Eamonn McCann - What price a smile, Northern Bank?

Maebh Kinsella from Letterkenny, who's made a lot of friends busking in Derry in the past couple of years, pictured here with her late grandmother Kathleen McGinley from Raphoe, another fiddler.
Maebh Kinsella from Letterkenny, who's made a lot of friends busking in Derry in the past couple of years, pictured here with her late grandmother Kathleen McGinley from Raphoe, another fiddler.

You’d think after all that’s happened the banks would be well used to fiddling, but apparently not.

Top busker Maebh Kinsella was at her spot adjacent to the Northern Bank beside Guildhall Square one day last week coaxing a sprightly hornpipe from her venerable violin when a council officer approached, somewhat embarrassed, and told her she’d have to move. Nothing to do with the council, he stressed. But management at the bank had complained that she was trespassing.

And there was you and me thinking that the pedestrianised space to the front of the bank was public property. But it seems that the Northern owns the strip of pavement Maebh was standing on, and they weren’t going to stand for her treating their customers to free tunes.

Maebh has shifted along a couple of hundred yards and now dances her fingers on the fretboard outside SuperValu, where there’s a tad too much criss-cross and hustle for perfect busking conditions.

No big deal, it might be thought. And indeed, in the great scheme of things, even as classy a busker as Maebh being forced off her pitch doesn’t qualify as a full-blown scandal. But it does prompt me to wonder, not for the first time, what sort of dark notions swirl in the minds of the bankers these days.

If I were running any sort of commercial operation in a building as sombre as the city centre branch of the Northern, I’d welcome a cheerful musical presence outside, to light up a smile on customers’ faces at a time when there’s so little happening inside to lift their gloom. I suppose bankers by their nature are melancholy creatures. And we have to keep in mind that the Northern is now owned by the Danish group, Danske. Renowned as a morose and doomy lot, the Danes. Epitomised by the desperate depression that young fellow Hamlet couldn’t get himself out of.

But wouldn’t Yeats rather than Shakespeare be the more suitable balladeer for ourselves, in the times and place that are in it?

“The good are always the merry,

Save by an evil chance,

And the merry love to fiddle

And the merry love to dance.”

Give Maebh back her busking spot, say I!