More than a parade 

More than a parade

By midday last Thursday, it felt as if most of Savannah had abandoned any semblance of normal work week activities to prepare for the extended St. Patrick’s Day weekend.

The lunch crowd was light at Star Fish Café, as was the noon rush at the bank. Even Thursday’s email traffic was slower than normal, and nearly devoid of anything work-related.

While Savannah’s year-round Irish attended the Jasper Greens ceremony Thursday afternoon, those of us who are only Irish for a day, or this year, for a weekend, had plenty of Thursday options.

A friend phoned in an upbeat, live report from the Jepson Live monthly “food, drinks and music” celebration, normally a Friday happy hour event at the Jepson Center for the Arts. She’d just reviewed the Oliphant exhibit and was browsing the gift shop on her way out the door to check on the Christopher Murphy retrospective at the Telfair Academy.

The next Jepson Live moves back to Fridays on April 11, another party showcasing current art exhibits, and featuring musicians procured through a growing relationship between the Telfair and the Savannah Music Festival.

Caught in a Thursday night time crunch, I opted to pass on the Jepson and head to an annual St. Patrick’s Day Eve party in Ardsley Park, complete with music by a gathering of Savannah’s Celtic musicians, and the second annual appearance at the party by the Nassau County Firefighter Pipe and Drum Corps.

The party was the first stop on a small Savannah tour for the Long Island, N.Y. band, who’ve been coming to Savannah for the parade since 2000. The band, sometimes known as “Bobby Hughes and his Marching Melody Makers” marched in Friday’s parade, then performed on one of the River Street stages Friday afternoon.

That night, after a short appearance at Savannah Smiles, they joined River Street headliners Liquid Ginger for a few songs at the start of the set. The pipers’ final Savannah show, opening Liquid Ginger’s Saturday night appearance, ended just before the lights went out across the city.

A recap of the parade is unnecessary thanks to video clips, photo albums and blogs available from every corner of the online universe. So it’s fast forward to Saturday night’s appearance by Moira Nelligan of Decatur (a Savannah-born Celtic fiddler) and Synergy, the latest project of Bob and Judy Williams, who offered a fun, grown up, relaxing wrap to the weekend.

Nelligan, in her first local show since 2006, was joined by one of her longtime collaborators, mandolin player George Norman, and her teenage son on guitar. Nelligan’s sweet, high voice and Irish-dancer style natural black ringlets conjure a timeless image, tempered by her decidedly 21st century commentary between songs.

“My husband refused to come on this trip because he says I’m a control freak,” she said, just before introducing a song about a wife who “was having marital problems. Since they didn’t have therapy or medication back then, she decided to kill her husband.”

This coastal Georgia life

One of the few emails arriving last Thursday that didn’t mention the Irish was a heads up from Margie Standard, local writer and tour guide, with late breaking news about this past Sunday’s edition of This American Life (TAL) on Georgia Public Broadcasting radio.

The entire hour of the Sunday broadcast was devoted to the 1912 disappearance of four-year-old Bobby Dunbar of Opelousas, La., and the controversial “reunion” between a young boy and Bobby’s parents, Percy and Lessie Dunbar, eight months later.

Standard’s grandmother, Savannahian Barbara Moore, and Moore’s sister Jean Cooper of Baxley, were among those interviewed by TAL. Moore and Cooper shed light on the life of their great uncle William Walters, wrongly accused of kidnapping Dunbar, and the story’s continued resonance through their family’s history.

The story crosses state lines. It crosses families--the kidnapped boy’s, the accused kidnapper’s, and the family of another missing child, Bruce Anderson, who was “returned” to Bobby Dunbar’s parents and grew up as Dunbar.

It crosses generations, tracing from Bobby Dunbar’s parents to their great-granddaughter Margaret Cutright, who pursued the case and ultimately convinced her father and his cousin to take DNA tests in pursuit of the answer to the decades-old question of her grandfather Bobby’s identity.

Although the original broadcast dates are behind us, the episode is available as a free podcast on TAL’s website at www.thislife.org.

Email Robin at rgunnsav@bellsouth.net.


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Robin Wright Gunn

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Connect Today 10.21.2016

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