I was born in a small town called Banagher in the midlands of Ireland on the banks of the River Shannon. It was there I spent many a happy day playing in the meadows and bog lands. Watching my uncles cut turf, jumping bog holes with my cousins and in the evening listening to the call of the Corncrake and the Curlew.
When I was six my family and I moved from the quiet town of Banagher to the hustle and bustle of Dublin City. We were a small close knit family but strangely enough there was no music in the house however my mother could dance a fine “Hornpipe.” My first introduction to the beauty of folk music came on cold winter evenings listening to Radio Luxemburg after homework was done. The station used to present a folk programme that featured well established names such as The Weavers, Rambling Jack Elliot and Hank Williams to name but a few. Folk music now became my first love, meaning the good ole Rock n Roll would have to take a back seat.
When I reached my teens I formed a folk duo with a fellow art student by the name of Michael Crotty. We called ourselves the “Ramblers Two” While together we toured various folk clubs in both Ireland and England during the mid sixties. However we eventually went our separate ways, Michael to join a folk group, and me, well I took the road less travelled and went solo…..This was to make all the difference.
My big break came in late 1966 when I recorded a song called “Mursheen Durkin” an old ballad from the west of Ireland. It topped the charts at Number 1 for three consecutive weeks and represented my first steps on the road to success. “Mursheen Durkin” was followed up by “The Boston Burglar” which also reached Number 1 in the charts. In 1966 in Dublin City I had played support to an up and coming band “The Rolling Stones” and for the very first time witnessed the mobbing and screaming of the fans, the band running for the back door and the all important getaway car….. Now this was happening to me!!!
My first tour of the United States was in 67. It involved seven weeks of concerts during that very hot summer of Hippies, Protests and Vietnam. One of the many famous venues I played was the “Hungry Eye” in San Francisco. However, my favourite was the famous “Carnegie Hall” in New York City. It was a most memorable experience for me at that time and still is to the present day. It was at this stage in my career that I had my third Number One Hit with the song “Nora” from Sean O’Casey’s famous play “The Plough And The Stars”