image

Luke Kelly: In Tribute …


Irish Independent
Tuesday, January 31, 1984
image

Luke Kelly, dead

Ballad singer Luke Kelly, a member of the well-known Dubliners group, died in a Dublin hospital last night.

The bearded balladeer, who was 44, had been in a critical condition following a brain tumour operation.


image  Show Article

image  Hide Article

Four years ago, Mr. Kelly had the first of several major operations' alter collapsing in Cork. In April. 1981 he collapsed again during a performance at the Embankment in Tallaght, Dublin,

Ronnie Drew and Barney McKenna, two other members, of the Dubliners, were with Luke Kelly when he died.

Ronnie said early today; "We will all miss him terribly. I think he was the best we ever had. God rest him."

"You cannot measure how much we will miss him. We were all very close."


image

Tuesday, January 31, 1984

Luke Kelly, balladeer of world acclaim
By TRACY HOGAN and LIAM RYAN

LUKE KELLY of The Dubliners, who died last night, was regarded as one of the greatest ballad singers in Ireland.

His raspy Dublin voice was synonymous with the unmistakably raucous sound of the legendary balladeers, The Dubliners, as they won world acclaim and a place la Irish folk music history.

Although he had undergone a number of major operations following a brain tumour, Luke had made a courageous return to the group, now almost a national institution.

A keen footballer, Luke played for Home Farm and a chance offer at the club led to him getting a. job as an apprentice painter. Although he lasted long enough to do some painting at Arus an Uachtarain, he was soon laid off.

A member of the Dubliners since the formation of the group in 1963, he shared their hard times and successes and always remained a rebel with left-wing views of the injustices in our society.

His craggy face, framed by a shock of red curls and a goatee beard, was a much-loved feature of the Irish and international music scene.

Born 44 years ago in the North Wall area of Dublin, Luke Kelly never had it easy. Educated at Laurence O'Tooles in Seville Place, he left school at 13 to ride a messenger boy's bicycle. And in the footsteps of his father, his mother and the rest of the family he went to work in Jacobs when he was 14.

He then worked for a while as a docker, a builder. a drain digger and furniture remover before leaving for England in 1957. At that time he had no thoughts of becoming a folk singer, but while selling vacuum cleaners in Newcastle — "The town was no cleaner for all the vacuum cleaners I sold" — he soon developed an interest in music.

In London, he met Domnic Behan who introduced Luke to the folk music of Northern England and Scotland.

image

Soon he became a name around the ballad clubs, singing and strumming a banjo. After two-and-a-half years he shouldered his banjo and went to Paris where he sang in the streets.

Arriving back in Dublin in 1962, he frequented O'Donoghue's pub on Merrion Row, which was known as a good outlet for a folk singer. There he met Barney McKenna, and other musicians, who shared in the growing interest in folk music.

After he had appeared on a show with other individual members of the Dubliners, the suggestion was made by Ronnie Drew, who was already well-known at the time, that they should form a group.

Among the numbers Luke's fans loved to hear were his gutsy versions of "The Town I Loved So Well," "Dirty Old Town" and "The Molly Maguires."

After they established a secure base in Dublin, in places like the Abbey Tavern in Howth, Luke and the Dubliners made a record, which was released in England, boosting their popularity and creating a demand for them elsewhere in the world.

Very shortly they were touring the U.S., Australia and New Zealand.

The heady mixture of instrumental from john Sheehan on fiddle, banjoists Luke and Barney McKenna, whistle player Ciaran Bourke, along with Ronnie Drew's nasal poetry and Luke's gravel-voiced singing soon put the Dubliners to the forefront of the international folk and ballad circuit.

Since the mid-60s, the group has made many best-selling records and toured extensively.

Throughout this time Luke diversified his interests and found time to act and write poetry. One of his best-known performances was in Brendan Behan's play, "Richard's Cork Leg", and at one stage he spent 10-minute periods each day writing verse.

Tragedy struck 10 minutes into The Dubliners' act at the Opera House in Cork, on June 30, 1980, where Luke Kelly came face to face with the reality of his illness.

He later recalled in an interview: "There I was then, in front of 2,000 people in the middle of 'The Town I Loved So Well' when it started. I felt the warning signs in my head, my left side began to shake and my fingers would not pick the chords."

The tousle-haired singer, was suffering from a brain tumour and had to undergo major brain surgery. Although he was able to rejoin the group after a period of convalescence at his home in Dartmouth Square, Dublin, Luke Kelly collapsed again at the Embankment in Tallaght on April 15, 1981, and shortly afterwards he fell ill while in Switzerland.

In March last year he underwent a second operation at the Richmond hospital and bravely he fought back to take the stage yet again.

One of his favorite stories about the Dubliners was how one night they played before 3,000 people in the Berlin Philharmonic Hall and were afterwards entertained by flautist lames Galway. The following night they were back in Ireland playing a marquee dance in Ballyhaunis. "Jesus, think of it." he would exclaim. "From Berlin to Ballyhaunis in 24 hours. What a way to treat a man's ego."

Luke Kelly was known as a deep thinking and sensitive person. Interviewed in 1980 while recuperating from the first operation, he said:

"If people with a brain tumour find some comfort from my experience, then this has been worthwhile. Maybe, there is also a lesson in that I should have gone to a doctor earlier. A bill from a hospital is the only evidence that I once collapsed and suffered a blackout."

"Unfortunately, too many people like me set themselves up like a god and pretend that a crippling illness could not happen to them."

Luke Kelly leaves his widow Deirdre O'Connell. And he also leaves countless thousands of friends — many of whom only know him through concert or record — who have followed his career with the Dubliners for over 20 years.

top index

Irish Independent
Thursday, February 2, 1984
image

Big Dublin crowd mourn Luke
By WILLIE DILLON

BRAVING the damp, bitter cold, the people of Dublin came out in force last evening to bid a sad farewell to a favourite musical son.


image  Show Article

image  Hide Article

The huge Church of the Holy Child, Whitehall, was not big enough to hold the throng of friends, colleagues and fans of singer Luke Kelly as his coffin was borne inside from the gathering dusk.

The remains were brought from the Richmond Hospital where the tousle-haired Dubliners' star died on Monday night.

As the rush-hour traffic sped past on the Swords Road, the coffin was carried into the church grounds behind a hearse by Luke's three brothers, John, Jimmy and Paddy, and fellow Dubliners' banjo player Barney McKenna.

Other mourners included Luke's widow, Deirdre O'Connell; his two sisters, Betty and Mona; and the other members of the group in which he shared the limelight for more than 20 years — Ronnie Drew, John Sheehan and newcomer Sean Cannon.

Also present was another founding member of the Dubliners - whistle player Ciaran Burke, who was himself a victim of serious illness some years ago, when a stroke forced him to retire.


image
Ciaran Burke at the removal of the remains of fellow Dubliner Luke Kelly at the Church of the Holy Child, Whitehall last night.

HAPPINESS
The remains were received at the church door by the parish administrator, Rev. Thomas O'Keefe, who later told the huge congregation that Luke Kelly had brought joy and happiness to so many lives through his songs and music.

His singing had bound people together, broke down barriers and built friendships and camaraderie.

Father O'Keefe, who was accompanied on the altar by the parish priest, Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin, Most Rev. Dr. James Kavanagh, and five other priests, said this was an opportunity to thank God for the gifts He gave to Luke who used them so unselfishly for others.

The congregation was led in a decade of the Rosary in Irish by Bishop Kavanagh, who also blessed the coffin. The gospel was read by Rev Tom Stack. The other priests included Rev. Joe Coulter, brother of songwriter Phil Coulter, whose songs Luke helped to make famous.

Others who came to pay their respects included members of the Furey Brothers and the Wolfe Tones, singer Jim McCann, broadcaster Ciaran Mac Mathuna, actress Siobhan McKenna, Northern Ireland football star Pat Jennings, impresario Jim Hand, entertainers Joe Cuddy and David Beggs, and politicians Michael D. Higgins and Brendan Halligan.

Mourners lined up to sympathise with members of Luke's family and his close companion for several years, Madeleine Seiler, a native of Heidelberg, West Germany.

END OF AN ERA
Dubliners fiddle player John Sheehan recalled Luke's final performance with the group in the German city of Mannheim, in mid-November. He was forced to bow out after just four dates on a tour of Germany and the group had to carry on without him. "It's the end of an era," said John.

Ronnie Drew was in tears as he accepted the many expressions of grief and condolence. Among the large number of wreaths were ones from singer Paddy Reilly, impresario Noel Pearson, footballer Ray Treacy, Chieftains piper Paddy Moloney, Comhaltas Ceoitoiri Eireann and many folk clubs.

Many mourners exchanged fond recollections of Luke and the Dubliners during their early years and of mad music-filled nights spent with the group in different parts of the country, or abroad.

A final musical tribute to Luke will be paid during Requiem Mass at 10 o'clock this morning by an ensemble which will include pipers Finbar Furey, Liam O'Flynn and Peter Browne. A short instrumental medley will incorporate two of Luke's best loved songs, "The Town I Loved So Well" and "Raglan Road."

Following the Mass, Luke Kelly will be buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.

top index

Irish Independent
Friday, February 3, 1984
image

The red-haired Dubliner is recalled with music, words and tears
The town he loved so well says farewell to Luke

By KEN CURRAN and TONY O'BRIEN

THE emotion-charged funeral Mass for ballad singer Luke Kelly ended with many people in tears as his coffin was wheeled from the church to the strains of 'The Auld Triangle.'


image  Show Article

image  Hide Article

The true Dubliners swapped stories with stars of show business and the stage as they bid farewell yesterday to their favorite son.

A medley of The Dubliners' best-known songs touched the hearts of the people in an overflowing Whitehall Church — and reduced the composer of The Town I Loved So Well, Phil Coulter, to tears.

Hundreds of neighbours from Luke's birthplace, the East Wall, sat with friends from the entertainment world as Barney McKenna, John Sheehan, Jim McCann, John Cannon, Eamonn Campbell, Finbarr Furey and Nigel Warren-Green played the songs that made Luke famous throughout the world.

image
Ronnie Drew reads the lesson at Luke Kelly's funeral.

His widow, Deirdre O'Connell, sisters Betty and Mona, brothers John, Jimmy and Paddy and his friend Madeline Seller wept as the Mass opened with the lament 'Róisín Dubh'.

The musicians later played a tune written by John Sheehan for Luke, 'The Prodigal Son' followed by the two songs identified most with him, Patrick Kavanagh's 'Raglan Road' and 'The Town I Loved So Well'.

Later Phil Coulter played another of his songs 'Scorn Not His Simplicity' on the organ.

"Whether he played in the Albert Hall, the Sydney Opera House or at an old folks' party in Dublin. Luke and the boys brought the same attention and talent and gave without holding back" said the chief celebrant Father Michael Cleary.

The Dublin priest told of last hearing Luke sing for nearly an hour in Bantry last June. "He did it even though he wasn't asked".

"Ireland, Dublin and all of us are better by the fact that Luke Kelly spent 44 years among us," Father Cleary continued.

On a lighter note he said, "I can well imagine Luke commenting on the Garda escort he got from the Richmond Hospital to the church. He would probably say, 'Father Mick you would never get a congregation like that at any of your services'."

Noel Pearson, the man who put the group on the road to success, had flown overnight from New York to be there. He led the prayers of the faithful followed by the sombre Ronnie Drew who had accepted condolences from the entire congregation.

image
A widow's grief…Deirdre O'Connell, Luke's wife, at Glasnevin Cemetery yesterday.

Among the congregation were Fianna Fail leader Charles Haughey, former Coalition Minister Frank Cluskey, Workers' Party leader Tomas Mac Giolia, Deputy Albert Reynolds and Senators Donie Cassidy and Des Hannifin.

Assisting at the Mass were Father Joe Coulter, a brother of the Deny songwriter Phil Coulter; Father Pat Whelan, Father Tom Stack, Father Donal O'Mahony, Father Dan Breen and Father Brian D'Arcy.

Soccer friends Arsenal goalkeeper Pat Jennings, Ireland's team manager Eoin Hand, former international Ray Treacy and sports commentator Jimmy McGee also attended.

Musicians present included George Furey, Derek Warfield, Pete St. John, Liam Clancy, Tommy Makem, Joe Dolan, Liam O'Reilly and many others from folk groups and bands on the Irish circuit.

Luke's three brothers, John, Jimmy and Paddy, bore the coffin from the church with the help of Dubliners Barney McKenna, John Sheehan and Sean Cannon as Earl Gill and his band played the touching last farewell of The 'Auld Triangle'.

Even before the hearse began the short journey to Luke's final resting place in Glasnevin Cemetery, hundreds of people had gathered at the gates to pay their respects.

At the graveside waited a forlorn Ciaran Bourke, himself the victim of a tragic illness that cut short his musical career with The Dubliners while they were in their prime. Surrounded by his family and leaning on a stick the melancholic figure said farewell to a dear friend.

One man at the graveside was so overcome with emotion that he took a handful of clay from the graveside and clenched it tightly throughout the ceremony in memory of the departed musician.

After prayers by Father Tom Stack the coffin was lowered by Luke's brothers into his grave side by side with his father and mother.


The man who cast fire upon his songs

Liam O Murchu recalls the colourful minstrel

THERE was an apocalyptic phrase going round in my mind at the Mass for Luke Kelly yesterday as I listened to the other Dubliners playing his songs in a last farewell.

It says, and I may be misquoting: "I have cast fire upon the earth, wherewith shall it be ignited?"

From that first night at John Molloy's concert in the Gate in 1962, fire is what Luke Kelly cast upon his songs. Fire, passion, conviction. He didn't just sing them, he burned his way into them.

image

Kenneth Tynan once said that the question you should ask about that great misshapen play of Eugene O'Neill's, "Long Day's Journey Into Night", was what did it cost him in terms of human suffering to write it? That is true of any great writer. It is true of great performers too.

I hesitate to use the word "artist", a word debased by too many phoneys. There was not an iota of the phoney about Luke Kelly. He sang from the heart and he had a great deal of heart and it was from the heart of his audience that he got response.

When a sharp-faced Dublin lad, with a shock of red hair came forward on the Gate stage that night and struck the banjo cord that grabbed attention for Ewan MacColl's songs — we all knew that a new powerful voice had arrived.

Over in Joe Groome's afterwards I said to him he would have to learn some of the great song in Irish: about the Connery brothers condemned to penal servitude for life in New South Wales; Maire Bhui Ni Laoghaire's great song about the Tithe War, "Cath cheim an Fhia" or "Sliabh na mBan", from the 1798 Rising, which O Riada had immortalised in "Mise Eire".

Luke understood instantly they were his songs, it was his people who made them, he had the fire and passion in his blood for them and that is why Finbar Furey spoke for us all yesterday when he played the great "Sliabh na mBan" on the uileann pipe. That was our farewell prayer.

So the strong young bud has grown and burst into lovely flower and now is gone. Through all the great years he never lost that core of innocence and truth.

We thank him for the courage he gave us, the heart, the fire cast upon the earth. We saw him down right and I think, no-nonsense Luke would have liked the bunch he had around him.

"Child, you have the nature", was a phrase my own mother would use when one of us did a good turn for her. Luke had the nature. The sod rest lightly on him for it, for that and for all the quiet innocence that was really in his heart:

"I'll go home to my parents, repent what I've done.
"And I'll ask them to pardon their prodigal son.
"And when they've caressed me as oft times before,
"I never will play the Wild Rover no more".

Our grief is a falling leaf at the dawning of his new day. But Luke would laugh his hard laugh at that to see us all so glum. It was on the eve of La le Bride he died. She was a loyal Irish woman and would not let a decent man down. Faoi choimirce Bhride tu, Luke. Go dte tu, a Mhuirnin Slan.

top index

Irish Press
Tuesday, January 31, 1984
image

Dubliners star singer Luke Kelly dies

Singer Luke Kelly of the Dubliners died last night. He was admitted to the Richmond Hospital on Saturday night.

One of the original members of the Dubliners, Mr. Kelly (44) had two major operations following a brain tumour in 1980, but had apparently made a quick recovery following the most recent operation. Although his participation with the Dubliners over the past few years had been hindered by his ill health, he resumed his banjo-playing singing role with the group last summer.


image  Show Article

image  Hide Article

Born at the North Wall in Dublin, he worked at a variety of jobs in England during his early life, including hotel cellerman, vacuum cleaner salesman, and window cleaner.

He spent some time as a travelling folk singer in Paris before he returned to Dublin in 1962, when the Dubliners were formed following a John Molloy show in the Gate Theatre.

image

As well as his immediate family with Luke when he died last night at around 11pm were his Dubliner colleagues and close friends, Ronnie Drew and Eamonn Campbell.

Ronnie Drew said that while any tribute he would pay to the memory of Luke Kelly was bound to be biased, he considered Luke to be the best ballad singer of all time.

"He was an inspiration to me and so many others," said Ronnie.

Eamonn Campbell said that as Luke's role in the group was hampered by his illness in recent years, and Eamonn's own part became more prominent, they developed a strong and deep friendship.

"He was the best ballad singer in Europe, and started so many off. He was a great fellow, and I was very very close to him. We weren't running around the streets together, but we grew very close over the years," said an emotional Eamonn.

Folk singer Liam Clancy, of the Makem and Clancy team, paid tribute to the "very, very good singer" Luke Kelly, whom he helped get started over 20 years ago.

Liam was deeply shocked to hear of Luke's death, although he had known he was seriously ill since last summer. "It was an Irish festival in the Berkshire Mountains in New York state, but Luke seemed very subdued. It was obvious that his problem with his health was bad and he seemed resigned to it. The pain was very intense and just before Christmas the doctors said he would only live a few months. I believe Luke knew this. "

top index

The Evening Press
Tuesday, January 31, 1984
image

Luke Kelly…ahead of the rest
VERVE, ENTHUSIASM AND A SHarp MIND

LUKE KELLY died last night and we knew each other in a sort of stand-off way for about 23 years. I always had great respect for his rat-trap mind, as Hemmingway called it, his absorption of printed intelligence in every newspaper and periodical, his devotion to the socialist ideal and, in the world of contemporary folksong, his skill and interest which kept him ahead of all others in the newest developments, the latest important songs, the facts about those who were singing them.


image  Show Article

image  Hide Article

I could tell many stories about Luke, a lot of them personal. We travelled together when The Dubliners became commercially famous and the newspaper I was working for at that time thought their concerts abroad important enough to warrant news stories. Like many who had not worked on newspapers, but who wished they had, Luke had noble notions on the business. He had wanted to he a journalist, he often told me and with his sharp, mind he would undoubtedly have been a formidable commentator, especially on political matters. Some time before Jack Kennedy's assassination he showed me one night in O'Donoghue's some songs written by a person called Bob Dylan.

"His real name is Zimmerman," said Luke, "and you have to read this stuff."

It was in an American magazine called 'Sing Out,' then unavailable here. The songs were of social issues, of course, and American, but there was one called 'Blowin' in the Wind' Which Luke said would be popular, though he was characteristically skeptical enough to wonder if Dylan had in fact written it at all.

Luke set off to get himself a folksong education with "the master," Ewan MacColl, in London. He spent two years there in an unofficial university of contemporary folksong composing.

This was a time when MacColl, with Charles Parker, was producing radio folksong documentaries for the BBC such as 'Singing the Fishing,' one of the songs from which 'The Bonny Shoals of Herring,' became internationally popular. Luke returned to Ireland to rejoin Ronnie and Barney and Ciaran and his songs of social comment in that strident tenor voice made him immediately popular. In the singing with The Dubliners then there was the great distinction between he and Ronnie Drew. Both had totally different styles.

One of their greatest successes Was the show 'Finnegan Wakes' at the Gate.

Much will be written and spoken about Luke. I have my own memories of tours and concerts in the US, Canada and Germany. In the middle of one night of traditional music he got up on a table in a house I lived in and astonished all by singing Paul McCartney's 'Yesterday'.

Luke could always see the great songs of the contemporary writers, though they were not necessarily part of the folksong tradition, contemporary or otherwise, in which he was working.

The verve, the enthusiasm, the sharp mind were what made him outstanding as a performer. As an interpretative artist in folksong he is important internationally and his recordings will be a definitive memory of an energy That came out of the hard streets of Dublin.

top index

Irish Press
Thursday, February 2, 1984
image

Musicians in last tribute to Luke Kelly

MANY MEMBERS of the Irish folk and music scene turned out last night at the Church of the Holy Child, in Whitehall, Dublin, to pay their last respects to one of the country's best-loved folk singers, Dubliner Luke Kelly.


image  Show Article

image  Hide Article

image image
At the removal of the remains of Luke Kelly to the Church of the Holy Child, Whitehall. . . John Kelly, a brother, and (right) Paddy Kelly, brother, and Barney McKenna, of the Dubliners, carrying the coffin into the church.

All of the Dubliners group turned up, including Ronnie Drew, Barney McKenna, John Sheehan, Seán Cannon, and former members Jim McCann and Ciarán Burke. Guitarist Eamonn Campbell who often "stands in" with the group was also present.

There was a large turn-out of locals and music fans. The remains, shouldered into the church by his brothers Paddy, Jimmy, John and Dubliner Barney McKenna, were received by Fr. Thomas O'Keeffe.

In a short homily, Fr. O'Keeffe referred to the great "gift" of song which, he said, Luke had used to break down barriers and build bridges of friendship among men.

He was assisted by the Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin, Bishop James Kavanagh, Fr. Tom Stack, FT. Joe Coulter (brother of composer Phil Coulter), Fr. Dan Breen C.C., Drimnagh, Fr Donal O'Mahoney, and Fr. Michael Clean.


image image
LEFT: Ronnie Drew, of the Dubliners, with Most Rev. James Kavanagh, Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin, and Eamonn MacThomais. RIGHT : John Sheehan, of the Dubliners, and Jim McCann, former member of the Group.
Pictures : Frank Miller.

Chief mourners were the deceased's wife Deirdre, brothers Paddy, Jimmy, and John, and sisters Mona and Bessie.

Actress Siobhan McKenna, carrying a wreath of daffodils, also attended, along with Labour Party senator, Michael D. Higgins, and Labour MEP, Brendan Halligan.

Ciaran Mac Mathuna, singer Joe Cuddy, Arsenal goalkeeper Pat Jennings, and Mr. Mick McCarthy all paid their respects. The Furey Brothers, their manager, Mr. Jim Hand and members of the Wolfe Tones also attended.

Dozens of wreaths from folk clubs all over the country were sent, including one from Paddy Moloney of the Chieftains, currently on tour in U.S. Impresario Noel Pearson, former international footballer Ray Treacy, Paddy Reilly, Anne Bushnell, and the Abbey Theatre also sent wreaths.

The remains will be buried in Glasnevin Cemetery today after 10 o'clock Mass.

top index

Irish Press
Friday, February 3, 1984
image

Songs, laments and tears for a Dubliner
By GERRY MORIARTY

RONNIE DREW had a tremble in his voice, Phil Coulter wept, and all the others who knew and loved him were sad when they came to lay to rest the husky voiced, banjo — playing Dubliner, Luke Kelly.


image  Show Article

image  Hide Article

Whitehall Parish la Dublin's northside was full to overflowing yesterday for the funeral Miss, with mourners keenly aware that a musician who could bring great joy had passed their way.

Later, In Glasnevin Cemetery, a large throng gathered around the graveside to pay their final tribute to the man who had brought them so much entertainment during the past 21 years.

His wife, brothers and sisters, celebrities, politicians and musicians were there, as well as the ordinary fans, who down the years had supported the Dubliners and the banjo-plucker who could rattle out uplifting ballads or tug at the heartstrings with songs such as "Scorn Not His Simplicity".

As befitted a marvellous musician, it was a moving and musical ceremony in the church. Barney McKenna introduced the celebrants to the altar with a plaintive rendition of Róisín Dubh. Finbar Furey played a lament on the pipes.


LUKE KELLY FUNERAL

FRIEND'S GRIEF…Songwriter Phil Coulter weeps during the funeral Mass for Luke Kelly yesterday in Whitehall, Dublin. Centre, Luke's brother, Patrick and Barney McKenna of the Dubliners carry the coffin from the church; and right, the Fianna Fail leader Mr. Haughey with Ronnie Drew.


The Dubliners themselves, up beside the altar, played two of the tunes most associated with Luke. Raglan Road and The Town I Loved So Well. As the last named song was played, Phil Coulter, its writer, and a close friend of Luke's, broke down and wept, burying his face in his hands.

Then, perhaps, the finest musical tribute of all-a beautiful playing of "The Prodigal Son", the tune recently written by Dubliner John Sheehan, its hopeful melody so obviously dedicated to Luke.

Mass ended with a brass band, conducted by Earl Gill, playing another tune associated with Luke and also with Brendan Behan, The Auld Triangle.

As the music played and the prayers were read, the memories came rolling back of the joy and the crack Luke brought through his music.

In the early days, we listened to him and Ronnie and Ciaran and the boys in places like Donoghues or the Embankment Inn in Tallaght

Later when the band's fame, aided by a little notoriety, increased, we marvelled at how the Dubliners could win the hearts of audiences in the prestigious Albert Hall in London and other great venues in Europe and North America.

image

Also present with the Dubliners at the altar side were Jim McCann, a former member, Eamonn Campbell, now almost part of the group, Finbar Furey, and Phil Coulter.

Ciaran Bourke, who was there at the start, was in the church too.

Also there were Luke's brothers. Paddy, Jimmy and John, sisters Iona and Bessie, and wife Deirdre.

The Fianna Fail leader, Mr. Haughey, was present to pay his respects, with Frank Cluskey, Albert Reynolds, Tomas MacGlolla and others hi the large congregation.

The chief celebrant, FT. Michael Cleary, described Luke as a man with a big heart who hated sham but loved people. The priest spoke about his sense of humour, his commitment to music and his real, genuine charity.

top index

The Irish Times
Tuesday, January 31, 1984

Luke Kelly dies at age of 44

LUKE Kelly of the Dubliners died last night in the Richmond Hospital in Dublin. He was 44, and since 1980 had undergone two major operations following a brain tumour. He was admitted to the Richmond for emergency treatment on Saturday night and died shortly after 11 o'c. last night.


image  Show Article

image  Hide Article

Luke Kelly was one of the original members of the Dubliners and among his best-known and most popular songs were "Raglan Road" with words by the poet Patrick Kavanagh, and "The Town I Loved So Well" by Phil Coulter.

He was born in the North Wall area of Dublin and left school at 13 to work as a messenger and later in Jacobs biscuit factory. In his late teens he went to England to look for work and it was there that he began his musical and singing career, becoming an accomplished banjo player. He spent two years in Paris, earning his living as a busker, and returned to Dublin in 1962, where he met Ronnie Drew and the other original members of the Dubliners. The group was formed later that year, following an appearance at the Gate Theatre in a show organised by the actor John Molloy.

The vigorous and earthy style of the new group drew an immediate following in Dublin and throughout Ireland and they later made successful tours to the UK, the US and on the European mainland.

In 1980 Luke Kelly underwent his first brain tumour operation in Cork after he collapsed during a performance in the Opera House, and less than a year later he was taken ill again while appearing at the Embankment in Dublin. He was admitted to the Richmond Hospital but discharged a few days later. A few weeks later he became ill during a tour of Switzerland and did not return to the group for several months. Last March he underwent his second major operation in the Richmond but was playing with the Dubliners during the summer.

Mr. Mick McCarthy, the owner-manager of the Embankment, where the Dubliners played regularly for 20 years, described Luke Kelly last night as "the greatest folk singer Ireland has ever produced. He had a repertoire of Irish and Scottish songs unequalled by any other singer I know," he said.

Luke Kelly is survived by his wife, Deirdre O'Connell, of the Focus Theatre.

top index

The Irish Times
Thursday, February 2, 1984

image

Tributes paid to Luke Kelly
By Dick Grogan

LUKE KELLY'S people filled the Church of the Holy Child in Whitehall last night to keep a Dubliner company on the first stage of his final journey, ordinary people, workers, trade unionists, musicians, actors, friends.


image  Show Article

image  Hide Article

They thronged the vast, vaulted expanses of one of north Dublin's largest churches and spilled over into the car park outside. Hundreds of cars followed the cortege for the removal of the body from the Richmond Hospital, through relentless rain and the inevitable chaos of the evening rush hour.

His three brothers and a fellow Dubliner, Barney McKenna, carried the coffin to its place beside the altar, and the wreaths piled up in rows beside it. The parish Administrator, Very Rev. Thomas O'Keeffe, paid tribute to the man who had "brought joy and happiness to so many through his song and music."

Fr. was father O'Keeffe, said, an opportunity to thank God for the gifts He had bestowed on Luke, and which Luke had used so unselfishly for others. Luke's singing had bound people together, broken down barriers between people, and built friendship and camaraderie.

Prayers were said by the Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin, Dr James Kavanagh, Fr Michael O'Clery. Fr Joe Coulter, Fr Tom Stack and Fr Dan Breen.

image
Dr Kavanagh, Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin, with Eamonn Mac Thontais (centre) and Ronnie Drew at the removal of the body of Luke Kelly, the musician, to Whitehall Church, Dublin, yesterday. (Photograph: Tom Lawlor).

The congregation was a wide cross-section of the artistic and entertainment community, but was dominated by the plain people of the city. There were eminent figures of the theatrical world, like Siobhann McKenna, of the traditional music world, like Ciaran Mac Mathuna, and of the political world, like Michael D. Higgins and Brendan Halligan.

There were Wolfe Tones and Fureys and Chieftains. There were proprietors, or former proprietors of hostelries for long associated with the Dubliners, like Dessie Hynes of O'Donoghues and Mick McCarthy, of the Embankment.

Gael Linn was represented, the GAA and Comhaltas Ceoltoiri. There were wreaths from folk clubs, the Workers' Music Cooperative and scores of individuals. The coffin bore, too, the anonymous tribute of several solitary red roses.

Luke Kelly's beloved traditional music will be much in evidence at the funeral this morning after 10 o'clock Mass to Glasnevin Cemetery. There will be several pipers, an arrangement, with brass, of the "Ould Triangle," by part-time Dubliner Eamonn Campbell, and songs like "Raglan Road" and "The Prodigal Son."

The mourners were many. In the forefront were his wife, Deirdre O'Connell, his brothers, Paddy, Jimmy and John, and his sisters Mona and Bessie. And Luke's extended family and closest associates, Madeline Seiler, Dubliners Ronnie Drew, Ciaran Burke, John Sheehan and Barney McKenna, former Dubliner Jim McCann, and recent Dubliner Scan Cannon, footballer Pat Jennings, and a host of others, musicians, fans and simply friends.

There was little left to say, after the prayers and condolences, and John Sheehan said it: "So that's the end of an era."

top index

The Irish Times
Friday, February 3, 1984
image

Last farewell as Luke Kelly goes home
By Elgy Gillespie

WHITEHALL was the Dublin that Luke Kelly knew first, the place where he went to school and where his mother was from, and yesterday the area from where he was buried. And as well as members of the Dubliners past and present with their music, along with writers and actors and politicians, it was the plain people of Whitehall who poured into the huge local Church of the Holy Child to say goodbye to the best-known Dubliner of all — as many as 3,000.


image  Show Article

image  Hide Article

Though Luke Kelly was a man of strong political convictions and was never a churchgoer, he would have been delighted by the huge turn-out and amused by the strongly dramatic flavour of it all. Six visiting priests took the ceremony, including Father Brian D'Arcy, Phil Coulter's brother, Father Joe Coulter from Derry, Father Tom Stack, Father Dan Breen of Drimnagh and Father Donal O'Mahony. OFM Cap of Threshold, with Father Michael Clean to lead them all.

"Luke loved theatricality, he'd have loved all this." said Noel Pearson, fresh off the plane from New York that morning, waving at Barney McKenna, Jim McCann, John Sheehan and Scan Cannon as they tuned their fiddles and guitars in the sacristy.

There were emotional reunions and bearhugs as the demonstrative Northern song-writer Phil Coulter arrived, and there were also the more deadpan Dublin ways of showing grief: a bit of riff on a banjo and a muttered "Howya" from other group members. Ronnie Drew was distracted with sorrow and did not try to play.

The present Dubliners started up the slow and plaintive notes of 'The Coolin' — as Fathers Stack and Clean began the Mass, and introduced a reading by Luke Kelly's brother. John, and his niece, Noeleen Kelly.

image
At the funeral of the singer, Luke Kelly, in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin yesterday were his widow, Deirdre O'Connell (third from right), his close friend 'Madeleine Seller (second from right) his brothers, Paddy and Jimmy, and his aunt, Mrs. Baby Keegan.

Inside the huge and airy modern church the congregation were genuinely moved by the group's respectful but ever-present musical recollecting, with 'Raglan Road,' The Town I Love So Weir and all Luke Kelly's other, more solemn airs. Luke's brothers Paddy, John, Jimmy, and his sisters, Betty and 'Mona. sat behind the musicians, together with the close companion of his last eight years, Madeleine Seiler.

In the main body of the church sat Luke Kelly's widow. Deirdre O'Connell of the Focus Theatre, surrounded by many friends from the musical and theatrical world.

The Fianna Fail leader, Mr. Haughey, sat near the front, and Tomas MacGiolla, leader of the Workers Party, was there to pay his respects, along with other politicians like Dr. Noel Browne and Senator Michael D. Higgins.

It was a mark of the breadth of Luke Kelly's acquaintance that alongside the Ombudsman. Mr. Michael Mills, were large numbers of television and entertainment people, as well as Mr. Joe Cahill of Sinn Fein. He knew people from everywhere, and the Northern Ireland international goalkeeper. Pat Jennings, was there, and said he liked to think of himself as another friend.

For the congregation of local Whitehall people it was satisfying to hear Father Cleary say that Luke Kelly had faith, and that be knew he had faith because he had spoken to him in hospital two nights before he died. Luke had his faults, but he didn't like sham, said Father Cleary.

By the time the cortege reached the graveside, hundreds more mourners from the political and artistic and social areas of Luke's life had joined the attendance. The Dubliners' friends and managers and contacts from Germany, from Scandinavia and from Britain had also arrived to pay a final farewell.

In the biting east wind. Father Clean gave a last homily and Father Stack led a last Rosary. The wake was about to begin, and it would go on for a long time. It was going to start in the Coolquay Lodge in Ashbourne, but nobody knew where it might end up.

top index

… ballad of a simple man

image Luke Kelly - his life a ballad of a simple man

The last occasion on which I spent a considerable time with Luke Kelly was. on a titter night at Tolka Park about a year ago — together we watched that marvellous Leinster Cup final between St. Patrick's Athletic and Drogheda United.


image  Show Article

image  Hide Article

I cannot put a date on our first meeting — but it was so long ago that you could get a fine counter-lunch for three shillings and six pence in O'Donoghues in Merrion Row.

It was then anything but a singing pub. I frequented it because I was involved with the Department of Education around the corner — Luke used to come to meet Ronnie Drew who had a flat nearby.

In that far-off era ballad singers were people you saw at fairs or football matches — Luke had a vague romantic notion that some day he might become a professional singer- but I doubt if he or I believed it.

A few years later came the flood of what is loosely termed folk music, probably precipitated by the Civil Rights movement in the U.S.A.

It would be less than accurate to say that Luke caught the tide: it was rather that the tide caught him.

There was a feeling of inevitability about his coalescing with Ronnie and Barney McKenna and Ciaran Bourke: what they had in common was a passion for music — fame and fortune hardly bothered them.

The fame and fortune came — the integrity never wavered. The Dubliners survived fashion's quirks because they were so utterly honest: they were not only admired — they were respected.

Luke was a rare Irishman in that he was utterly devoid of prejudice — at a time when tribal emotions were running wild, he never lost his stance as a member of the world's brotherhood.

image

He may have thought of himself as an international socialist — I prefer to think of him as a Christian, one who in the words of The Ancient Mariner "loved all things both great and small."

My favourite song of his deep treasury was "Scorn Not His Simplicity," Phil Coulter's tribute to his own mentally handicapped son.

Luke's songs began in his heart — those men who sing spontaneously composed hymns at Spanish religious processions would have recognised him as a brother.

And if he was in any tradition, it was that of Joe Hill and Vachel Lindsay and their fellow wandering minstrels who sang about man's dignity in the worst years of American capitalism.

Luke was a son of Dublin's dockland — a finer breed you couldn't meet. Fame never affected him — indeed I suspect that 'he never realised how famous he was.

He was — in the true sense of the term — a simple man.

That night at Tolka Park we embraced when the final whistle blew — and shed a few tears.

Luke is an immortal — the world is the better for his presence.

CON HOULIHAN

top index

… singer of great conviction
image

Luke Kelly — a singer of great conviction
By Elgy Gillespie

LUKE Kelly was a Dublin ballad singer in the old street-ringing tradition, and he was in the purest of senses the real thing. He was young when ballad singing was being taken in off the streets and dusted off for the small club circuits; and then later popularized for stadiums and concert halls and threatres.


image  Show Article

image  Hide Article

Luke Kelly died at 44, but he died in time to miss the final extinction of pure, authentic Dublin ballad-singing delivered in its rawest and most unsentimental vein. When people remember him they will remember that and there win be no shortage of those people for Luke Kelly knew practically everyone in Dublin city and plenty in the country and other countries besides.

image

Most people will want to remember Luke Kelly the way his Armagh friend and contemporary Tommy Makem wants to. "I'd just like to remember Luke throwing back his head and letting a song soar out, any of his songs. He just let them fly. These were songs that maybe had fallen into disuse before the Dubliners found them, but after the Dubliners recorded them were become so commonplace that people disregarded them — songs like 'The Black Velvet Band.'"

When Tommy Makem first met Luke Kelly, Makem had been singing for four years in the US with the Clancy Brothers. The young Luke had a Dublin National School education and a few years in Birmingham to his apprenticeship before returning to Dublin in 1961. It was at the house of a former IRA detainee and teacher, Sean Mulready and his wife. Mollie, in Birmingham, that Luke Kelly met lots of other Irish singers and musicians in England and broadened his repertoire.

Back in Dublin, Luke Kelly went to the Shelbourne Hotel with his friends Barney McKenna and Ronnie Drew to meet Makem and the Clancy brothers. Luke was still shuttling across to England a lot to sing in the small folkclubs there but they were trying to turn four fellas into a proper group and find a name for them. He told me they were thinking of calling themselves The Heads', as in "howyer head!" Makem recalled.

Ronnie Drew had met Luke Kelly in the International Bar and by 1962 they were playing together in O'Donoghue's with Barney McKenna and Ciaran Burke. Later they appeared in the Gate Theatre with John Molloy, and in time they did again, with "Finnegan's Wake", in which they sang the cheeky Northsiders' hymn "Monto" by George Desmond Hodnelt.

Many people have squandered adjectives on trying to describe Luke's delivery of a ballad like "Raglan Road" and perhaps nobody has one with which to counter the description of Ronnie Drew's voice as resembling "coals crunched under, a rusty door."

For Jim McCann, the folksinger-guitarist that Luke asked to join the band in 1974 after Ciaran Burke had fallen ill, his voice was "natural, completely without artifice".

Ronnie Drew spoke of how Luke Kelly had believed his own songs, and sung them with great conviction. He added that Luke had brought his CND ideals to the songs in the Dublin ban, and brooked no falsity. Obviously very much affected by the death, he planned no gathering or wake.

Close sources to the late singer said yesterday that he had finally decided, after his second tumour operation on March 31st last year, to become a patient at the new Cancer Self Help Centre in Bristol. His life had changed a great deal since the first operation in 1980; he spent much more time at home in his house in Ranelagh and with his close companion of the past eight years, Madeleine Seiler, of Heidelburg.


THE composer, Phil Coulter, who has produced many Dubliners records, recalls his friendship with Luke Kelly and assesses the group's contribution to the folk revival.

The man I loved so well

Even now I get goose pimples just remembering ... the night I stood at the back of the Albert Hall and heard Luke Kelly sing "The Town I Loved So Well" for the very first time in concert…the way he cried when I reluctantly let him hear a new song that was very personal to me called "Scorn not his Simplicity" … the way I cried at a protest rally in Dublin two weeks after internment when Kelly breathed life into my words singing "Free the People" … the look of panic on Luke's face the first night I counted him in, flanked by two chorus girls, to sing the pan of King Herod in Jesus Christ Superstar at the Gaiety.

The pictures are flooding back to me now as I write. Kelly in the studio, Kelly on stage. Kelly in the pub, Kelly with a hangover — and above them all I hear that voice.

Professionally Luke could be uncompromising and abrasive. We crossed swords often, but I forgave him everything when he opened his throat and sang.

Personally he was a man of deep convictions. He loved a good argument almost as much as a good pint and could attack both with equal vigour.

He was a public figure but a private man. He always had time total strangers who would inevitably greet him on first name terms, yet he jealously guarded his own privacy. I have seen him backstage in a crowded dressing-room, one minute the life and soul of the party, the next, quietly slipping off into the night.

I have often tried to analyse the appeal of the Dubliners. It wasn't merely that they were all individually talented; it wasn't just that each was a character in his own right; it wasn't even that they were the first. It was all of those things and more. When those five guys walked on stage something magical happened. They weren't a ballad group, they were a national institution. Twenty years before the music business discovered the phenomenon of "street credibility" the Dubliners had mastered.

They were the first. They blazed a trail through the Aran curtain of singing jumpers just being themselves and damn the begrudgers!

And always, always in the forefront, leading the charge was that voice again.

I refuse to think of Luke Kelly in the past tense. He will always be a part of Irish music and Luke's songs will always be his songs only. He will always be a part of my life. He sang my most important songs and gave me some of my most thrilling moments. In the days, weeks and months ahead I will listen again and again to Luke's records. I will cry a little, I will remember a lot, and I will savour every moment.

And I will still get goose pimples every time I hear that voice again.

top index

… the soul of the Dubliners

LUKE KELLY — the soul of the Dubliners

Balladeer Luke Kelly the "soul" of the Dubliners group, has died in Dublin's Richmond Hospital to which he was admitted at the weekend. He was 44.


image  Show Article

image  Hide Article

image
THE DUBLINERS … Luke Kelly with (from left) Banney McKenna, Ronnie Drew and John Sheahan.

Mr. Kelly was one of the original members of The Dubliners. In recent years he bad undergone two serious operations following a brain tumour.

He leaves his widow, Deirdre O'Connell, and many thousands of fans, at home and abroad, who followed the careers of The Dubliners since they formed in 1963.

Luke Kelly was born in the North Wall, Dublin, in 1940, one of six children in a working class family. He was educated at St. Laurence O'Toole's in Seville Place and left school at 13 to work as a messenger. Six months later he got a job in Jacobs biscuit factory.

A dedicated football fan, like his father before him, he played for Home Farm, and through contacts in another club got a job as an apprentice painter and even painted for a while in Aras an Uachtarain.

He was later laid off and set out on the road as a travelling singer. Like the other famous founder-member of the Dubliners, Ronnie Drew, be caught the emigrant boat from the North Wall to England, to sell vacuum cleaners in Newcastle.

It was in England that he was converted to the life of a singer and musician. For the next few years he worked in England improving his playing and singing talents. He spent two years playing banjo in Paris before returning to Dublin in 1962.

It was the appearance on a show put together by John Molloy that prompted Ronnie Drew to suggest the individuals form a group, and just in time for the folk music boom. After establishing a substantial base in Dublin they recorded a song and released it in Britain as well as their first step to international acclaim.

The Dubliners celebrated 25 years together last year.

Since the mid 60s they have toured the world extensively and often packing in full houses wherever they appeared.

Luke's colourful life extended into the showbiz world, when, for example, in October 1971 the band had two concerts cancelled in Lancashire 'because of the number of rebel songs in their repertoire.

The line-up of the Dubliners has changed in recent years, with both Ronnie Drew and his replacement Jim McCann pursuing successful solo careers, but never failing to attract huge crowds wherever they played.

Ciaran Burke left the group several years ago having been virtually, immobilised by a brain ailment.

Luke Kelly underwent his first brain tumour operation in Cork in 1980 when he was taken ill at a performance in the Cork Opera House on July 2.

On April 15. 1981, he collapsed at the Embankment in Tallaght but was discharged from the Richmond hospital two days later. A few weeks later he was taken ill again in Switzerland, and did not resume touring with the group again until October.

Last March he underwent his second brain tumour operation in the Richmond Hospital and was back playing with the group during the summer.

top index

Irish Echo
February 11, 1984
Luke Kelly - image

DUBLIN — Ballad singer Luke Kelly, a member of the internationally acclaimed Dubliners died in a Dublin hospital on Jan. 30.

The bearded balladeer, who was 44, had been in a critical condition following a brain tumor operation.


image  Show Article

image  Hide Article

Four years ago, Kelly had the first of several major operations after collapsing in Cork. In April, 1981 he collapsed again during a performance at the Embankment in Tallaght, Dublin.

Ronnie Drew and Barney McKenna, two other members of the Dubliners, were with Luke Kelly when he died.

Ronnie said early today: "We will all miss him terribly. I think he was the best we ever had. God rest him. You cannot measure how much we will miss him. We were all very close."

Kelly's craggy face, framed by a shock of red curls and a goatee beard, was a much-loved feature of the Irish and international music scene.

Born 44 years ago in the North Wall area of Dublin Luke Kelly never had it easy. Educated at Laurence O'Tooles in Seville Place, he left school at 13 to ride a messenger boy's bicycle. And in the footsteps of his father, his mother and the rest of the family he went to work in Jacobs when he was 14.

He then worked for a while as a docker, a builder, a drain digger and a furniture remover before leaving for England in 1957. At that time he had no thoughts of becoming a folk singer, but while selling vacuum cleaners in Newcastle he soon developed an interest in music.

In London, he met Domnic Behan who introduced Luke to the folk music of Northern England and Scotland. Soon, he became a name around the ballad clubs, singing and strumming a banjo. After two-and-a-half years he shouldered his banjo and went to Paris where he sang in the streets.

Arriving back in Dublin in 1962, he frequented O'Donoghue's pub on Merrion Row, which was known as a good outlet for a folk singer. There he met Barney McKenna and other musicians, who shared in the growing interest in folk music.

After he had appeared on a show with other individual members of the Dubliners, the suggestion was made by Ronnie Drew, who was already well-known at the time, that they should form a group.

Among the numbers Luke's fans loved to hear were his gutsy versions of "The Town I Loved So Well," "Dirty Old Town" and "The Molly Maguires."

After they established a secure base in Dublin in places like the Abbey Tavern in Howth, Luke and the Dubliners made a record, which was released in England, boosting their popularity and creating a demand for them elsewhere in the world.

Very shortly they were touring the U.S., Australia and New Zealand.

The heady mixture of instrumentals from John Sheehan on fiddle, banjoists Luke and Barney McKenna, whistle player Ciaran Bourke, along with Ronnie Drew's nasal poetry and Luke's gravel-voiced singing, soon put the Dubliners to the forefront of the international folk and ballad circuit.

Since the mid-60s, the group has made many bestselling records and toured extensively.

Throughout this time Luke diversified his interests and found time to act and write poetry. One of his best-known performances was in Brendan Behan's play, "Richard's Cork Leg."

Luke Kelly leaves his widow Deirdre O'Connell And he also leaves countless thousands of friends — many of whom only know him through concert or record — who have followed his career with the Dubliners for over 20 years.

source: Irish Echo - February 11, 1984

top index