There’s a real midlands feel to the green fields around Ferbane. A quiet pride in the sporting heroes of former times is always close to the surface. It goes back to the days when Tony McTague was a hero on the All-Ireland winning Offaly football teams of 1971 and 72 and the special place enjoyed by the Lowry brothers, Seán, Mick and Brendan (father of international golfer Shane) who played key roles in Offaly’s legendary win over Kerry in the 1982 final.
Olivia Douglas is well aware of the importance of tradition and a sense of place. The country singer is a Ferbane woman through and through, and a great ambassador for her hometown. The video for her new single, Just a Thought Away, was filmed on location at Boora Parklands near Ferbane in recent weeks.
She recalls with much affection the days when her father Tom would organise buses from the family pub (Tom’s Bar) to bring customers to the Leinster hurling games and the big games in Croke Park during the 1990s when Offaly won All-Ireland hurling titles in 1994 and 1998.
“I was only in school at the time but I was brought along to play the accordion. The bus would arrive early and there would be great sessions in O’Donoghue’s pub or the Sunnybank Hotel which were favourites with a good many Offaly people in those times. The craic would be mighty and they would all leave the pub in fine form and head for Croke Park. Daddy was a massive hurling and football man and still is today.”
Olivia’s love of music was clear from an early stage. At one point, she was runner-up in the U18 Button Accordion at the All-Ireland Fleadh in Letterkenny. “It was mainly all traditional music in my school days with Mammy (Chrissie) and Daddy (Tom) bringing me to every festival and Fleadh.
“The Willie Clancy Festival in Miltown Malbay used to be our holidays every year. It is a great festival. We have relations down there too which is great because we always have a place to stay. I also played the accordion in Hough’s Pub in Banagher for a good many years and it is one of the great places for traditional music.”
Alongside the trad music was a love for country music shared by her parents. “They were always listening to country music as well and I used to say I’d love to be like Philomena Begley. She was dressed in a blue dress for the video of Truck Drivin’ Woman and it was all sparkly and I thought to myself ‘I want to be like her someday.’
“Carmel McLoughlin from Roscommon used to play gigs in our pub and she was the first one to bring me to the west for guest spots at some of her album launches. It was a great experience and it introduced me to a lot of people on the country circuit.
“I was chosen as a contestant on the Glór Tíre series on TG4 in 2016 and I suppose that was when country music began to dominate my stage shows and also I focussed on singing as a lot of my work before that was playing the button accordion. Sandy Kelly was my mentor for those shows.
After 14 months of lockdown, Olivia is sensing a major change of mood in recent days. “The phone has been hopping over the last two weeks as people are making enquiring and booking dates in the hope things will be back to relative normality later in the year.
“At least there is a bit of positivity and it is such a welcome boost at this stage. Among the bookings is one for a festival in Portadown in September so they are confident that some shows will be back by then. I’m also booked for a festival in Norway next year as well as for some of the Irish promotions in Spain and Portugal which is great.”
As we emerge from the lockdown era, Olivia’s love of home shines forth in a new light. “In some ways the time flew, I was painting and gardening and doing all those things. I was actually one of the lucky ones because I got to be at home with Mammy and Daddy. There were so many people who couldn’t get to see their parents or grandparents. It is something I will always cherish and hold dear to my heart.”
Fifty-five years after Doc Carroll and The Royal Blues took Old Man Trouble to the number-one slot in the Irish Top 20, TR Dallas has revived the song as a tribute to his late friend.
Royal Blues mania gripped the country in February 1966 when the Mayo based band became the first act from the West of Ireland to top the charts. Next to the Hucklebuck, it has remained one of the iconic songs from the showband era.
“Doc was a lovely gentleman. He married Mary Moran from Athlone and settled in the town where he spent most of his life. My brother Tony and I were members of his band, The Night Runners, during the mid-1970s.
“Old Man Trouble is such a happy song and it also has great memories for so many people. I decided to release it to coincide with the 55th anniversary of it reaching number one and also to commemorate the 16th anniversary of the passing of Doc Carroll,” says TR.