seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Irish Folk Musician Finbar Furey

finbar-fureyFinbar Furey, multi-instrumental Irish folk musician, is born in Ballyfermot, Dublin on September 28, 1946. He is best known for his band of brothers, The Fureys.

Furey’s well-known musician father, Ted, starts him on the Uilleann pipes while he is very young. By his teens, he has won three All Ireland Medals, The Oireachtas, and many Feisanna. He is the only piper to win the All Ireland, the Oireachtas medal and the four province titles in the same year. He is also an Irish Traveller.

Furey popularizes the pipes worldwide while on tour with his brother Eddie in the 1960s. In 1969, he and Eddie begin touring as backup musicians for the influential Irish folk group, The Clancy Brothers. He plays the pipes, as well as the banjo, tin whistle, and guitar with the group in live performances, on television, and on recordings. The Furey brothers leave the group the following year and begin performing as a duo again. They are awarded Single of the Year by John Peel in 1972.

When younger brothers Paul and George join the band several years later, The Fureys enjoy hits including When You Were Sweet Sixteen, Tara Hill, Green Fields of France, Red Rose Café and The Lonesome Boatman. In Britain, they become one of the first Irish folk groups to play on Top of the Pops.

In 1997, after nearly thirty years as The Fureys’ front man, Furey decides the time is right to follow his own path as a singer songwriter. He decides to step aside and pursue his solo career, to present his definitive one-man show and to explore new pastures as a singer, producer and writer.

In the early 2000s, Furey begins an acting career. His first appearance is in the Martin Scorsese film Gangs of New York. He also appears in Adam & Paul (2004), Strength and Honour (2007), short Paris Sexy (2010), and the RTÉ Television series Love/Hate.

In 2011 Furey releases the album Colours on Dolphin Music. The album features guest performances from Mary Black and Shayne Ward and is released in North America in 2012 on the Valley Entertainment record label.

In August 2013, Furey appears on the Irish television show The Hit. He records a single pitched by a songwriter, Gerry Fleming. The single, “The Last Great Love Song”, charts at number one in the Irish charts against Mundy‘s song “Jigsaw Man” written by Mark Walsh which charts at number five. The song is performed again with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra in the final and comes in first place in the public vote earning the title “The Ultimate Hit.”


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Birth of Luke Kelly, Founding Member of The Dubliners

luke-kellyLuke Kelly, singer, folk musician and actor, is born into a working-class family in Lattimore Cottages at 1 Sheriff Street, Dublin on November 17, 1940. He is noted as a founding member of the band The Dubliners.

After Dublin Corporation demolished Lattimore Cottages in 1942, the Kellys become the first family to move into the St. Laurence O’Toole flats, where Luke spends the bulk of his childhood, although the family is forced to move by a fire in 1953 and settles in the Whitehall area.

Kelly is interested in music during his teenage years and regularly attends cèilidh with his sister Mona and listens to American vocalists including Fats Domino, Al Jolson, Frank Sinatra and Perry Como. He also has an interest in theatre and musicals, being involved with the staging of plays by Dublin’s Marian Arts Society. The first folk club he comes across is in the Bridge Hotel, Newcastle upon Tyne in early 1960. Having already acquired the use of a banjo, he starts memorising songs.

Kelly befriends Sean Mulready in Birmingham and lives in his home for a period. Mulready is a teacher who is forced from his job in Dublin because of his communist beliefs. Mulready’s brother-in-law, Ned Stapleton, teaches Kelly “Rocky Road to Dublin.” During this period he studies literature and politics under the tutelage of Mulready, his wife Mollie, and Marxist classicist George Derwent Thomson.

In 1961 there is a folk music revival or “ballad boom,” as it is later termed, in waiting in Ireland. Kelly returns to Dublin in 1962. A concert John Molloy organises in the Hibernian Hotel leads to his “Ballad Tour of Ireland” with the Ronnie Drew Ballad Group. This tour leads to the Abbey Tavern and the Royal Marine Hotel and then to jam-packed sessions in the Embankment, Tallaght. Ciarán Bourke joins the group, followed later by John Sheahan. They rename themselves The Dubliners at Kelly’s suggestion, as he is reading James Joyce‘s book of short stories, entitled Dubliners, at the time. Kelly is the leading vocalist for the group’s eponymous debut album in 1964, which includes his rendition of “Rocky Road to Dublin.”

In 1964 Kelly leaves the group for nearly two years and is replaced by Bob Lynch and John Sheahan. Kelly goes with Deirdre O’Connell, founder of the Focus Theatre, to whom he marries the following year, back to London and becomes involved in Ewan MacColl‘s “gathering.”

When Bob Lynch leaves The Dubliners, John Sheahan and Kelly rejoin. The ballad boom in Ireland is becoming increasingly commercialised with bar and pub owners building ever larger venues for pay-in performances. Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger on a visit to Dublin express concern to Kelly about his drinking.

The arrival of a new manager for The Dubliners, Derry composer Phil Coulter, results in a collaboration that produces three of Kelly’s most notable performances: “The Town I Loved So Well”, “Hand Me Down My Bible“, and “Scorn Not His Simplicity”, a song about Phil’s son who had Down Syndrome. Kelly remains a politically engaged musician, becoming a supporter of the movement against South African apartheid and performing at benefit concerts for the Irish Travellers community.

Kelly’s health deteriorates in the 1970s. During a concert in the Cork Opera House on June 30, 1980 he collapses on the stage. He had already suffered for some time from migraines and forgetfulness which had been ascribed to his intense schedule, alcohol consumption, and “party lifestyle.” A brain tumor is diagnosed. Although he tours with the Dubliners after enduring an operation, his health deteriorates further. He forgets lyrics, has to take longer breaks in concerts due to weakness and becomes more withdrawn. In the autumn of 1983 he has to leave the stage in Traun, Austria and again in Mannheim, Germany. Shortly after this, he has to cancel the tour of southern Germany and, after a short stay in hospital in Heidelberg, he is flown back to Dublin.

After another operation Kelly spends Christmas with his family but is taken to hospital again in the New Year, where he dies on January 30, 1984. His funeral in Whitehall attracts thousands of mourners from across Ireland. His gravestone in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin, bears the inscription: Luke Kelly – Dubliner.


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Birth of Irish Folk Musician Tommy Makem

Thomas “Tommy” Makem, internationally celebrated Irish folk musician, artist, poet and storyteller, is born in Keady, County Armagh, on November 4, 1932. He is best known as a member of The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. He plays the long-necked 5-string banjo, tin whistle, low whistle, guitar, bodhrán and bagpipes, and sings in a distinctive baritone. He is sometimes known as “The Bard of Armagh,” taken from a traditional song of the same name, and “The Godfather of Irish Music.”

Makem’s mother, Sarah Makem, is an important source of traditional Irish music, who is visited and recorded by, among others, Diane Guggenheim Hamilton, Jean Ritchie, Peter Kennedy and Sean O’Boyle. His father, Peter Makem, is a fiddler who also plays the bass drum in a local pipe band named “Oliver Plunkett,” after a Roman Catholic martyr of the reign of Charles II of England. His brother and sister are folk musicians as well. Makem, from the age of eight, is member of the St. Patrick’s church choir for 15 years where he sings Gregorian chant and motets. He does not learn to read music but he makes it in his “own way.”

Makem starts to work at 14 as a clerk in a garage and later he works for a while as a barman at Mone’s Bar, a local pub, and as a local correspondent for The Armagh Observer.

Makem emigrates to the United States in 1955, carrying his few possessions and a set of bagpipes from his time in a pipe band. Arriving in Dover, New Hampshire, he works at Kidder Press, where his hand was accidentally crushed by a press in 1956. With his arm in a sling, he leaves Dover for New York City to pursue an acting career.

The Clancys and Makem are signed to Columbia Records in 1961. The same year, at the Newport Folk Festival, Makem and Joan Baez are named the most promising newcomers on the American folk scene. During the 1960s, the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem perform sellout concerts at such venues as Carnegie Hall, and make television appearances on shows like The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show. The group performs for President John F. Kennedy. They also play in smaller venues such as the Gate of Horn in Chicago. They appear jointly in the UK Albums Chart in April 1966, when Isn’t It Grand Boys reaches number 22.

Makem leaves the group in 1969 to pursue a solo career. In 1975, he and Liam Clancy are both booked to play a folk festival in Cleveland, Ohio, and are persuaded to do a set together. Thereafter they often perform as Makem and Clancy, recording several albums together. He once again goes solo in 1988. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s he performs both solo and with Liam Clancy on The Irish Rovers‘ various television shows, which are filming in Canada and Ireland.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Makem is a principal in a well-known Irish music venue in New York, “Tommy Makem’s Irish Pavilion.” This East 57th Street club is a prominent and well-loved performance spot for a wide range of musicians. Among the performers and visitors are Paddy Reilly, Joe Burke, and Ronnie Gilbert. Makem is a regular performer, often solo and often as part of Makem and Clancy, particularly in the late fall and holiday season. The club is also used for warm-up performances in the weeks before the 1984 reunion concert of The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. In addition, the after-party for Bob Dylan‘s legendary 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration at Madison Square Garden in 1992 is held at the Irish Pavilion.

In 1997 Makem writes a book, Tommy Makem’s Secret Ireland, and in 1999 premiers a one-man theatre show, Invasions and Legacies, in New York. His career includes various other acting, video, composition, and writing credits. He also establishes the Tommy Makem International Festival of Song in South Armagh in 2000.

Tommy Makem dies in Dover, New Hampshire, on August 1, 2007, following a lengthy battle with lung cancer. He continues to record and perform until very close to the end. Paying tribute to him after his death, Liam Clancy says, “He was my brother in every way.” He is buried next to his wife at New Saint Mary Cemetery in Dover.


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Birth of “Jem” Finer, Founding Member of The Pogues

jem-finerJeremy Max “Jem” Finer, English musician, artist, composer, and one of the founding members of The Pogues, is born in Stoke-on-Trent, England on July 20, 1955.

After college at Keele University, Finer travels around Europe and spends some time working on a barge in France. He settles in London and becomes the bass player in a group called The Petals and lives in 32 Burton Street, a house which he sometimes shares with Spider Stacey and Shane MacGowan. Together with James Fearnley they found The Pogues. Primarily a banjoist, he also plays other instruments, including mandola, saxophone, hurdy-gurdy, and the guitar. Apart from Shane MacGowan, Finer is the most prolific composer for the band.

Finer appears on all the band’s albums until their breakup in 1996. He continues working as a musician and composer after leaving The Pogues.

On January 1, 2000, the Finer-composed Longplayer piece of music is started and is designed to last 1,000 years without ever repeating itself. It currently exists in both computer-generated and live versions. Longplayer represents a convergence of many of his concerns, particularly those relating to systems, long-durational processes, and extremes of scale in both time and space.

Finer serves as “Artist in Residence” at the Astrophysics Sub-department of the University of Oxford between October 2003 and June 2005. Finer and Hamburg-based swamp pop legend DM Bob begin recording and performing together in 2005, releasing their album Bum Steer in August of that year and co-producing the debut album by experimental pop band Marseille Figs. In July 2005, Finer wins the PRS Foundation New Music Award on the basis of his proposal to build a device that will automatically “compose” a song of indeterminate length by harnessing the creative force of the weather.

In March 2012, Mobile Sinfonia, a global composition for ringtones is launched, developed during a year Finer spends as a non-resident artist at the University of Bath. This piece concerns mutual invasion of soundscape via ringtones.

Finer is currently working on a number of new projects continuing his interest in long-term sustainability and the reconfiguring of older technologies, including Spiegelei, a spherical camera obscura featuring Finer’s innovative 360-degree projection system and the Supercomputer in Cambridge, a 5-bit mechanical sculpture which will compute minimal musical scores.