Words and pic by Gerry Molumby
THE ' BARD of Armagh' Tommy Makem died last year, ' there's no show like a Joe Show ' - Joe Dolan died just after Christmas and now 'the voice of Dublin' Ronnie Drew has gone to join them. They each came to the fore in the 1960' when Ireland and the UK were embarking on traditional folk music revival and of course the dance hall days.
I would not claim to have known Ronnie Drew but I was in the same room - bar actually with him twice in my life, I was the barman on each occasion.
The first was in the early seventies when I served Ronnie (he had a black beard then!) and the legendary Luke Kelly large brandies in the residents lounge of the Anner Hotel in Thurles, Co. Tipperary. They were in town for a concert, they were not famous then but quickly getting there.
The next and last time I served Ronnie was in the VIP lounge of the 'infamous' Galtymore in London in 1998 when Ronnie was over to receive an award, it was water! on that occasion. That night I came from behind the bar as Ronnie went on stage and sang 'McAlpines Fusiliers' to a hushed audience as the lyrics and story resonated with the London - Irish audience. What was particularly poignant was the reference in the song to the 'Crown in Cricklewood' just '4 doors down' the Broadway.
There have been many wonderful tributes to Ronnie and his funeral on RTE website drew the best of Irish musicians and storytellers to celebrate his life. He is buried in Greystones Co. Wicklow next to his beloved wife Deirdre who was his life long friend and died last year. So some biographical details on Ronnie: RIP Ronnie Drew;
A legendary Irish folk singer and musician, he founded the Ronnie Drew Group, later to be known as The Dubliners with Luke Kelly, Barney McKenna and Ciaran Bourke in 1962. He was a member of The Dubliners from 1962 to 1974 and from 1979 to 1995. From 1995 on he pursued a solo career.
He has recorded with many great artists, including Christy Moore, The Pogues, and Eleanor Shanley amongst others. His distinctive voice has been compared to a cement mixer and the sound of coke bottles being crushed under a door. His most successful recordings include Seven Drunken Nights, (The Dubliners), and of course, The Irish Rover (with the Pogues).
In 2006 he underwent treatment for throat cancer. Ronnie was an iconic figure in Irish music. 'Ronnie I hardly knew ya' was Ronnie's last one man show which he toured the USA and Ireland with, there were few appearances in the UK, a pity now. The attached picture of Ronnie sporting his cigar was taken outside an Irish bar after a performance of his show - I think it is Ronnie at his best even down the detail of the shamrock on the stem of the cigar.
Ronnie you have had many plaudits and right some before you died, especially the RTE Late Late Show tribute. For me I just want to say Thank You. Maybe I'll serve you a drink another day! in another residents lounge !
Connolly Association, c/o RMT, Unity House, 39 Chalton Street, London, NW1 1JD
Copyright © 2008 Gerry Molumby