Sheffield Irish Festival event is a family affair

by Democrat reporter

FATHER AND son Al and Ruan O'Donnell, the former an Irish folk legend, the latter one of Ireland's most prominent historians, are set to educate and entertain Irish festival goers in Sheffield on Monday 16th March.

Al O'Donnell Ruan O'Donnell

The event at St Vincent's CMS Club, Solly Street in Sheffield S1, begins at 7 pm with a lecture by Dr Ruan O'Donnell on the links between 'Fenianism and the Famine'.

The first part of the event will be introduced by local journalist and on-line editor of the Irish Democrat, David Granville.

The lecture will be followed by a concert by the historian's father, the renowned Irish ballad singer Al O'Donnell.

The concert performance will be compared by Sheffield Irish festival committee member and popular local Irish songwriter and musician Dave Oldroyd.

"The Sheffield Irish Festival would consider itself extremely lucky to get either Al or Ruan O'Donnell, to get both and to be able to feature them in one event is something definitely not to be missed," said David Granville of the Sheffield Irish festival committee.

The event has been organised by the Sheffield Irish Association in conjunction with the Irish Democrat


Dr Ruan O'Donnell is the Head of History at Limerick University and the author of several books, including a two-volume biography of Robert Emmet (Irish Academic Press, 2003) and 'The Irish Famine' (O'Brien Press, 2008). Last year also saw the publication of 'The Impact of the Easter Rising' (Irish Academic Press, 2008) edited by Dr O'Donnell.

He is a member of the Irish Manuscripts Commission and a frequent contributor to historical documentaries on Irish Radio and TV. Last year he appeared in the popular BBC series 'Who Do You Think You Are' in the programme focussing on the ancestry of TV presenter and comedian Graham Norton.

Dr O'Donnell is also a member of the organising committee of the Dublin-based Desmond Greaves Summer School and a regular contributor to the Irish Democrat, the on-line publication of the Connolly Association.

Al O'Donnell was brought up and educated in England, his family having moved there in the 1950s. A regular on the Nottingham folk scene in the 1960s, he returned to Ireland later that decade, although working full-time in the Art Department at the Irish state broadcaster RTE, played an important part in the Irish folk revival movement. .

He has performed with many of the greats of the folk world, including Tommy Makem, Dick Gaughan, Luke Kelly and Sweeny's Men.

A regular performer in the Dublin folk music clubs and on television in the late '60s and '70s, Al's music career has blossomed again in recent years since he took retirement from his 'day job' at RTE. In November 2008 he released a new double CD Ramble Away, a collection of studio and live material. A stalwart of The Cobblestone, Dublin's premier folk club, the two-disk set includes a live performance by Al O'Donnell's at the club.

Al O'Donnell's entry in one on-line biography of Irish ballad singers describes him as "a singer of quality narrative ballads" whose "diction" is "on par with Luke Kelly's". Full details of the Sheffield Irish Festival Programme can be found on the Federation of Irish Societies' Website at:

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This document was last modified by David Granville on 2009-03-13 07:49:40.
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