My good friends at The Beehive Cafe in Riverstown, Sligo, Ireland

John in action at The Beehive ©gavinfreeborn

John in action at The Beehive ©gavinfreeborn

On the 14th of January 2013 I wrote a long and detailed blog post all about my friendship with the Tenacious JHCG (John Henry Coe Graham). I explained a little of how our lives have unfolded since we studied together at Greenmount Agriculture College in Northern Ireland, now part of Cafre (College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise) from 1996-1999 (last century!).

The Beehive ©gavinfreeborn

John serves me my first delicious coffee with handmade chocolate brownie at The Beehive ©gavinfreeborn

John went on to work as an agricultural policy advisor in Dublin, whilst managing farming in Sligo at the same time. He found the woman of his dreams Brid McNulty on a night out in Dublin. They bought a beautiful Sligo farm and house, married where Brid studied Trinity College Dublin and John had her picked up from the hotel for the wedding in an gigantic brand new Claas Tractor (which I had the honour of photographing!). They had their beautiful baby Judith and opened a fantastic new cafe called The Beehive, in Sligo Folk Park.

The Beehive Cappuccino  ©gavinfreeborn

The Beehive Cappuccino ©gavinfreeborn

Me photographing The Beehive © John Graham

                                  Me photographing The Beehive © John Graham

It was fantastic to see my old friend and we had a good laugh explaining to his local customers how we knew each other. It was hard for folk to believe that I, the gentleman photographer swinging the Canon 7D camera, dressed in tweed jacket & silk cravat, once studied agriculture with John almost 20 years ago! Two of John’s lovely customers Margaret and John, who farm sheep, suckler cows and the beautiful Connemara ponies in the Sligo mountains even posed for a quick portrait.

Sligo Farmers Margaret Finan & John Duignan at The Beehive ©gavinfreeborn

Sligo Farmers Margaret Finan & John Duignan at The Beehive ©gavinfreeborn

John was in full flow as gracious host deftly moving from kitchen to front of house, hand making fresh scones and all sorts of delicious delights which I was lucky enough to taste test. The chocolate brownie is some of the best I’ve tasted on my travels as are the scones. Both have been created and baked to perfection resulting in a crunchy bite, followed by a soft centre of utter succulence!

The Beehive Handmade Chocolate Brownies ©gavinfreeborn

The Beehive Handmade Chocolate Brownies ©gavinfreeborn

The Beehive handmade scones ©gavinfreeborn

The Beehive Handmade Scones ©gavinfreeborn

Their macaroons and christmas mince pies look so enticing too…

The Beehive Macaroons ©gavinfreeborn

The Beehive Macaroons ©gavinfreeborn

The Beehive Christmas Mince Pies ©gavinfreeborn

The Beehive Christmas Mince Pies ©gavinfreeborn

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A nod to my good friend Tenacious JHCG

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Tenacious JHCG

John Henry Coe Graham, tenacious indeed!

Memoires from recent time spent visiting an old college friend in the Irish countryside.

So, John and I first knew each other when we were in class together at Greenmount College studying Agricultural Technology, John was “Dairy mad” and I was “heading towards the ancillary industries of agriculture e.g. the supermarket business”. At that stage John and I clashed in persona and we didn’t really see eye-to-eye.

After three years on that course together with a “sandwich year” on work placement in the middle (where we worked in our chosen industries not just ate sandwiches) John and I went our separate ways. John went on to farm full-time and work for the IFA (Irish Farmers Association)…at one stage he was doing both full-time jobs in two different ends of the country!

England called me to my top-up degree in Marketing, a brief appearance on the English national TV appearance on Channel 4’s Faking It show learning to be a Hairdresser, assistant managing an Irish bar in London’s West End, working in sales and marketing in the English Lake District, marketing, communications and cultural project management for Leeds Metropolitan University, managing music festival arenas such as Leeds and Latitude Festivals, lecturing a little in marketing and developing a passion and career as a Photographer, most recently whilst making this blog.

John happened to come from a few miles from my Granny in the scenic western county of Sligo. I can’t remember who got in touch with who a few years after we left college but I was invited to visit and stay with John and his family for a night after Christmas around 2002. Lo and behold…we actually got on very well as friends! Maybe outside a college class situation we were calmer, maybe the scenic vistas of Sligo made us feel more relaxed around each other, maybe it was the foot deep snow that Christmas…or just more likely we’d grown up a little after a few years in the big wide world as proper functioning adults.

Since then John and I have kept in touch via phone, text, email, Facebook and most recently Instagram. I had been waiting to visit him and catch up on this my most recent trip to Ireland but since I was heavily involved in helping my parents with renovations at my original family home on the farm in Donegal, I hadn’t much time to spare. Finally I got to go on my “staycation” to Sligo, heart and mind full of excitement to see my old mate. It had been a few years due to me being out of Europe recently and John being away for a few Christmases. I had heard the tremendous news of his engagement and I was delighted to hear that his fiancee had recently moved down to the farm in Sligo carving herself out a rural career in teaching, business consultancy and farming.

That Thursday evening our time began with John’s homemade creation (in between all the farming duties….TENACIOUS AS EVER) of beautiful roast salmon dinner and a glass of vino but only after meeting his fine lady who no more than myself would “talk the hind leg of a donkey!” (Miss McNulty has roots in Donegal very near me so like me, has the “Donegal non stop talking gene”).

Then on to a fun night of great “ceol agus craic” (singing and good times in Gaelic) watching and dancing to one of John’s old school friends Sharon Conway and her band Ruby Ridge in Hargodans Pub, Sligo…both stunningly beautiful and Ireland’s finest…Sharon and Hargodans that is! The household even returned home with a free CD as a prize for the best dancing.

Friday was spent out on the farm with John which I very much enjoyed. Farming for me is fine recreationally…as long as I don’t have to do it for any length of time…I love the countryside and have a love of the land but to be a full time farmer really is relentless hard work. People often complain about farmers but do they realise how hard farmers actually work to produce the food that we all need to survive?!

After a great staycation and technically John taking part in The Freeborn Travelling Portrait Project I bid them adieu and John’s advice for my career and future is “You were born to make people happy…that’s your talent!” and “You have a natural ability for opening people up and getting them to communicate freely”.

Although work isn’t particularly easy to come by in London I’m certainly meeting lots of great people and sure as the saying and the song goes “people make the world go round”. I’m sure if I keep true to myself and keep communicating openly with people, more opportunities in photography, marketing, communications, cultural project management will come my way. I’m also aiming to learn the art of mixology.

Who knows what I’ll have to report when I next visit Tenacious JHCG! Whatever it is I’ll be happy to see him and his lovely lady Brid on their little patch of rural bliss in County Sligo, Ireland.