Musician of the Month – Rhob Cunningham | Cassandra Voices

Musician of the Month – Rhob Cunningham


The other morning I was cutting through Dublin on the way to the national bus station.

Having moved away from a cheap place in Vienna, home for nearly 2 years, a friend has offered a place to shelter, a cottage under generous Glangevlin skies, north-east of Cavan.

The journey from Dublin involves a coach up north, in to Enniskillen, before a bus back south to Blacklion through borderless Belcoo. It’s a three-hour walk thereafter. Hitchhiking optional.

You’ve got to set off from Blacklion by 2pm this time of year, boy-racers make it risky in the dark.

The daylit strolls, though, are really something to behold.

Having recently trekked for seven hours to play a gig atop a Swiss Alp – walking for six of those hours barefoot because my boots were haunted – I can safely say Cavan’s undulating hills, serpentine roads and shimmering lakes, equal the barren majesty of any European peak.

Lordy! Such burgeoning beauty.

Shoes or not.

I hadn’t bothered looking at the Dublin-to-Enniskillen timetable, coaches depart every couple of hours; so, when I came across a fellow, curled up in the sun of Winetavern Street, just before the river, I had time to lean over and ask was he okay.

A disheveled chap, Marti, was from Poland. He’d been in Ireland thirteen years, longest sober period in that time was a three-year run. He was an alcoholic and had stolen two bottles of wine this morning, leaving him mostly foetal. 

A sister in Poland, his loving mother had passed away in 2001,
at 8 years young his father had stepped from a height, taking his own life;
his son, here, now, recounting the man’s insides splayed before him. 
My mind went back to a year ago. An intelligent and dear friend with schizophrenic tendencies, showing symptoms, had been taken by his brother to be admitted. The doctors assessed him and sent him home. Within twenty-four hours his illness paved a similar end to that of Marti’s father.
My cheeks flushed red, guilty for new gratitude at having not been below.

Marti spoke of his alcoholism, an equally misunderstood affliction. We agreed nobody sees it here. When pressed, he told me his options: first, go to Dublin’s Simon Community; with further help at High Park Treatment Centre.

He mentioned a dream of visiting Australia. I told him me too. They have different stars there, ones we don’t see. They like some stars so much, they put the pattern on their flag.

Being in the heap that he was, I had called an ambulance. It wasn’t until after the phone call, when sitting him up, he peeled a sticker from his hand. The kind you get in hospitals when you’ve been on a drip.

I asked him about how he got sober that last time, that three-year stretch. He didn’t answer. Instead, he told me how, one day, long sober, he was on a bus to leave and visit his sister. He had the ticket and it was fifteen minutes to wait and, in those fifteen minutes, he felt compelled to find a drink.
So he went to the shop and robbed some,
hasn’t been out of trouble since.

As the ambulance arrived, we wished each other well. 
I travelled the day and wrote a song. I will sing it in Australia and think of Marti.


For The Depot


I met you of a morning
The sun upon Winetavern
Dead or sleeping,
looking pretty worse for wear

 The only person passing
And partial to persuasion
You pined for help,
I called it in, faked a chair

 You’d been this bold a fair while
And fared worse than this morning
You told me of
a coach that should have stretched you home 

A battle raged internal
To fast or swipe a bottle
You wiped your face,
confessed to two you took today 

With evidence rising,
efforts change.  

The red that stained your clothing
For blood, I had mistaken
Spying your hands
you’d think mine never worked a day 

Your mother, she’d adored you
Father died before you
He took his life
when you were just a kiddo 

So help communes at Simon’s
And High Park if they’ll have you
You wished me well,
left me for the depot 

With evidence rising,
efforts change.

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