Proving that old-ish dogs can learn new tricks – and learn them well – it took Ray Cranley 60 years to work up the courage to paint.
The man had always been tempted, and knew exactly what he wanted to paint, but…
Well, like most people, the young Ray Cranley had a fear of failure. It was a fear that noted Bray arts teacher Niamh Harding Millar soon exorcised though. And how.
Today, Ray’s painting of his childhood patch of Windgates and the surrounding towns and villages, cottages and hideaways, have winged their way all around the world. Ex-Pats and Ex-Marys can’t quite get enough of Ray’s takeon the landmarks of their childhoods.
“I can only really paint what I love,” says Ray when we met up at his weekly Sunday exhibition in Enniskerry. “And once I’ve painted that moment, that place, that landmark, I have to move on to something new. Each painting is a one-off, and even though it can take me a long time to be happy with a painting, once it’s done, I just can’t wait until I can start the next one.
“It’s part of my everyday now…”
Not that Ray Cranley wasn’t keeping himself busy before he finally took up the brushes. From an early age, music was his other passion, singing on McFadden’s Road Show every summer on Bray seafront – a tradition he started way back in 1963. Jump to 1972, and winning a talent contest in The Beach House with two of his own compositions got Ray on RTE’s The Anna McGoldrick Show, and a regular spot at The International Hotel in Bray. And Sunday nights in the Molly Malones (for 12 years!), and Saturday nights in The Orchard Inn (for 7 years).
“I just loved playing live,” nods Ray. “And I still do. I’ve played at the Bray Old Folks for 48 years now, for their Wednesday night get-togethers, and when this Covid nonsense is all over, I’ll be there again. It’s a lot of covers, but bringing my own songs into the set is important too…”
Indeed. With A Christmas As Lovely As Yourself doing the rounds every December for the last four years, the other newbie on Ray’s setlist is something of a My Generation for his own particular generation – the charmingly-titled Too Busy For Bullshit (The OAP Song). “I’m not expecting too much airplay with that one,” chuckles Ray, “but it goes down well live. Especially in old folks homes…”
As you might have guessed, there’s a lot of ground to cover with someone like Ray Cranley. Such as his books, Chip Chop Cherry(about growing up in the 1950s here) and Wicklow Gold (a ‘faction’ novel); his 1980s recordings with Johnny McEvoy’s guitarist, Philip O’Duffy, and the fact that his family goes back seven generations in Windgates – and includes the legendaryTom ‘The Horn’ Byrne.
So, we swung up to his weekly Sunday exhibition at the Powerscourt Parochial Hall in Enniskerry (just on the other side of the clock tower, beside Poppies) to get the lowdown from the man himself…
You can catch Ray every Sunday up in Enniskerry, find out more about his work right about here, view his current exhibition (photographed by John McGowan and Gerry Kelly) here, and get in touch with the man himself here. And when you’re finished all that, check out Greystones On Canvas here.
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