Lockdown has been hard on all of us. There's the sitting around, the working from home, the trying to do press ups for the first time in about a decade...Oh, and the lack of pubs. The lack of pubs has meant a lack of trad for plenty of people wanting to get their diddly-eye fix: my Mam, for example, spent a whole Sunday afternoon chatting to her brother in the Facebook live stream chat while an old fella played Christy Moore songs in his conservatory in Belfast, for which we're putting her forwards to win Irish Mammy Boomer Moment of the Year 2020.
For one Donegal man, however, the lockdown presented him an opportunity to turn his musical skills into a charity fundraising campaign - which has led to him being named as one of the COVID-19 heroes of his adopted hometown. Declan Houton, originally from Malin but now twenty years in Boston, has raised over €27,000 for children's cancer charities by turning his regular Sunday sessions into a live stream, recreating the feel of an Irish pub in his basement, complete with whiskey and a New England Patriots football named Wilson after Tom Hanks' mate in Castaway.
Houton is the lead singer of Devri, an established band on the Irish circuit in both Boston and Donegal, and already an expert in raising funds for Lucy's Love Bus, a children's cancer charity in Massachusetts. "I made a promise to myself that I'd raise at least $10,000 each year for them," he told Boston Magazine when they named him as one of their 2020 Best of Boston. Suffice to say, he's well exceeded that goal this year.
Initially, Houton aimed to raise the money through a charity booze cruise, but when COVID banjaxed that, he had to improvise. Soon, his live streams were getting as many as 5,000 views at a time, and he ended up playing in his makeshift Irish pub for 15 Sundays in a row. Things didn't always go to plan ."I think one Sunday I started off with the camera going the wrong way," he told Boston Magazine but word of mouth spread and spread.
On air, he encouraged viewers to donate blood to a local children's hospital and to buy merchandise with proceeds going to charity. He even got local Irish businesses to sponsor the t-shirts and hoodies, with a huge range of diaspora businesses donating to the cause - if you're thinking pubs, police pipe and drums bands and construction companies, you'd be absolutely correct, because as a nation, we are never off brand.
So congrats to Declan Houton, hero of Boston, the man from Donegal who gave his all and kept his audience in thrall while we all sat on our holes. Hey, that's the start of his next song. Declan my good man, you can have it for free for all your good charity work.
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