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Dan Gebski interviews Matthew McGrath “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” – Plato

DG: Matthew Mcgrath for me is not only a local Hero, musician but he is also an amazing Dad, husband and community worker.  Let me show you a little more about this absolutely fascinating person.Thank you so much Mathew for agreeing to do this interview. I am very honored to have this opportunity to find out more about you and your life journey.

Matthew McGrath
Matthew McGrath

MMg: Thank you Dan, I am very privileged to be asked

DG: I am pretty sure loads of people know who you are and especially people of Rostrevor, but could you tell me about yourself a wee bit more please? About your family and childhood?

MMg: I was born in Rostrevor sixty one years ago, the youngest of a family of five. I have three brothers - Hilary, Pat and Peter, and my sister Irene who sadly passed away a number of years ago. My mum Eileen Cole was born in Rostrevor but my dad Peter was born in Glasgow, Scotland.
I grew up in St. Colman’s Gardens in Rostrevor and it was a great place to be. Great friends. Great neighbours. There was always lots to do - playing football out on our “green”, exploring and playing in the Ghan River which runs alongside the estate and we are so lucky to have the mountains and Lough right on our doorstep.

DG: When I look into what you do in life I can see your passion to music almost your whole life. Can you tell me more about how did it start? And can you tell me more about the record shop you owned years ago in Warrenpoint ? Why a record shop?

MMg: Music was always a big part of my life. I can remember as a young boy having concerts in my Granny Cole’s house in The Square after mass on a Sunday morning.

As a teenager I grew up listening to programmes like ‘Top of the Pops’ and ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’. I went to guitar lessons in our local youth club and as I got older I started to go to sessions in the pubs.

The record shop I opened was in Warrenpoint ‘Off Beat Records’. I had worked in ‘Reeds’ but always wanted to have a record shop. So I took the plunge. I had a great fourteen months in the shop but when you realise that you’re not making enough to pay the bills and live - it was time to close. Do I regret it? Absolutely not! It was always something I wanted to do - I gave it my best shot, so no regrets.

DG:I have met you at first in the Rostrevor Choir and I know for fact you are the man of many talents. Can you tell me why have you decided to join the local Parish Choir?

MMg: : My mum sang in the choir all her life - so my first memory as a small boy was going to the gallery with my mum for Holy Hour. The choir would be singing ‘O Salutaris’ and ‘Tantum Ergo’ and the smell of incense would fill the air so I have been a member of the choir for many years now and still think there is no better place to sing

DG: “Spirit of the village” and “The place I love Best” them two CDs are yours.What kind of music can we expect of them and where can we purchase them?

MMg: ‘Spirit of the Village’ which I brought out 11 years ago is a CD of my own songs. ‘The Place I Love Best’ which came out for a few years ago is a CD of songs from singers and songwriters that I admire. The CDs can be purchased at Good Craic Gifts in Rostrevor or by emailing me directly at claremcgrath68@yahoo.co.uk

DG: I have done a wee bit of research and find out that you are the nature lover. Why is this you spend of your free time to walk and explore the what is around us?

MMg: I have always had a love of my natural surroundings. I feel very strongly about our local environment and I worked for 15 years at the Kilbroney Conservation Centre in Rostrevor. There we worked with Primary School children doing environmental and cultural heritage programmes.

DG: If the village Rostrevor was not on the Earth today what place would you choose to live and why?

MMg: That would have to be Glencolmcille in County Donegal. I love its ruggedness and wildness.

DG: Could you tell me more about the project FRONT ROOM please? How did it start and when?

MMg: Songs from the front room has been going now for twenty eight weeks (Wed 25 November will be the 29th). Because there was no live sessions due to the Coronavirus pandemic I decided to go out live every Wednesday from 8:30pm on my Facebook page. It’s a great way to keep in touch with not only local people but with the many visitors who come every year to Rostrevor and who couldn’t get over this year. I’m enjoying singing songs old and new and it’s great to be joined some nights by Clare, my wife, by Catherine and Mary, two of my daughters and by James, one of my sons who made his “front room” debut a few weeks ago. I’m enjoying the craic every Wednesday so I’m hoping to keep ‘songs from the front room’ going for the foreseeable future.

DG: Mathew I wish you all the very best to you and your family and thank you for the time to taking part in my project from zero to hero.

MMg: Thank you Dan, it’s been great to chat.

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