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My Monaghan: singer Rachel Mae Hannon

My Monaghan: singer Rachel Mae Hannon

by Rachel Mae Hannon
22nd Jul 2022

Singer Rachel Mae Hannon on what makes a Monaghan person, why pubs are better than clubs and what it was like supporting HAIM at their Dublin gig last month.

Home is … Killyvane, just outside Monaghan town. They say home is where the heart is – which I agree with – but home for me is also where you can make as many cups of tea as you want, take your shoes off when you feel like it, talk nonsense with your family, meet long term friends for walks, sing as loud as you can in the shower, and where you can write music in peace.

Where was your first home outside of your childhood home?
My first home outside of my childhood home was student accommodation in UCD. I remember I was at the debs the night before my big move to Dublin, which did not help the nerves! I went to college without any of my close friends from school which I found so daunting at the time. But I can safely say that in this first year of living in Dublin, I made friends for life. 

What was your first job?
My first job was as a face painter when I was in 3rd year of secondary school! After this, I worked in a newsagents in Monaghan called McConnon’s, then I worked in Roberto’s Coffee Shop, and more recently at the start of college, I was a piano teacher. 

What’s your first/favourite memory in Monaghan? 
One of my first and favourite memories of being in Monaghan is walking around Rossmore Park with my family. Even though I was that child that wanted to be carried absolutely everywhere, we used to have so much fun there – rolling down hills, having races (I never won), climbing trees, skimming stones, seeing calves being born and just generally exploring. 

Where do you go to let your hair down?
In Monaghan, there are different bars where you can go out and have a pint and chats which I love doing when I go home. If I’m going for a pint with my family, we would usually go to Terry’s Bar. For gigs it is usually McKenna’s bar, and if I am going for a cocktail with a friend, I would go to the DV lounge. There is one nightclub in Monaghan town called Spy which I usually go to at Christmas time when I am home. The best thing about only having one club is that you know absolutely everyone will be there (some people think this is the worst thing about it!)

But besides going out and drinking, there are other places I go to let my hair down. The cinema, to one of the many coffee shops, for a walk around one of the local lakes. My favourite place of all is my piano room in my family home. This is where I can truly let my hair down, play piano, sing and write comfortably. 

If you could buy any building in Monaghan, which would it be?
There are two buildings I would buy – Aviemore house in Monaghan town or Castle Leslie in Glaslough. Aviemore has a Victorian architecture feel to it that I love, it has a prominent hillside position with lights shining on it which I always admire when I drive past.

I would also love to buy Castle Leslie, because who wouldn’t want to own a castle? It’s steeped in history and it’s also where one of the Beatles  got married (Paul McCartney and Heather Mills).

Where would you recommend for a first date?
For a late night coffee, I would recommend Fro & Co. Their iced coffees are amazing! For dinner, I would recommend a nice Indian restaurant like Eastern Balti. If you’re from Monaghan, you will know how lovely the staff are and how amazing the authentic Indian food is.  Their friendliness would put any nervous first date couple at ease! And, their onion Bhajis are honestly out of this world.

What’s your favourite hotel in Monaghan?
It’s strange to think about hotels in your own county, because as a local, I never really stay there seeing as I live so close… but I’ve had a lot of connections down through the years with The Westenra Arms Hotel. Their carvery and dinner menus are great (yes I am still talking about food), it is the hotel where Spy Nightclub is located AND during lockdown, they created an amazing outdoor area where people listen to musicians playing live and have a drink. 

What are your favourite local shops?

There is a shop called The Local which is an organic grocery store. It reduces the use of plastic, so you can bring in your own containers, jam jars etc. and they refill these with whatever you need – be it washing up liquid, bread, seeds, chocolate, you name it!

I also love shopping for homeware bits and I would either go to Graham’s or Jono’s. Jono’s is a lovely gift shop – on Christmas Eve it’s always filled to the brim with people getting last minute gifts (not me of course… I’ve only heard that through the grapevine).

My good friend Eimile McKenna has also recently opened a jewellery shop in Monaghan town. It’s called Emerly and the jewellery is absolutely gorgeous (and that is not me being biased!). If you’re ever looking for birthday or Christmas gifts, planning to propose, or simply want a treat for yourself, Emerly is your place to go! Myself and Eimile grew up together, and from a young age, I knew she was born to have her own business. I’m so proud of her and wish her all the success – she so deserves it!

What makes someone a Monaghan person?
Monaghan people are often sarcastic; suspicious of the unknown from growing up on the border and the history that comes with that. But they’re also definitely creative, entrepreneurial, resilient, and underrated.

Who is the most iconic Monaghan person?
Of course this is subjective, but for me it is Lady Mary Bailey. She was awarded her pilot’s licence in 1927, she was the first woman to fly across the Irish Sea. Not only that, but she made an epic solo flight from Croydon to Cape Town and back when she was 38 and had 5 children. Supposedly, she saw this act as a gesture of female independence which I respect so much. She was so ahead of her time!

Best thing a taxi driver has ever said to you?
My Dad is a retired Garda and current taxi man. He and the rest of our family are very interested in space, so Dad called his taxi business Apollo Cabs. I think the best thing he has ever said to me in the taxi is “Rachel, I’ve driven to the moon. The car’s mileage is at 384,400 km. That’s exactly the distance from here to the moon. So I’ll have to drive back.” (I think he’s still on the way home). 

Ever had a run-in with a Garda?
*Dad and Mum disclaimer* do not read the following!

Only joking, it’s not that bad. I did have one encounter with a group of friends on St Patrick’s Day when I was a teenager. My friends and I discovered the meaning of drinking in a park. But it all ended in cordial terms. Those were NOT the days! 

Favourite pub?
My favourite pub in Monaghan is probably Terry’s. I’m more of a pub and chat person than a clubber, and this is the perfect spot to do just that. 

Favourite coffee shop?

There are so many! But if I had to narrow it down I would say Roberto’s Coffee shop or the Cottontail Cafe. 

What’s your favourite Irish work of art?
Abstract Composition in gouache by Mainie Jellett. She is known as “the woman who brought modern art to Ireland.”

Who’s your Irish hero?
I’m going to go with a modern one and say Hozier. When I first heard his voice back in 2013, I was so proud to hear he was Irish. Also, I think it’s so amazing that he completely recorded his whole first album in his attic in Wicklow. As a musician who does a lot of bedroom recording and producing myself, I find this so admirable. 

Podcast you are currently obsessed with?

I’ve just started the I’m Grand Mam podcast and I am officially obsessed!

Last thing you Googled?
Flights to London to visit my friend Ailbhe in August!

Favourite beauty spot – hairdresser / nail salon, etc – in Monaghan?
Fascination for nails and Chic Hair Salon for hair! 

Favourite way to spend a day in Monaghan?
Kayaking on a lake in the middle of nowhere with family, seeing my granny and cousins, or hanging out with friends! 

Best meal you’ve had in Monaghan?
Potato skins to start, vegetarian curry for main (which includes spiced lentils, Bombay potatoes, creamy spicy veggie curry with naan, rice and poppadoms) and a cheese board with a cocktail for dessert (all from The Batch Loaf in Monaghan town).

What’s your Monaghan secret?
I think it would have to be the decking on our back hill. My Dad and brothers built it over lockdown. I used it to shoot a music video, and the sunset view from it is like nowhere else. 

What’s the best club in Ireland you have ever been to?
Tough to say when I am not much of a clubber, but does Whelan’s or Workman’s count? I feel like musically I’ve discovered the most acts here and in turn had plenty of great nights in those venues. 

What’s the most exciting Irish plan you have this summer?

This summer has been so exciting musically. I recently supported HAIM at the Trinity Summer Series. I’ve played different festivals like Sea Sessions, Kaleidoscope and will be playing others like Indiependence. For me, that’s SO exciting. 

What are you up to with work at the moment?
In terms of music, I have new music coming out VERY soon, and I am always thinking about the next music video to go with this. My day job is working in TV Production which I absolutely love. I have amazing work colleagues who are so supportive of my music career which is more than I could have ever asked for!