write.

As is often the case, a few years ago, I craved making music once again. I re-entered the recording studio to put my first book, The Coming of the Feminine Christ, to music. I experimented with sounds and rhythms. I mixed reading and recitation with song. “Touching Angels” is the result. And I am proud of it. I have done nothing to market it other than use a couple of snippets for a video about my latest book: Orange Petals in a Storm.

Please listen to Niamh Clune’s “Morning Star,” “Red on White,” and “Dreamer,” at Soundcloud.

Listen to “We Are the Voice” – the song written and performed for the World Summit in Johannesburg here.

Great news! Niamh has just signed to the new ChillAudio Label. Says founder Tom Cloverfield, “ChillAudio is the finest chillout music. Founded 2012 in Germany. The main goal is to bring different artists, music and poetry together, creating a unique, dynamic synergy which we hope will demonstrate Global Unity, Peace and International Friendship as an example to all. We create a completely new sound that goes deeper into ears and hearts.”

About Niamh –

I am a published writer of inspirational stories to feed the soul; award-winning Irish Social Entrepreneur; revolutionary psychotherapist of all things soul; Environmental Campaigner (very mental and elemental); singer/songwriter and spoken-word artist. In short, friends describe me as a polymath! I have lived and worked in Africa for many years working for OXFAM, UNICEF and World Food Programme, (during the nineties when times were very troubled). I cannot leave out my present and most profound joy – that of being a proud grandmother.


Orange Petals in a Storm in paperback, e-book




On The Plum Tree blog

Plum Tree Books website


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Waiting, by Niamh Clune

I wait each day, down by the ocean, sitting on our bench, looking out to sea. The relentless sun pierces through my linen shroud, like an x-ray picking clean my bones. I turn my face to it in supplication. Still, it beats down on me whilst gentle waves of sea roll in, slide up the beach, and trickle through millions of grains of sand, each of little consequence.

A sand crab hurries away. I know not where. I do not wonder. I think only of you and the last time we met. You were dark that day, your passion spent. You could not love. You could not feel. You stood a distance away, dressed in a long grey coat. The heat never touched you. It did not x-ray your bones, nor expose the wild, stunted heart that lay beneath that full, bleak envelope. A quiet breeze lifted your hair in billowing wisps, playing with it, tempting you to participate in the beauty of the day. You saw no-thing. Your eyes were black, shriveled into thin points staring out to sea.

You should not have been there. You looked so out of place. The incongruity of the moment stabbed me like a shard of yellow sunlight bursting through the walls of my heart.

I remember now. A tear rolls down my cheek, splashes into the sand, and disappears inconsequentially, as a droplet carried in an ocean of tears.

You will never come again.

That time, you came to mourn me. You saw only an empty bench, a cruel, not gentle sea, and a crab that fed off my bones.

I am here my love, waiting still, in the moments when the wind rustles through your hair to tempt you into seeing the beauty of the day.

Niamh Clune

Niamh Clune is the founder of The Orangeberry Group. During her lifetime, she has been a spiritual psychologist, award-winning social entrepreneur, environmental campaigner, and award-winning writer of songs. Her song, “We Are the Voice,” was chosen to promote the 2002 World Summit in Johannesburg (she performed it with her daughter, Aleisha, at the opening concert). She has lived and worked in Africa for Oxfam, UNICEF, and World Food Program. Niamh has been a prolific writer about environmental issues for international magazines and newspapers. Orange Petals in a Storm is the first in the Skyla McFee Series. The second in the series, Exaltation of a Rose, will be released soon.

Click to visit Niamh’s website. Follow Niamh on Twitter.

You can also find the anthology Every Child is Entitled to Innocence at Orangeberry Books.


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Remembering Eleanor Rigby, by Dr. Niamh Clune

Since childhood, her habit had been to draw a bristle brush through her long, now silver-grey hair. ‘One hundred strokes every day keeps your hair a healthy way,’ she muttered under her breath as though it were an incantation. She said it rhythmically, keeping time with the brush. Her actions were an instinctive remnant of her mother’s careful conditioning.

She re-placed the brush on the dressing table. As if seeing herself for the first time in a long time, she stared into her grey eyes. Once, they had been filled with light, had danced, and sparkled merrily with the unbridled expectancy of all that life yet held in store. When did she become so old? Her last remnants of beauty had long-since faded. These days, her once lovely face spoke only of tiredness.

She stood up and moved across the darkened room. She liked the room that way. She didn’t like the light. It showed only worn, dirty walls and threadbare carpets. Her movements were graceful still, and lithe. She corrected her posture as if, once again, she heard the ghostly voice of her mother scolding, ‘straighten up!’

Her mother had lived long. This had been her room. Her things were still here. Margaret could not find it within herself to clear them out. After her mother’s passing, Margaret had claimed the room. She had moved into her mother’s things, worn her mother’s clothes, slept between her mother’s sheets, and used her mother’s hairbrush, whilst repeating her mother’s meaningless mantra.

She moved to the window, careful to remain hidden behind the heavy, Edwardian lace curtain. It was snowing outside. Already, thin bicycle tracks appeared and curved precariously.  In this cul-de-sac, the only cars that passed were those driven blindly by misdirected motorists or by those that lived in one of the semis. This was a safe road for children.

Margaret watched them gathering beneath her window. They were excited by the snow. It had not yet fallen sufficiently for the making of snowballs. But they laughed and shrieked none-the-less and made Margaret jump nearly out of her skin. She backed away. Her hands flew up to her ears. She rocked her head from side -to-side. ‘Mummy,’ she whimpered. But mummy wasn’t there. No one was. Only the quiet house answered in creaks and groans. She curled up on the bed in a foetal position, drawing her knees up under her chin.

Somehow, the holidays were more unbearable than the usual drawn-out, bland ordinariness of non-holidays. People came, went, bustled, laughed, held hands, and carried bags of shopping destined for splendid family feasts. They passed her opaque windows oblivious to her existence.  ‘Why don’t they know that I am here?’ she screamed inwardly.

All her ranting was inward. That was the safest place to rail against the lonely nights, the lonely days of never-ending emptiness. She did not cry out anymore. It made her feel worse.  Sorrow had become a vicious beast that snarled back and hit her hard with its stark reality. ‘Mummy,’ she whimpered again.

‘Mad Woman,’ the children shouted up at the window. It was their favourite street haunt. They loved gathering beneath her window and taunting her – ‘Mad Marge, the old woman who lived in a shoe and didn’t know what to do!’

Once upon a time, she had wanted a daughter of her very own. That man…what was his name, the one who wanted to marry her? She couldn’t remember now. But Mummy had become ill at the thought of it. She had developed a crippling disease and could do nothing for herself.  Margaret couldn’t leave her to go off with the man whom she had loved at the time. Who would brush Mummy’s hair?

Margaret lay staring into the gloom shutting her ears to the sounds of children’s laughter. Why did people think of laughter as being happy? It was a taunt, a shrieking, shrill torment. It reverberated off her loneliness to pierce the uninhabited world in which she existed.

What was that sound? She thought herself mistaken, but was it a knock on the door? She froze. What should she do? And again. There it was again. Someone was trying to break into her world. She was not safe. She must hide. She clambered off the bed and onto the floor. On her belly, she slid beneath the bed. And there she stayed until the gloom turned to night.

Outside, the snow fell. Soon it covered Mrs Jones’ footprints, and covered the plate of mince pies she had left on the doorstep.

Dr. Niamh Clune

Niamh was born in Dublin in 1952 – one of eight children. In 2002, she earned a PhD from Surrey University, UK, in “Acquiring Wisdom through the Imagination.” She has been described as a polymath! She is a writer, teacher, spiritual psychologist, award-winning social entrepreneur, environmental campaigner and award-winning writer of songs. Niamh has lived and worked in Africa for Oxfam, UNICEF and World Food Programme, which she describes as one of the defining moments in her life. She is the author of The Coming of the Feminine Christ. Her latest publication, Orange Petals in a Storm, is the first in the Skyla McFee series.

Orange Petals in a Storm

Niamh is very active on the internet on Orangeberry Books Collective and blog. She is a featured author at Love a Happy Ending. Niamh has her own blog at Niamh Clune Writes and has a Facebook fan page at Niamh Clune Books. Find her on Twitter. Her novel Orange Petals in a Storm is available here. Listen to Niamh’s enchanting vocal on YouTube.

Opening photo – Photobucket, Carolynt99


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