The story of the farmer’s son who went on to become one of Ireland’s best known balladeers is told in a new book, Paddy Reilly - From the Fields of Athenry to The Dubliners and Beyond.
Paddy’s father was a farmer in Rathcoole, Co Dublin, which back in the 1940s was still very much “out in the country”. Among their neighbours were the Taaffe family, a legendary name in horse racing circles.
“I worked on our own farm, at the stables of the Taaffe family and on neighbouring farms doing little bits. I was never a permanent member of the staff at Taaffe’s but I worked in the yard.
“I worked for all the farmers around picking turnips and potatoes and picking stones,” says Paddy.
Attending shows by The Dubliners out in Howth and developing personal friendships with them drew Paddy more and more into the music scene. But it was not until the early 1970s when Mick McCarthy bought The Embankment in Tallaght that Paddy’s career took off in style.
He enjoyed his first major hit with the Phil Coulter song, The Town I Loved So Well, in 1974. Other songs very much associated with Paddy are The Rare Auld Times, The Ferryman, The Flight of Earls and Gold and Silver Days.
However, it was his recording of The Fields of Athenry in 1983, a song composed by Pete St John, that has become totally synonymous with the Dublin balladeer.
“For me it just changed my life completely. I went from playing in pubs for £50 or £60 a night to playing concerts in theatres all over the world.”
From the Fields of Athenry to The Dubliners and Beyond sees Paddy recall his many years on the music circuit, his years in America, his friendship with Senators Edward Kennedy and Tip O’Neill, his involvement in horse racing and his fondness for Gaelic football and soccer. Many of Paddy’s friends from the music and sporting scenes also share their memories.
His co-writer, Galway journalist Tom Gilmore, who has also written books about Big Tom, Larry Cunningham and Paddy Cole, said he was “humbled and honoured” to have worked on the book with such an iconic balladeer as Paddy.
“It was a real privilege for me to be associated with this book that celebrates the life of one of our best loved balladeers. He still lives in his native Rathcoole, still a country lad from Dublin after all the years.
“He also has so many great friends outside of the music scene and many of their reflections on Paddy feature in this book which is already receiving a lovely response around the country,” says Tom.
The book is laced with some delightful stories and anecdotes and memories of good friends from down the years. It tells the story of a man who has been an integral part of the ballad scene in this country and overseas for half a century and who still enjoys the company of true friends from a career that has seen him perform at some of the most prestigious venues on both sides of the Atlantic.
Frankie trumpets A Million Miles of Music, Thursday, November 10, at 7pm: Closing in on six decades on the music road, Frankie McDonald knows all about clocking up the miles. The launch of his book, A Million Miles of Music, takes place in the Shamrock Lodge Hotel in Athlone on Thursday, November 10, at 7pm.
The man who spent four decades as a member of Joe Dolan’s band was born in Clones in 1944. He joined the Clones Brass Band at the age of ten and left Clones four years later to join the Army School of Music in Cathal Brugha Barracks, Dublin. The trumpet was his chosen instrument from the outset.
During his time stationed in Custume Army Barracks in Athlone, he travelled with the first Irish Military Band to serve on a UN Mission to Cyprus in 1965.
On return home he joined the Syd Shine Band, a popular local band in Athlone, and later joined a traditional band, the Ciaran Kelly Band, where he fell in love and married Ciaran’s daughter, Mai, in 1967.
In 1968, Frankie left the Army Band to join Joe Dolan and the Drifters. In this engaging book, he takes readers back stage and on the road with Joe and the band travelling to Russia, Las Vegas, South Africa and many other places across Europe.
The book is a delightful trip down memory lane and features 48 short stories written in a light-hearted and easy style, full of nostalgia and wonderful memories by the man known simply as ‘Frankie’ to so many on the Irish showbiz scene.
“It was a labour of love putting it all together,” says Frankie. “Some lovely memories came floating back of nights on the road all over Ireland and abroad. They were magical times. Ben Dolan, a brother of Joe, who was our bandleader with The Drifters, will perform the official launch in Athlone. All are welcome and I’m looking forward to a lovely night in the Shamrock Lodge,” adds Frankie.
Susan McCann on tour, November 15 - 22: Susan McCann is currently undertaking her String of Diamonds seven date countrywide concert tour. Joining Susan and her band as guest is her granddaughter, Sinéad. The Armagh native first sprung to national prominence when she topped the Irish charts with Big Tom Is Still The King in 1977.
The tour got underway in Killarney last week with further dates in New Ross and Moate. The remaining four shows will be staged in the Kilmore Hotel in Cavan on November 15, the Town Hall Theatre in Westport on November 20, Loughrea Hotel on 21, and the Iontas Theatre in Castleblayney the following night.