Our sense of place: O’Hooley & Tidow

Categories: Features | Music

o'hooley & tidow

“O’Hooley & Tidow; that’s an odd name for a band”, people often comment; we jokingly retort that we could have chosen something a bit easier to pronounce, something that rolls off the tongue more fluidly. But the thing is, these are our names, our surnames, Belinda was born with hers, I wasn’t. My birth name was Rabbitt, my dad’s surname, which originates from the west coast of Ireland.

My Grandfather Jimmy, and his brothers and sisters grew up in a small farming community near Athenry, Co. Galway. My mum grew up on a farm in a small village in the North of Germany, her surname is Tidow; the name I took after my parents divorced. Belinda’s dad, and his brothers and sisters grew up in a small hill-farming community in the Ox Mountains called Monalea, Co Sligo. Her dad changed the family name from Howley to O’Hooley when he migrated to England. So, instantly our band name suggests that we have mixed backgrounds, though both of us were born and bred in West Yorkshire, Belinda in Leeds, me in Huddersfield. We are both descendant of immigrants, and of farming stock.

I have always been unsure of my identity, I grew up in England, so technically I’m English, but my blood is a mix of German, Irish, and a bit of English. Belinda’s is a mix of Irish, Welsh and a bit of English. I was bilingual as a child, my mum often speaking to me in German when my dad was at work. My mum and I, and later my younger sister would spend our summers in Germany, where I would while away the days amongst the animals, getting muddy, and absorbing the beautiful, yet unsentimental environment around me. Belinda spent her summers in much the same way in Ireland; like me, happiest alone, in the wide-open spaces, amongst nature, wild, free.

Now, we live together in an old village called Golcar, which nestles into the Colne Valley, 4 miles out of Huddersfield. It’s a hilly, lush, green area with trees, farms, stone cottages, disused mills, cobbled streets and lots of animals and birds. We’re on the doorstep of some of the best walks in the country, and regularly go for long, bracing rambles on the barren, rugged Marsden Moors, where it’s just you, the sheep, and the birds. That’s how we like it best. We love it; we had both always wanted to live in the countryside, neither of us ever having aspirations to live in a big, bustling city. Although we do get a childish excitement when we dip into London for a concert or a radio session; being a couple of wide-eyed country bumpkins. But we always say, that when we approach our home in Golcar after being away on tour, and see those imposing hills, our blood pressure drops, our heart rates return to a steady, normal pace. Home.

Many of our songs, both lyrically and musically are inspired by what’s around us, we get many of our ideas whilst out walking; the quiet, un-stimulating, calming surroundings allow your mind to focus, to be in the present, to appreciate the beauty in silence and solitude. From here comes ‘blue-sky’ thinking, where your mind becomes open, and allows ideas to flow in… well, hopefully anyway! We were lately introduced to an American poet called Mary Oliver, whose prose celebrates and carefully observes the natural world. On reading the introduction ‘Staying Alive’ to her book ‘Wild Geese’, I found an affinity with her, her reasons for being a writer:

“Adults can change their circumstances; children cannot. Children are powerless, and in difficult situations they are the victims of every sorrow and mischance and rage around them.”

Mary goes on to say that she found two things a comforting escape for her; 1. The natural world, and 2. The world of literature.

For me, and to some extent for Belinda, nature, books and most of all music, represented safety, home. That still remains today, and I think wherever Belinda and I are on our manic touring schedules, we always seek the natural world. If there is a beach, we must walk on it, or find a park, or even a tree lined street. Something to connect us to that special place we made our homes in as children. Our other sense of place is on stage, together, performing the music we have created. It is here that our love of ecology, literature, stories and people combine so naturally for us.

“There is the heaven we enter
through institutional grace
and there are the yellow finches bathing and singing
in the lowly puddle.”
– Mary Oliver (Yellow)

Heidi Tidow