I was greatly honoured when, in January 1993, Luke Kelly's brother, Jimmy, asked me to say a few words at Luke's grave. It was part of the commemoration that Jimmy organises each year. But I was also shocked to realise that already Luke was nine years dead and that in 1994 it would be a decade since he left us. Writing those few words brought a flood of memories of Luke, going back to such places as O'Donoghue's pub, the Gate, The Grafton, the Embankment and Liberty Hall. More than that, it reminded me of that amazing era when song, music, the arts and the impetus for social change seemed to come together for a whole generation.
Jimmy and I were both involved in a workers' cultural organisation called Sceim no. gCedrdchumann and we have remained good friends since. Like Luke, Jimmy is a remarkable ballad singer with a distinctive style and very strong delivery; he always evokes in me a memory of Luke.
Luke was Dublin's king when the young people of his city were beginning to release a pent-up energy and creativity which had been muted for a long time. He had a big voice, big enough to speak for all of us. He gave us, the Dubliners, pride in the sound of our own accent, in our own tradition; and a sense of joy, hope and determination about our future.
I believe that has been a lasting legacy through the troubled years since; and it seemed time that some attempt were made to salute his extraordinary contribution.
This book marks the tenth anniversary of Luke's tragically early death at the age of forty-three and I hope it goes some small way towards commemorating him.
A NOTE ON THE AUTHOR
Des Geraghty is a Dubliner from Cornmarket in the Liberties. He comes from a family which is steeped in the history, folklore and tradition of the city and has a special interest in traditional music and song. As a musician himself, he was a participant in the revival of interest in folk music in the '50s and '60s, as were Luke Kelly and his fellow-Dubliners. He is a well known trade unionist who has represented workers in most major industrial sectors in Ireland, and is currently a Democratic Left Member of the European Parliament, representing Dublin.