A Question of Taste: Richard T Cooke

A Question of Taste: Richard T Cooke
Richard T Cooke, Cork historian involved in this week’s Mother Jones Festvial.

Richard T Cooke is involved in organising the Music at the Maldron free gigs by Jimmy Crowley and others as part of the Mother Jones Festival in Cork, until Sunday. 

The event pays tribute to the 19th century human rights campaigner who was born in the Shandon area of Cork before emigrating to the US. Heavily involved in Cork history, Cooke was born in the Mardyke are of the city, and grew up in the North Mall.

Best recent book you’ve read:

The Much-maligned Mary Pike by Dr Kieran Groeger.

Best recent gig you’ve seen:

William Hammond’s Music Birthday Party Bash in An Spailpin Fanach – it was an Oscar night of entertainment. A selection of Cork’s wonderful musicians and singers entertained the jam packed crowd.

Best piece of music you’ve been listening to lately (new or old):

The soundtrack to West Side Story

First ever piece of music or film that really moved you:

The Quiet Man - each time I watch that film it reminds me of my Mam and Dad and of a time in my life when the pace of life was more tranquil than it is today.

Tell us about your TV viewing:

I regularly tune into the National Geographic channel. I especially like David Attenborough — he’s so passionate and captivating. Also the BBC’s Sky at Night and the documentaries on TG4, current affairs programmes and our local channel, Cork Community TV.

Your best celebrity encounter:

I’ve met two famous people with the surname Williams. The guitarist, John Williams who played ‘Cavatina’ in The Deer Hunter — what a gentleman. Also, the American composer, singer, and actor, Paul Williams. He wrote and co-wrote popular songs performed by stars including David Bowie and the Carpenters as well as Barbra Striesand who sung ‘Evergreen’ – the love song he penned which was the theme tune to the film: A Star Is Born. I met him after his spectacular private performance at an IMRO gathering in Dublin.

You can portal back to any period of human cultural history or music event — where, when, and why?

I was involved with the Cork Shakespearean Company many years ago with Pierce Gunn and I fell in love with the 16th and 17th century genre. Many a time I imagined myself on stage at the Globe Theatre in London in front of William Shakespeare and I can hear myself reciting his immortal Soliloquy: ‘To be, or not to be…’

You are curating your dream festival — which three artists are on the bill (living or dead)?

The Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys.

Do you have any interesting family or ancestors?

My grandmother’s brother on my father’s side was a member of the Cork Working Men’s Prize Band who entertained King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra at the Cork International Exhibition in 1902 in the Mardyke.

My grandmother’s sister was a teacher in India and Malta in the early years of the 19th century. I remember her house like an Aladdin’s cave full of antiques brought back from her travels. One in particular captured my imagination. It was lion’s head rug skin that was spread out in front of the open fire in her front room. I remember as a very young boy being in awe of this beautiful creature and horrified and very sad when I discovered as I grew older what have befallen him.

My uncle, Tommy Cooke, was an accomplished musician – he was teaching right up into his 80s. He was a member of the Barrack Street Band and Butter Exchange Band.

Unsung heroes:

The local voluntary groups here in Cork. I can’t name one in particular — because they are all doing wonderful work in the community.

You are king for a day — what’s your first decree?

I’d give everybody in the land a day off to enjoy a holiday and a voucher for a 99 cone and sprinkles and Leo can pick up the tab.

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