I moved to Limerick in September 1993, with two new pairs of Penneys’ jeans, some nice tops and not a clue about anything really. I’d never spent any time in Limerick until then and had no affinity for the place.
It took me in, the city that’s a lady. I learned the local lingo, and while I never used the words myself I knew that runners were called “tackies”, that “C’mere I wantcha” was a normal phrase in conversation and that prawn chips from the Lobster Pot were worth getting the bus into “town” for.
I learned about Munster rugby, and knew the words of “There is an isle”.
A few months before my move, a Limerick band called The Cranberries had brought out an album and with my move to Limerick they became the soundtrack to the next few years of my life. They’d been on my radar before, they’d performed at Féile in Thurles that summer and I was there, but with my Limerick connection they became a part of my story too.
Linger was the big hit at the time, we’d scream along when it was played in The Stables on a Thursday, or any night really, inserting rude words with accompanying rude gestures into the chorus, . We’d queue for green buses to bring us into cheap nightclubs for £3 tickets we’d bought from the Students’ Union earlier and bop away in the Indie Room, making the one drink last all night, £10 for the night out, including the disco, and a few cans or a naggin before we went out. Happy, carefree times.
Limerick people had Cranberries stories. Someone’s sister knew them. Someone served them in a pub, or a filling station, or a shop. Someone was at the famous gig in The Belltable that nobody actually went to. Lots of stories, many true.
I remember the furore about her wedding attire well, the proof that the rockstar fame must have gone to her head in that getup. I mean the knee-high boots, the lace and the general see-through-ness of it all. And in Holy Cross Abbey too, a disgrace they said. A rockstar we thought.
But in 1995, when I moved to Paris for an internship aged 18, The Cranberries meant one thing to me, home. They were big in France then, French people knew them, but not like we knew them, and we were keen to make them aware of this.
Being a typical Irish person abroad, all my socialising at the time was done in a tiny Irish pub in the Latin Quarter called The Hideout. When I was there it was run by two brothers from Limerick who every Saturday night without fail would blare the No Need to Argue CD at full blast while everyone roared along, lamenting The Daffodils, screeching “my muddddder….. does anyone cay-ay-air”, celebrating milestone birthdays to “twennnny wun”.
But when the opening bars of Zombie came on the whole place stopped, it was like the national anthem (except everyone knew the words). Fuelled by 20 Franc happy hour pints all the gang from my university (UL) would link arms and channel our homesickness and national pride and belt out lines about tanks and bombs. The French were amused, and possibly confused. We explained the lyrics in broken French, our fluency aided by Amstel or Desperado tequila beer. They were touched by our emotion.
The Cranberries gave us something to cling to on those lonely days, something Irish and local and special. Dolores O’Riordan’s unmistakeable quavering voice meant home. We heard them in New York in our J1 in our Irish bars, and in Australia in our hostel.
We had the DJ play Zombie at our wedding 10 years later, it filled the floor. We heard Zombie in a bar in Peru on our honeymoon. It’s one of those songs that brings me to a time and a place. A carefree time I love to remember, I’m back in the Indie Room, or in The Hideout, with people I’ve mostly lost touch with, living my best life. The Cranberries bring me home.
Thank you Dolores for the memories.
RIP Dolores O’Riordan 1971-2018