seamus dubhghaill

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


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Death of Christie Hennessy, Folk Singer-Songwriter

christie-hennessyChristie Hennessy, Irish folk singer-songwriter, dies in London on December 11, 2007. Although Hennessy is unable to read or write due to severe dyslexia, he still writes his own songs such as “Roll back the Clouds” and “All the lies that you told me.”

Hennessy is born in Tralee, County Kerry on November 19, 1945. His first guitar is made, especially for him, from a tea chest when he is six years old by his friend Jerry Quirke. He leaves school at the age of eleven.

Hennessy’s first job is as a messenger boy, and it is then that he discovers that it is important to be able to read. He is unable to read or write due to severe dyslexia, but still enjoys his library of books. He later works on building sites in London.

In 1972 Hennessy releases his first record, The Green Album, on Westwood, a small label. With scant publicity or promotion, the album makes little impact and only 500 copies of the record are pressed. He returns to labouring on building sites in the UK and does not release another album for twenty years. When he does, his 1992 release The Rehearsal outsells U2 in Ireland, eventually attaining triple platinum status. His following albums, A Year in the Life and Box also sell extremely well in Ireland.

A renowned songwriter as well as performer, Hennessy writes several songs that become hits for other singers including Don’t Forget your Shovel, made famous by Christy Moore, and All the Lies that You Told Me, recorded by Frances Black. He also composes the theme tune and incidental music for the BBC TV series Get Well Soon written by Ray Galton (of Steptoe & Son fame) and composes and writes a musical/feature film about his native Ireland, Two Stops to Paradise.

In 2005, Christy Moore’s rendition of Hennessy’s Don’t Forget Your Shovel is referenced in a UK Number One single JCB by Nizlopi. It is further referenced in the video for the same song. As the line is sung, the characters in the JCB pass a shop called “Christie’s Shovels.”

Hennessy returns to the studio in 2007, one final time to record an album with both Luka Bloom and Christy Moore sharing vocals on one of the tracks.

Christie Hennessy dies on December 11, 2007 in a London hospice, at the age of 62. He is reported to have died from pleural mesothelioma, a rare form of lung cancer, which has been attributed to his younger years spent working on building sites in London where he was exposed to asbestos dust. Just before he dies he had been touring in Ireland but had to cancel due to the illness. His ashes are buried in Old Rath Cemetery, Tralee. A commemorative statue of Christie is erected in Central Plaza, just off the town square in Tralee in November 2009.

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Birth of Actor Edward Mulhare

edward-mulhareEdward Mulhare, Irish actor whose career spans five decades, is born in Cork, County Cork on April 8, 1923. He is best known for his starring roles in two television series, The Ghost & Mrs. Muir and Knight Rider.

Mulhare, one of three brothers, is born at 22 Quaker Road, Cork, County Cork, in what is then known as the Irish Free State, to John and Catherine Mulhare. As a child, he receives his education at St. Nessan’s Christian Brothers School, and later North Monastery. As a young adult, he begins schooling at the National University of Ireland in medicine, but eventually decides upon a career in theatre. After acting in various Irish venues including the Gate Theatre in Dublin, he moves to London, where he works with Orson Welles and John Gielgud.

His best-known stage role is as Professor Higgins in the original Broadway production of My Fair Lady, having taken over the role from Rex Harrison in 1957.

Mulhare’s first television appearance is in 1956 in a production of The Adventures of Robin Hood. He is a guest panelist in 1958 on the CBS television game show What’s My Line? By 1965, he is back in Hollywood appearing in films and television shows. He earns a role in the films Von Ryan’s Express in 1965, Our Man Flint in 1966, and Caprice in 1967. He guest-stars in television programs, including the Twelve O’Clock High episode “Siren Voices” as Luftwaffe Colonel Kurt Halland. He also guest-stars in “Experiment In Terra,” an episode of the original Battlestar Galactica series. In The Ghost & Mrs. Muir, a supernatural sitcom that runs from 1968 to 1970, he stars as Captain Daniel Gregg, and again is something of a successor to Rex Harrison, who had originated the role of “The Ghost” in the original 1947 film. In the mid-1980s, Mulhare hosts the television series Secrets & Mysteries, also called Secrets of the Unknown, a magazine show that examines historical mysteries and the paranormal. His most famous role is probably as Devon Miles in the Knight Rider series.

Mulhare stars in a number of films in his career including Megaforce and Out to Sea. His final role is on Baywatch Nights alongside former Knight Rider co-star David Hasselhoff in 1997.

Edward Mulhare dies of lung cancer on May 24, 1997, age 74, at his home in Van Nuys, California. He had been battling the cancer for five months prior to his death. He is buried in St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Tory Top Road, Cork. Team Knight Rider dedicates an episode titled “K.R.O.” to Mulhare’s memory which is broadcast on October 27, 1997.


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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 Stage & Screen Actress Siobhán McKenna

Siobhán McKenna, Irish stage and screen actress, is born Siobhán Giollamhuire Nic Cionnaith into a Catholic and nationalist family in Belfast on May 24, 1923.

McKenna grows up in Galway, where her father is Professor of Mathematics at University College Galway, and in County Monaghan, speaking fluent Irish. She is still in her teens when she becomes a member of an amateur Gaelic theatre group and makes her stage debut at Galway’s Gaelic theatre, the Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe, in 1940.

McKenna is remembered for her English language performances at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin where she eventually stars in what many consider her finest role in the George Bernard Shaw play, Saint Joan.

While performing at the Abbey Theatre in the 1940s, she meets actor Denis O’Dea, whom she marries in 1946. Until 1970 they live in Richmond Street South, Dublin. They have one child, a son Donnacha O’Dea, who swims for Ireland at the 1968 Summer Olympics and later wins a World Series of Poker bracelet in 1998.

In 1947, McKenna makes her debut on the London stage in The Chalk Garden. She reprises the role on Broadway in 1955, for which she receives a Tony Award nomination for “Best Actress in a Leading Role, Drama.” In 1956, she appears in the Cambridge Drama Festival production of Saint Joan at the Off-Broadway Phoenix Theatre. Theatre critic Elliot Norton calls her performance the finest portrayal of Joan of Arc in memory. Siobhán McKenna’s popularity earns her the cover of Life magazine. She receives a second Tony Best Actress nomination for her role in the 1958 play, The Rope Dancers, in which she stars with Art Carney and Joan Blondell.

Although primarily a stage actress, McKenna appears in a number of made-for-television films and dramas. She also appears in several motion pictures such as King of Kings in 1961, as the Virgin Mary. In 1964, she performs in Of Human Bondage and the following year in Doctor Zhivago. She also appears in the miniseries The Last Days of Pompeii as Fortunata, wife of Gaius, played by Laurence Olivier. She stars in the title role of the Tales of the Unexpected episode “The Landlady.”

McKenna is awarded the Gold Medal of the Éire Society of Boston, for having “significantly fulfilled the ideals of the Éire Society, in particular, spreading awareness of the cultural achievements of the Irish people.”

Siobhán McKenna’s final stage appearance comes in the 1985 play Bailegangaire for the Druid Theatre Company. Despite surgery, she dies of lung cancer on November 16, 1986, in Dublin, at 63 years of age. She is buried at Rahoon Cemetery in County Galway.

In 1988, two years after her death, McKenna is inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame. The Siobhán McKenna Theatre in Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich, in her native Belfast is named in her honour.


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Birth of Patrick Michael Clancy

patrick-michael-clancyPatrick Michael Clancy, Irish folk singer best known as a member of The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, is born on March 7, 1922, at Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary. In addition to singing and storytelling, Clancy plays the harmonica with the group, which is widely credited with popularizing Irish traditional music in the United States and revitalizing it in Ireland. He also starts and runs the folk music label Tradition Records, which records many of the key figures of the American folk music revival.

Clancy is one of eleven children and the eldest of four boys born to Johanna McGrath and Bob Clancy. During World War II he serves as a flight engineer in the Royal Air Force in India. After his demobilization, Clancy works as a baker in London. In 1947 he emigrates to Toronto, Canada with his brother Tom Clancy. The following year, the two brothers move to Cleveland, Ohio to stay with relatives. Later, they attempt to move to California, but their car breaks down and they relocate to the New York City area instead.

After moving to Greenwich Village in 1951, both Patrick and Tom devote themselves primarily to careers in the theater. In addition to appearing in various Off-Broadway productions and television shows, they produce and star in plays at the Cherry Lane Theatre in Greenwich Village and at a playhouse in Martha’s Vineyard. After losing money on some unsuccessful plays, the brothers begin singing concerts of folk songs after their evening acting jobs are over. They soon dub these concerts “Midnight Specials” and the “Swapping Song Fair.” Patrick and Tom are often joined by other prominent folk singers of the day, including Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and Jean Ritchie.

In 1956 their younger brother, Liam Clancy, immigrates to New York, where he teams up with Tommy Makem, whom he had met while collecting folk songs in Ireland. The two begin singing together at Gerde’s Folk City, a club in Greenwich Village. Patrick and Tom sing with them on occasion, usually in informal folk “sing-songs” in the Village. Around the same time, Patrick founds Tradition Records with folk-song collector and heiress Diane Hamilton, and in 1956 the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem release their first album, The Rising of the Moon, with only Patrick’s harmonica as musical accompaniment. However, the Clancys and Makem do not become a permanent singing group until 1959.

In the late 1950s, Clancy with his brothers and Makem begin to take singing more seriously as a permanent career, and soon they record their second album, Come Fill Your Glass with Us. This album proves to be more successful than their debut album, and they begin receiving job offers as singers at important nightclubs, including the Gate of Horn in Chicago and the Blue Angel in New York City. The group garners nationwide fame in the United States after an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, which leads to a contract with Columbia Records in 1961. Over the course of the 1960s, the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem record approximately two albums a year for Columbia. By 1964, Billboard magazine reports that the group was outselling Elvis Presley in Ireland.

The group performs together on stage, recordings, and television to great acclaim in the United States, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia until Tommy Makem leaves to pursue a solo career in 1969. They continue performing first with Bobby Clancy and then with Louis Killen until Liam leaves in 1976 also to pursue a solo career. In 1977 after a short hiatus, the group reforms with Patrick, Tom, and Bobby Clancy and their nephew Robbie O’Connell. Liam returns in 1990 after the death of Tom Clancy.

In 1968, after two decades in North America, Clancy returns to live in Carrick-on-Suir, where he purchases a dairy farm and breeds exotic cattle. When not on tour or working on his farm, he spends much of his time fishing, reading, and doing crossword puzzles. In the late 1990s, he is diagnosed with a brain tumor. The tumor is successfully removed, but he is also stricken with terminal lung cancer around the same time. He continues performing until his failing health prevents him from doing so any longer.

Patrick Clancy dies at home of lung cancer on November 11, 1998 at the age of 76. He is buried, wearing his trademark white cap, in the tiny village of Faugheen, near Carrick-on-Suir.