…in Tribute - The Irish Independent
Tuesday, January 31, 1984
Luke Kelly, dead
The bearded balladeer, who was 44, had been in a critical condition following a brain tumour operation.
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."
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.
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.
Thursday, February 2, 1984
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.
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.
|Ciaran Burke at the removal of the remains of fellow Dubliner Luke Kelly at the Church of the Holy Child, Whitehall last night.|
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.
Friday, February 3, 1984
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.'
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.
|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.
|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.
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.