“Some might say, we will find a brighter day” – (Some Might Say)* all quotes on this post are from Oasis and this post is dedicated to Colin Walker and Keith Freel.
August 1996. Rock’n’roll. I was only 16 years old. I was still officially a student at Bangor Grammar School, having just finished “fifth form”, which is your first chance to leave school forever regardless of whether you do well in your O Levels / GCSEs or not. As well as being a huge Northern Ireland football fan at the time, I was also into the craze that was “Britpop”, British Popular music and Oasis were my favourite band. Along with the likes of Pulp, Blur, Ash, The Bluetones and Manic Street Preachers. Fast forward to 2016, and Oasis, by a huge margin are still my favourite band.
“Here am I, going nowhere on a train” – Going Nowhere.
“I know the roads on which your life will drive” – Roll With It.
My parents bought me a CD player for my 16th birthday and I owned every Oasis single, every Oasis album and a fair amount of books, magazines, posters, tapes and other band merchandise. While they played in Dublin in late 1995 and March 1996, I wasn’t at either concert. In those days the band refused to return to Northern Ireland. Indeed they played in The Limelight in Belfast in 1994 around the time of the Definitely Maybe release, but Northern Irish fans would have to wait until 2002 until the band returned to our wee country. This meant to see Oasis in 1996, I’d have to go down to the Republic of Ireland. I had been to Dublin a fair few times before and we expected a Dublin gig to be announced for Summer 1996. Myself and Colin Walker (classmate and football team mate at 10th Bangor Boys Brigade) were “mad into Oasis” at the time. We talked about going to the next Dublin gig…then Cork was announced as the next gig in Ireland for the band.
“There we were, now here we are” – Columbia.
The naive part of me expected that it would sell out and be hard to get tickets. But there were two dates announced, Wednesday 14th August and Thursday 15th August 1996. It was to be held in a large Gaelic Football or Hurling stadium in Cork, a city that I had never been to before. It all seemed a bit daunting and alien to me as a shy 16 year old from Northern Ireland.
“You need to be yourself, you can’t be no-one else” – Supersonic.
In those days with no internet, no mobile phones, no Facebook, it was quicker to call at Colin’s house or phone his house phone. Then Colin calls one day to tell me that the Flagship Centre in Bangor were selling tickets at MTM (More Than Music) and that him and Keith had found out by chance and got their tickets! They expected big queues and went down there early, but…it didn’t sell out and they got the tickets easily. The same day, my Dad had called my Mum from work to say that a shop (Golden Discs on Donegall Place) were selling them for £22.50. Get me one please Dad! Dad brought me home a ticket for Oasis. It was like Willy Wonka and the chocolate factory! Three of us were going to see Oasis, in their prime, down in Cork!
“Be my magic carpet ride, fly me down till capital city in the sun” – Be Here Now.
The gig was amazing, it blew me away as a 16 year old, it was one of the best nights of my life. We had a crazy journey Colin, Keith and I. It was just unforgettable and I actually wrote about it on this blog before – Oasis live in Cork.
“Until you’ve repaid the dreams you bought with your lies, you’ll be castaway, alone under stormy skies” – Where Did It All Go Wrong?
After that gig, I saw Oasis live a further twelve times (twice in Belfast, once in Prehen, four more times in Dublin, twice in London, once in Bournemouth, once in Southampton and once in Milton Keynes) plus a Noel Gallagher gig in 2012 in Hong Kong (which was fucking rocking!!).
“All of the stars have faded away. Try not to worry, you’ll see them someday” – Stop Crying Your Heart Out.
Life passed us by though. Keith and Colin and I went separate ways. They both got married and had kids. I met Colin again only once after leaving Northern Ireland, that was a school reunion in 2011 (which I organised). I see Keith a bit more often at Northern Ireland football matches, but then…in June 2016 by total chance I ended up back in Cork!!
“It’s good to be back, hello, hello” – Hello.
“My soul slides away but don’t look back in anger I heard you say” – Don’t Look Back In Anger.
“Into my big mouth you could fly a plane. I’ll put on my shoes while they’re walking slowly down the hall of fame” – My Big Mouth.
I was back in Cork for the first time in 20 years, yes the first time since that crazy and inspiring Oasis gig at Pairc Ui Chaoimh! The reason I ended up in Cork was a long one to explain. But a lot of things worked out on the journey I was about to make. Firstly, Northern Ireland qualified for Euro 2016 and after a 5 month stint in Central Asia (mostly Kyrgyzstan) I was back in Northern Ireland for a home match v. Belarus, to print our NI football fanzine (Here We Go…Again) and to see family before heading to the Euros in France. My friends and family had all already booked their flights into France/Italy etc. except for me. When I checked the prices, there was a cosy little Cork – Bergamo option for about £30 on Ryanair. It screamed to be booked as my brother and Dad were arriving in Bergamo from Dublin or Belfast the same day. I booked it, and so I knew I was going back to Cork. Other incredible things would fall into place…
“Slowly walking down the hall, faster than a cannonball. Where were you while we were getting high?” – Champagne Supernova.
I had longed to revisit Cork again as well as kissing the Blarney Stone finally, aged 36. I wanted to kiss the stone before the tournament for good luck on two fronts – I was in love with a girl (the one for me now surely I thought) and felt it good luck to kiss it and for my next kiss to be with her (yes it was), and also to bring luck to Northern Ireland at the Euros (yes it did).
“Sister psychosis don’t got a lot to say” – Go Let It Out.
A travel company, Irish Day Tours sponsored my trip from Dublin to Cork including a tour of Cork City, Cashel and the Blarney Stone and I had three nights in a Cork hostel – Kinlay House to review. This worked out superbly, perfectly in fact. I really enjoyed that and felt a little warmth again in the Republic of Ireland.
“Damn my education, I can’t find the words to say for all the things caught in my mind” – Don’t Go Away.
I had always been a bit harsh on the Republic of Ireland as a tourist and blogger, always siding with Northern Ireland over it (and I always will) but the Republic of Ireland is great too and I am not kidding. Having a Guinness in the bars of Dublin, bussing through remote countryside, the hills of Donegal, the city buzz in Cork. This was a top time to be alive for me. I was really in a good frame of mind. Yes, I had split with long term love Panny Yu in the previous year (2015), but I was starting afresh and looking for the next base in my life. Cork, second time around seemed to breathe life into me. I loved it. I also met up with Pol, my mate who pub crawled with me in New Zealand all those years ago. Pol and I did a brilliant pub crawl in Cork. The morning after, was the time for this sentimental trip…
“Let me be the one that shines with you and we can slide away…” – Slide Away.
“I took a walk with my fame down memory lane. I never did find my way back” – Hey Now!
So I messaged Colin’s wife Donna, and Keith on Facebook and told them I was in Cork about to do our Oasis pilgrimage 20 years on. I felt so much older. But I knew my way here. I started off as we had done in Cork that day. I stood on the corner opposite Jury’s Inn / Hotel where Colin’s parents had dropped us off on the day of the concert.
I made five videos of this sentimental trip. From Jury’s Inn, I used only a printed map to try and walk the same path that we walked to the huge Pairc Ui Chaiomh. Along the way, my memory had so many flashbacks.
“Livin’ on my own was like a flashback to the days when I was lost and lonely” – Flashbax.
From Jury’s Inn, I walked through streets that mostly had no housing, some trees, some industrial zones and finally I ended up a a place with a Marquee – for concerts. But this wasn’t the stadium where Oasis played. Here are some photos from the first part of my sentimental walk…
“Give me just a smile and would you make it snappy” – The Girl In The Dirty Shirt.
Just after that red car, I reached a turning and suddenly I was here, at the entrance to the stadium. Pairc Ui Chaoimh. I felt really old, life had aged me exactly twenty years. There was an odd feeling here. I envisaged my 16 year old self jumping up and down behind the fence in front of me to “Roll With It”…
“Kiss the girl; she’s not behind the door” – Roll With It.
However the GAA had signs up saying that there was No access to Pairc Ui Chaoimh. After the long walk, I couldn’t get in. Nobody was around, and I didn’t want to climb over the fence aged 36, for what reason. This was it. I was content with my journey. I had done it. I had returned 20 years on to where Oasis played. Where Colin, Keith and I went nuts…to the Bootleg Beatles, then to The Prodigy (“I’m a Firestarter”) and finally to the immensity of Oasis.
“All the roads we have to walk are winding” – Wonderwall.
Now that I couldn’t get inside, and it was a drab, grey day with a touch of a hangover, I thought it would be great to rewalk the walk back to Cork City Centre, grab a beer and bite for lunch in a decent local pub (and Cork has many).
“What a life it would be if you’d come to mine for tea” – Digsy’s Dinner.
I had a pint of Beamish and a baked potato in the Larry Tomkins Pub in Cork City, feeling sentimental, somewhat satisfied and just twenty years older.
“I’m not cracking up, I’m just getting older” – Getting Older.
And so that was it. My 20 year journey was over. In the intervening years I had contributed to an Irish newspaper article on Oasis and of course, started this site which is as much a travel blog as it is a travel tips guide as it is a selfish personal account of my journeys. August 1996 was a fantastic time in life and it was emotional reliving it in June 2016. To Oasis, thank you for that. Thank you for that incredible time in Cork in 1996. I am glad I went back 20 years on. It will probably be another 20 years before I am back again. The scary thing is, I will be 56 then.
“Hey stay young and invincible cos we know just what we are” – Stay Young.
Here are the videos from my sentimental trip back to Pairc Ui Chaiomh:
Some rare footage of that concert Oasis live in Cork in August 1996: