Keeping alive the legacy of Irish legends The Dubliners

The Dublin Legends on tour bring their new show to the White Rock Theatre in Hastings
The Dublin Legends on tour bring their new show to the White Rock Theatre in Hastings

Fans of The Dublin Legends – the new incarnation of The Dubliners – are made of stern stuff.

“We had a gig last night in Arbroath,” says band member Sean Cannon, “and a lady beside the theatre tripped and banged her head. She was in her 80s, and the paramedics were saying they wanted to take her away. But she insisted ‘I want to see the concert!’, and so they got one of the medical people to sit with her.

“We met her afterwards. She had a big lump in the middle of her forehead. That’s the kind of people we attract!” Sean laughs.

The band now heads south for a string of dates including Horsham’s Capitol on February 12; Hastings’ White Rock Theatre on February 13; and Brighton Theatre Royal on February 14.

The band lines up as Sean plus Eamonn Campbell, Gerry O’Connor and Paul Watchorn. Sean and Eamonn were members of The Dubliners for close to 30 years while Gerry joined them for the final part of their 50th anniversary tour.

“I got to know The Dubliners through the Midlands folk scene,” Sean recalls. “I would attend a concert and we would have a session afterwards that would last all the night.”

Effectively, Sean came in because of Luke Kelly’s deteriorating health. He had a brain tumour which would kill him.

“That took him away in January 1984. But I was in the band from 1982 because he was too unwell to travel. He had an operation in 1983 that relieved the pressure, but it was not totally operable. It gave him a bit of a lease of life until he took bad again in the autumn and had to give up.

“I thought I was just going to be three weeks in the band until he got better. I was 30 years. It’s like a dream now. I was never expecting that in my life! I was a solo performer on the folk scene in England for ten years before that.”

In 2012 the legendary Irish Folk group The Dubliners had celebrated 50 glorious years in the music business by receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.

They rapidly followed this accolade up with a sell-out concert tour of the UK, the highlight of which was a magical night at The Royal Albert Hall in London.

But crisis for the band came with the death of Barney McKenna: “He passed away in the April, and we did the commitments that we had for the rest of the year. We got Gerry in as a replacement, but what happened was that there was then only one original member of the band left, and that was John Sheahan.

“In that period after Barney died, John decided that he was going to retire after 50 years on the road, which was quite reasonable. The rest of us decided that we would carry on and give it a go, and that’s what we did. We changed the name from The Dubliners to The Dublin Legends. To be honest, there were no original members left, and we didn’t want to a tribute band, so we started again with a new name. But we do a lot of the old Dubliners’ material. We do what people want to hear.”

And so the legacy continues, started by Ronnie Drew, Luke Kelly, Ciaran Bourke, Barney McKenna and John Sheahan back in Dublin 1962.

You can expect classics including Whiskey in The Jar, Dirty Old Town, The Wild Rover, Seven Drunken Nights, The Rare Auld Times, Finnegan’s Wake, Molly Malone, The Monto, Hand Me Down Me Bible, The Irish Rover, Black Velvet Band and many more, as the Dublin Legends keep alive the much-treasured music of that iconic band created half a century ago.

As Barney himself once said: “It’s Too Late To Stop Now” and with that admission the lads are looking forward to entertaining and meeting old friends, new supporters and devoted fans in venues all over the globe, and will continue to play all the songs and ballads known by so many.