Tullamore Tradfest

First Published April 2022


I’m pretty sure that I’m not alone in feeling like 2022, although just entering its fourth month in the last few days, already feels like it’s been one of the heaviest years we’ve ever known. There’s been so much that’s been way out of the norm to process in the last few months, that sometimes – if I’m being honest – it all kind of numbs you a little bit. Covid is still with us, for one thing. But at least with that – at last – it looks like we might be reaching a place where some kind of ‘normal’ as we knew it before is possible again. 

But even if you forget about the pandemic for a while, what we’re seeing happen in Ukraine, the senseless devastation wreaked on that country by a man who will never again deserve to be known as anything other than a crazed dictator – and those around him, and on the ground in Ukraine doing his bidding…he’s not alone -is heartbreaking. 

Where that ends, well, that’s still anybody’s guess right now. But that it will end soon is something that we all pray for. 

When it comes to remembering 2022 here at home, in Tullamore and the midlands, and indeed, throughout the entire country, the shock, the horror, and the pain at what happened to Ashling Murphy at the beginning of the year will be felt by all of us – and deeply – for many’s a long year to come. But, in recalling how swiftly that darkness descended upon us, we must also remember to shine as bright a light as we can on the wonderful person that Ashling already was, and was in the process of becoming. And at the heart of Ashling’s life was music. 

This year, as TULLAMORE TRADFEST returns – and meaning more than ever before – Ashling’s friends in the trad music community are going to remember her in a way that she will, quite simply, always be with us…through the beauty and the power of music.  

The Tradfest committee recently announced their delighted at being able to confirm some of the headline acts who will be appearing at the CEILIÚRADH CEOLMHAR ar ASHLING MURPHY in the Tullamore Court Hotel on April 10th. Among the acts performing are Ballyboy C.C.E., the Macalla na hÉireann Tour Group, the Sacred Heart School Choir and Orchestra, and the legendary Best Foot Forward. Thanks to the support of Hymany Films and TG4, this celebration of the life and music of Ashling Murphy will be live-streamed. 

In a recent post on their official Facebook page, Tullamore Tradfest said, “We also feel privileged to be the first organisation to fundraise for the ‘Ashling Murphy Memorial Trust’. This trust fund was recently set up by the Murphy family who will administer donations received to causes and organisations relevant to Ashling’s memory. As tickets for this event were made available for free and performers are giving of their time and talent for free, we are appealing to those attending the event either in person or via live stream to support our GoFundMe campaign (link available on the Tullamore Tradfest Facebook page). All donations are greatly appreciated, and all funds raised will go directly to the Ashling Murphy Memorial Trust.”

Back in 2019, in looking back upon that year’s first edition of Tullamore Tradfest and looking forward to the 2020 festival, I had the pleasure of sitting down with one of the visionaries behind bringing such a brilliant event to Tullamore in the first place, the one and only Tommy Craven, the then chairperson of the Tullamore Tradfest committee. 

Now, as we look ahead to the return of the event this year, and, as I’ve already said, at a time when we need it more than ever, it’s worth taking a little trip back in time to that chat with Tommy (first published September 2019). And it all began with him explaining how Tullamore Tradfest actually came to be in the first place…

“Well how it came about was a group of us were down at Dingle Tradfest, and my wife, who wouldn’t be a trad-head at all, said ‘Ye guys travel all over the country, why don’t ye bring the festival to ye for a change.’ And there was logic there that we couldn’t argue with, ya know [laughs]. So that was the initial spark for it all. And it snowballed then after that.”

So what exactly is Tradfest? 

“The gist of Tullamore Tradfest was that we intended to flood Tullamore with traditional music over the weekend in question. The core element of any tradfest is the session trail, so we put that in place and then built in other elements around it. We had a big concert on the Friday night which was sold out, three-hundred people were at that. We had workshops then on the Saturday morning with one-hundred-and-twenty kids in for them. On the Saturday night we had the Festival Club, which was also sold out, at two-hundred capacity. And then the session trail again on the Sunday.”

Who featured in that Friday night concert? 

“We had a great act. We had Brid Harper on fiddle, Darren Breslin on accordion, and they had Brian McGrath on keyboard. It’s gas that you ask that, actually, because we tried to be strategic in who we picked, ya know, you have to be. And Darren would be kind of a cult figure, He actually brought people from Glasgow and Leeds, as in they came from there just to see him alone! So even though traditional music doesn’t have superstars, it does have its own little folk or cult heroes all the same.” 

Tommy stressed that Tradfest is not about any element of competition, but rather inclusion, so that anyone who wants to play and be part of it all, has the chance to. The workshops he referred to would have, I imagined, played a huge part in helping people to further develop their love of trad music, or perhaps even discover it? 

“Absolutely. The workshops were key for us. We wanted to give an opportunity to local music students to come and learn from some of the best tutors from around the country, giving them a flavour of some of the regional styles. We had Aoife Granville on flute from Kerry, we had Oisín MacDiarmada as well, and Brid Harper on fiddle, who would have brought a kind of a northern style. They were all hugely popular and all sold-out. We even had one fella on the day who just turned up, without any prior contact with us at all, he was on his holidays from Canada. And up he rocked with a fiddle to take part! [laughs]. There were loads of little incidents like that, little surprises. And when you think about it, those one-hundred-and-twenty kids in the workshops, they all bring mammies and daddies along, too. So it’s great to have them around the town and bringing a bit of business to Tullamore, which was also one of our aims.” 

Tommy mentioned a core group who had kicked-off the whole Tullamore Tradfest adventure…

“That gang of us who were down in Dingle would have been myself, my wife Eimear, James Hogan, his wife Lorraine, and Ann-Marie Kearns and her husband Damien. That’s where it all came out of to start. But since then, we’ve been joined by Frank Walsh, Denise Bracken, Brian McDaid, and Paddy and Mick Buckley. It’s a great committee. Now I don’t like the name chairperson, even though that’s what I am [laughs], because everyone I’ve mentioned provides leadership to the group. We all work really well together.”

I wondered what the response was like from the businesses and the people of Tullamore when the idea for Tradfest first came to light? 

“The whole Tullamore community was absolutely phenomenal. The first people we approached were the vinters, to get them on board for the session trail. And they were super. From there, we followed on with the hotels, with Offaly Local Development Company, Tullamore Credit Union, all the local media like the Tullamore Tribune and Midlands 103, and so many more. The response in general was amazing. And that great response from everyone really allowed us to push the boundaries with what we could try and do and achieve in year one. I think at times we sell ourselves a bit short here in Tullamore. There’s no reason why events like this can’t happen, ya know. We have the facilities, the infrastructure, and most importantly of all, we have great people locally. That was one of the biggest parts of the feedback from our 2019 visitors, they couldn’t get over how welcoming and friendly and helpful everyone was.” 

Since this year’s Tullamore Tradfest Tommy and others who were involved in its organisation have been around Ireland at similar events, and word on the success of the initial festival in Tullamore seems to have spread far and wide…

“It has. And it gives us a great sense of pride and achievement, so it does. Obviously it’s the people who came and visited us this year who have gone home and spread that good news about us around the country. We’ve been to other events over the summer, some of the more established and well-known festivals, and we’d be meeting new friends as you do. Say you’re from Tullamore, and they’d be like, ‘Oh we heard that ye had a super first festival up there, we heard great reports about it. Ye looked after the musicians really well.’ Now that wasn’t just us, of course, the committee. That was all of the local people here in Tullamore. It was everyone they met while they were here. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to all the local people and agencies who helped us out in that regard.” 

Have the Tradfest folk anything planned for Culture Night at the end of this week? 

“We have, we’re hosting a trad music session in Digan’s pub at nine-thirty. Everyone’s welcome to come along, and we’d love to see as many people there as possible to enjoy the night with us.” 

So onto 2020, and Tullamore Tradfest which will be happening in April…

“It will! It’s the third, fourth and fifth of April next year. And we’re easily gonna double everything that happened this year. So we’ve doubled our own efforts for a start to make that happen. Not only are we gonna have one concert on the Friday night again, we have plans for one on the Sunday, too. We have plans to double-up on the instrumental workshops in Colaiste Choilm, and plans to extend the session trail onto the Monday as well. Because we had such a great year-one, and because we’re getting such great support again, we’re pushing the boat out further this time, too.”

I wondered if Tommy and the rest of the committee even had a chance to sleep over these weekends?! 

“No [laughs], sleep is at an absolute minimum over that weekend! But look, it’s great fun. We all do this on a voluntary basis, there’s nothing in it for us only the enjoyment of getting to play a few tunes at the end of it!” 

Tommy referred to ‘year-one’ on a few occasions, which was this year, with year-two obviously being what’s coming in 2020. It all suggests that the committee have a long-term vision in mind for what Tullamore Tradfest can become? 

“Yeah, we do, and that goes back to the committee again. We have serious people involved there. We were able to announce the dates for 2020 on the Sunday at the end of the festival this year, and once we had 2019 over and behind us, we started developing a vision for the future. It’s going to be an annual event, and we have a five-year plan that we’re already working on. I can’t tell you yet exactly what we have planned for Year-Five [laughs], but we do have that plan in place with something special coming down the line in Year-Five.” 

And what about Tommy himself as a musician? 

“Well I’d be far from an accomplished musician, I’d be very average, if the truth be told, ya know. But that again is another element to the Tradfest idea. It’s an event for everybody. You don’t have to be a champion musician. It’s to give everybody a chance to come together, and to collaborate, and to learn tunes and share tunes. And you get to make friends, have fun, and have the craic as well. It’s just about throwing yourself into it and making the most of it.” 

Looking back on this year, and on putting it all together for the first time, can Tommy remember any particular moment over the course of the weekend where he felt like, ya know what, we’ve made something great happen here…!

“There were one or two moments like that for me, alright. So I’m a teacher in Colaiste Choilm, and we finish at lunch-time on a Friday. I hopped over to the Court Hotel just to check in on things with them, to make sure everything was o.k. for the weekend. And as I approached reception, I was met by two carloads of lads from Dublin who were down for the weekend! They had banjos, fiddles, and all their gear for the weekend with them. The trad community is small enough, you’d know lots of people, you’d know them to see. But I didn’t know who these eight, nine, ten lads were. I had no idea. So that was a kind of a, ‘Jesus, we could be onto somethin’ here, this could be a great weekend!’ [laughs]. That was one moment. The concerts were great. The workshops were great. The session trails were great. There was so much to enjoy about everything really. But the Festival Club with Damien Mullane on the Saturday night, that was something totally different, something that Tullamore had never had before. It’s not a sit-down concert. Damien Mullane and Eugene Quinn, for the Festival Club they get up on stage and, in his own words, ‘puc tunes out of it!’, for two hours! [laughs]. Everyone gets up and jumps around, and just has the craic. That was special. And the Sunday sessions were very special as well, the session trail seemed to be wedged no matter which pub you went to. Everyone, even at that stage, were saying they were looking forward to 2020. And like I said, we already had dates ready to go, posters ready to go, and we announced the dates on the Sunday so that people could book in for the following year when they were checking out of where they were staying. And the feedback from the hotels was that yeah, people had been doing that.”

How satisfied are Tommy and the rest of the committee that what they’ve put together for Tullamore matches the standards of similar events they’ve experienced around the country? 

“Well from the feedback we’ve got from people who attend festivals all the time, what we’ve heard is that Tullamore Tradfest far surpassed the vast majority of festivals around the country and was well on its way to matching and meeting some of the top ones, the ones that are already well established. So that’s what we’re aiming for. Now look, we didn’t get everything 100% right this time, but that’s part of the learning process. We tried to include as many people as possible, but even then, on the weekend of the event, people were coming to us saying they would have loved to have been involved. So we’re open to anyone becoming involved and we welcome anyone contacting us, be it myself or any of the committee members, to chat about that.”

~ TULLAMORE TRADFEST 2022 kicks on FRIDAY, APRIL 8th. For a full listing of events that will be taking place over the weekend, check out the official Tullamore Tradfest Facebook page or visit www.tullamoretradfest.com 

The CEILIÚRADH CEOLMHAR ar ASHLING MURPHY – a special musical tribute and celebration of the life and music of Ashling Murphy – takes place in the Tullamore Court Hotel on SUNDAY, APRIL 10th AT 6PM. Donation to the ASHLING MURPHY TRUST, a charity established by the Murphy family, can be made at the event. This concert will also be live-streamed by Tullamore Tradfest and TG4. 


Caitríona O’ Sullivan/ Chayce Beckham

First Published March 2022


We all know Kerry’s CAITRÍONA O’ SULLIVAN from her long-running role as a judge on TG4’s hit show Glór Tíre. But what some people may not be as aware of, however, is that the wealth of wisdom and advice which Caitríona shares with contestants on the show each year isn’t just that of a passive observer. Far from it, in fact, because Caitríona herself is quite the accomplished recording artist and performer too. And to prove it yet again, the singer/songwriter and TV personality has just released DON’T SAY GOODBYE, an original pop-country style record that big name American country acts such as Lady A would be proud to call their own. 

And the good news for country fans in the midlands is that we’ll soon be able to enjoy Caitríona ‘live’ because she’s among the artists who will be lending their support to the VOICES FOR PEACE concert at the TUAR ARD Arts Centre in Moate on April 14th. Caitriona will join event organiser, the singer/songwriter Larissa Tormey, along with P.J. Murrihy, Charlie McGettigan, Alex Roe, this year’s Glór Tíre winner Aishling Rafferty, Dave Lawlor, Ger O’ Brien and the night’s MC Eddie Rowley of the Sunday World, for the fundraiser which will donate proceeds to the Irish Red Cross in aid of Ukraine. 

With intimate yet powerful vocals and catchy hooks, Don’t Say Goodbye is a heart-felt, radio-friendly, modern pop-country love song co-written by Caitríona, Stephen Andreucetti and John Walsh / Symphonic. It was produced by Ray McLoughlin and features some of Nashville and Ireland’s top instrumentalists. The track was mixed and mastered in Ireland and the UK, and was released on all digital platforms on March 25th, giving Caitríona a #1 in the process. The accompanying video was shot in the beautiful Barrow House, Tralee by Cinetex films and is scheduled for release on April 1st.

Caitríona also scored a #1 hit on iTunes in the Irish country music charts with her original duet This Country Girl in 2021a co-write and duet with renowned Irish country-rocker Johnny Brady. That single earned the duo airplay across both national and regional radio stations. 

In recent times Caitríona has also enjoyed performing and releasing numerous songs on social media with Mark Cahill on The Ivory Sessions, and numerous other online and live gigs such as her Sounds of Cinema series performed with Kerry’s Scotia Ensemble, a project that met with great enthusiasm from music fans.

Hailing from The Munster Bar in Tralee, Caitríona grew up listening to and performing a wide variety of music there in her parents’ bar. Classically trained in voice and piano, she studied at the Kerry School of Music and went on to study opera with renowned voice coach Dr. Veronica Dunne in the Royal Irish Academy of Music. She has a first class honours B.A. in music and Irish, B.Mus. and was awarded a scholarship to pursue a Masters in music from UCD.

A prolific songwriter, Caitríona wrote the Irish language lyrics to the chart topping tune Fionnghuala in 2016 in collaboration with John Walsh / Symphonic which featured on the Eir ad and on The Late Late show in 2016, and was sampled by renowned DJ Vini Vicci.

Caitríona’s musical story also includes a very successful album of original songs entitled Fallen Angel froma few years back. That project included the single I’ll Be There, which topped the airplay and Irish music charts, being playlisted on radio stations nationwide. Some of the tracks from that album were featured on RTE’s award winning drama-documentary Proof

As her long stint as a staple on Glór Tíre suggests, Caitríona is also passionate about the Irish language and is author of no less than EIGHT Irish language secondary school textbooks for Gill Education, including Aois na Glóire 1, 2 and 3, and she is co-author of Mol an Óige 1, 2, 3 , Samhlaíocht and Spreagadh.

One man we’d love to hear Caitríona duet with someday is CHAYCE BECKHAM.

Now it sounds like a cliche, admittedly, but when it’s true, it’s true, and the fact is that Chayce is one of the most buzzed about newcomers in American country music today, having won over millions of hearts while competing on Season 19 of ABC’s American Idol. The reigning Idol winner and 2022 Artist to Watch – from the likes of Country NowSounds Like NashvilleCountry SwagMusic Mayhem Magazine – has released the smooth, southern comfort track TELL ME TWICE. With what Wide Open Country has described as Chayce’s “raspy, blues-rock voice” front and center, the catchy, easy-listening track boasts a vibe reminiscent of that golden-era of 90s country.

Beckham, who Katy Perry said sounds “like the heart of America”, was also scheduled to perform on ABC’s American Idol on Monday of this very week March 28th at 8/7c (1am BST), as he mentors the remaining hopefuls through Hollywood Week.

“This title was my mom’s idea for me to write because it was something we had said to each other,” reveals Beckham in talking about his new record.

“It made me think about all the things in life that you should just do and not have to think twice about it. Growing up I really did learn the value of a dollar because I watched my family work hard for everything we had. This song is a reminder to not take the good things in life for granted and remember to appreciate them.”

After winning American Idol and the hearts of fans across the nation just last year, Beckham released his self-penned track 23 that skyrocketed to the top of numerous viral charts, racking up more than 75 million on-demand streams, a figure that’s still very much on the rise even now. 

Also climbing the country radio charts with his sensual yet supercharges duet Can’t Do Without Me with label-mate Lindsay Ell (the recently announced host of Canada’s Got Talent and an artist we’ve been privileged to chat to for OTRT), the “rugged, country crooner” as Beckham has been pronounced by USA Today, really shows the depths of his artistry with the life-lessons taught in his new track Tell Me Twice. 

Written by Beckham with Isley Juber and ace producer Ross Copperman, the song highlights how it’s the simple things in life that are most important, with Beckham singing lines like; To take a day off when you need the rest / Loosen up the drag on a two-pound test / Drink a cold beer when the weather’s right / But you don’t got to tell me twice.” 

Beckham actually auditioned for American Idol after undergoing a particularly difficult year, but went on to become the first-ever show winner to claim the title with an original song, an achievement which kickstarted his journey to fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming a singer, songwriter, and entertainer. With his family, his hometown of Apple Valley and now America behind him, the mellow 25-year-old released his debut single, the aforementioned 23. 

The song, a semi-autobiographical account of his struggles with alcohol and of the lows it can take on a person, quickly shot to the top of both the iTunes Country and All Genre charts, and numerous viral charts, racking up on-demand streams in the millions upon millions. Now signed to 19 Recordings in partnership with BBR Music Group/Wheelhouse Records and finding his home in Nashville, Chayce is getting ready to share his signature sound with his legions of fans with more new music slated to drop this spring, with Tell Me Twice giving fans their first taste of what they can expect. 

Currently on tour with Jimmie Allen, Beckham is also headlining shows across the country and will join Luke Combs on the road this autumn. For more information and a full list of tour dates, visit www.chaycebeckham.com.

DON’T SAY GOODBYE by CAITRÍONA O’ SULLIVAN is OUT NOW, available on all platforms and to request from radio. 

Caitríona is also one of the featured artists performing at the VOICES FOR PEACE concert at the TUAR ARD in Moate on APRIL 14th, with proceeds going to the Irish Red Cross in aid of Ukraine. Also performing on the night are LARISSA TORMEY, P.J. MURRIHY, Eurovision legend CHARLIE McGETTIGAN, ALEX ROE, Glór Tíre winner 2022 AISHLING RAFFERTY, DAVE LAWLOR, and GER O’ BRIEN, with EDDIE ROWLEY from the Sunday World as MC. Tickets are just €20, available from the Tuar Ard box-office at 090-6482042. 

TELL ME TWICE, the brand new single from AMERICAN IDOL winner CHAYCE BECKHAM, is also OUT NOW and available on all platforms. 


Róisín O’ Reilly


Press Release via AS Written, December 2021


Having recorded and toured with choral group Anúna for many years, releasing her debut solo album – Love So Kindly (2003, Universal London) – spent considerable time working with Liam Lawton, and having even performed as a soloist in New York’s famed Carnegie HallRÓISÍN O’REILLY is about to step back into the spotlight. And this time, very much in her own right once again.

          The Cavan-born singer – now living in Dublin – hopes the release of her new single, HUSH BE STILL, will prove to be a Christmas wish come true for Syrian refugee children. The record is a collaboration between Róisín and revered songwriter Brendan Graham, and will be released across all platforms on December 8th.

          Recalling the first time he heard Róisín sing, Brendan said, “Back in the day, I had been at a concert in London, where Róisín had sung ‘Winter, Fire and Snow’ in an audience that included Maggie Thatcher, George Martin, Paco Pena, Hayley Westenra. Róisín completely stole the show and I had never forgotten the effect she had on an audience. So, when the opportunity to work with her again came about after hearing her sing at a funeral – well, it wasn’t even a decision to be made!” 

          The aim of HUSH BE STILL is to follow on from the success of Róisín’s Christmas release last year, with her O Holy Night raising €49,500 to date for Syrian refugee children. “My wish for this year”, said Róisin, “is that ‘Hush Be Still’ will continue to raise funds that are much needed, and that we’ll reach our goal of €60,000.”

          Those funds will be used to support the school for ‘street children’ in south Lebanon, established by Irish priest Father William Stuart. That school provides education for children displaced from their homeland by war, and who now live in the Tyre region of south Lebanon. The song was inspired by an experience Róisín had during Midnight Mass last Christmas Eve.

“At mass, instead of a homily the priest asked the congregation to follow a meditation. We were asked to close our eyes and were vividly led to the stable. I remember the pure stillness in the church. Having been in lockdown most of the year, the words of American poet Madeleine L’Engle’s ‘Into The Darkness’ came to mind, ‘…with no room on the earth, the stable is our heart.’ It was an intimate graced moment and I was lost in it. The memory of that night stayed with me and I knew I wanted to honour it with a song.”

          Róisín features on six platinum-selling Irish albums – including one by Ronan Hardiman, composer of Lord of the Dance – and six multi-platinum albums released by the Universal label. She was working on a project with Brendan Graham – the pen behind hits like Eurovision winners Rock & ‘n’ RollKids and The Voice, and of course, You Raise Me Up – when she was planning HUSH BE STILL. “Brendan is a gifted writer. He captures the essence of a story beautifully so I knew he was the person to write this song with me.” 

          When the opportunity came about, Róisín asked Brendan to work with her on the song. He liked the idea behind it and agreed to collaborate. 

“What intrigued me about Róisín’s idea was the potential to write what could be a straightforward lullaby to the Christchild…a Christmas carol…but a Christmas carol with a twist…a mystical twist. We all, to some extent, move between worlds, time shift in some mysterious, magical way…and the song seeks to explores this possibility – of being actually there, in the stable at Bethlehem on that first Christmas and yet being in the ‘now’ of this Christmas’’.

On that first Christmas Eve, YOU called out to me,
With a voice oh, so clear and so true..
And, I don’t know how, how I travelled from now,
To be with Mary there, holding you?

“The image on the single sleeve”, explained Róisín, “was specially chosen. It’s called ‘Be It Unto Me’ and is by the American artist Liz Lemon Swindle. It is the most beautiful painting I have seen of Mary and the infant Jesus so when the song was completed I contacted the American artist and asked her could I use this image because it so perfectly captures the essence of the song. I am very grateful to her that she agreed.”

“The aim for ‘Hush Be Still’ now”, asserts Róisín, “is that it will take our fundraising to the €60,000 milestone, please God.”

HUSH BE STILL, the new single from RÓISIN O’ REILLY – written by Róisín and BRENDAN GRAHAM, and in support of Father William Stuart’s school for Syrian refugee children, in Lebanon – was released on all platforms DECEMBER 8th. For more information, visit www.roisinoreilly.com 


Liam O’ Connor

First Published November 2021


I can still remember the very first time I actually saw LIAM O’ CONNOR perform ‘live.’ It’s going back a few years now, but truth be told, it might as well be just yesterday in so many ways. If I take a deep breath and close my eyes, I can still picture the scene and remember the feeling. The venue was the wonderful Tuar Ard theatre in Moate, and Liam was a guest artist on a show being run by a good friend of mine, the very talented singer/songwriter Stephen Rosney, also of the Back Axles fame. 

“Wait until you see Liam play”, Stephen assured me with all the confidence of a man who knew exactly what was to come, “the audience are gonna go madfor him! They always do.” I knew Liam by reputation, of course, and I’d probably seen him on television a few times as well. But look, when it comes to an artist of his ability, then you’ve never truly seen them play until you’ve actually SEEN them play, right in front of your own eyes. Backstage, when we met before the show began, Liam could have been anyone. And what I mean by that is you’d scarcely have known he was even there, that’s how quiet he was. No airs, no graces, no anything except a little polite and softly-spoken chat with everyone.

But then…BUT THEN…when it was his turn to take to the stage, everything changed, in an instant. Stephen was right, the audience went mad for Liam as he channelled a musical energy that seemed to be a lifeforce all of its own. Trying to find one word to describe it is a tough task simply because there’s no-one who can do what Liam does, in the way he does it. But there was definitely a touch of Elvis about it all, that’s for sure. I remember catching Stephen’s eye side-stage, and the look on his face was saying, “See, didn’t I tell ya!” And he did, he sure did! 
So when the chance came along for me to have a catch-up with Liam last weekend, I didn’t need to be asked twice. 

There’s a thousand things you could talk about with someone who has done as much in his career as Liam has. But, the Corkman whose home has been Killarney for many years now, has a very special event coming up next month, so that’s where we started. On December 8th, Liam will be joined by Moya Brennan, the Saint Brendan’s College Music Group and Soloists, and guest-speaker Joe Canning for what will be a night to remember at Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Killarney…

“Yeah, well this is my ninth year in Saint Brigid’s College where I do these concerts. I go and teach the kids for so many weeks, and then we do a college concert together and we bring a special guest, both a singer and a speaker. Our last speaker was Joe Schmidt, we’ve had the President of UCC Michael Murphy, we had Mick Galway, we had Kieran Donaghy, Tony Buckley the Munster man. We’ve had Christy Dignam, Brain Kennedy, Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh, so the names are good, you know. There’ll be some students there, of course, but this event is open to the public to come along as well, that’s why we sell-out every year. We had Danny O’ Reilly as well one year. I’m a part of Music Generation as well, but I started this, I suppose, nine years ago in Saint Brendan’s College because I had two sons going there myself. Saint Brendan’s College in Killarney is also known as ‘the Sem.’ It was a seminary before, you see. It’s a famous college, a lot of famous footballers went there, but I got the music going there as well. There’s some great music teachers there now. Mish O’ Donoghue is a music teacher, and Niamh O’ Connell is also a top of the range music teacher. So I brought in this idea of bringing in professionals [musicians] and getting the students on stage, and helping to give the students confidence for being on stage.” 

Moya Brennan will join Liam on the 8th of next month. How far back do the pair go? 

“We go back a good bit. Our first connection was through Maureen O’ Hara, actually. I used to do a good bit with Maureen O’ Hara. Moya was to perform in a concert for Maureen and I was doing it as well. But Moya couldn’t do it on that particular occasion but I did. But anyhow, we connected, and I just followed it up then.” 

I definitely wasn’t expecting to hear Maureen O’ Hara’s name pop up in our conversation, so just to be sure, I had to confirm with Liam that he was, in fact, talking about THE Maureen O’ Hara???

“Yes. Yes, yes. I did a lot of work with Maureen. You’ll see some of that footage that I have in my show when you get a chance to come and see it sometime. Her last recording was actually with my daughter, Saoirse. She was the last person to record Maureen’s full interview about her life before she left Ireland and died. We have some brilliant photos on that as well. Saoirse now is twenty-one, she was only eleven that time. There’s a good story there as well.” 

There certainly is! And it’s one we’ll be returning to in 2022. 

On December 20th, Liam was due to bring his ‘Liam O’ Connor Show’ to Liskennett in Limerick for a night in support of the Liskennett Equine Therapy Centre, an occasion on which he was going to be joined by Brian Kennedy. That show, however, for reasons so obvious we don’t even need to mention them, has now been postponed until February 20th of next year…

“Yeah, that’ll be at 3pm on a Sunday now. We have a great connection with the Equine Therapy Centre. This will be our second year doing that concert. David Doyle is the man that drives all that, and he’s a fantastic man, we’re very good friends with David. We came up with a concept that we should do something to lift the spirits and that’s where the idea of the concert there came from a few years ago. It’s for both the parents and the kids to enjoy. But with the situation we’re all in at the moment, we just moved it to February. We’ll have Brian with us then, of course, and we go way back with Brian. He’s been in ‘the Sem’ as well. I recorded a song with Brian last year, around Christmas, ‘I Wish I Had Someone To Love Me’, it was recorded once by the Dubliners too. I’ve recorded a couple of songs with Brian. I recorded ‘Message In A Box’, and ‘You Raise Me Up.'” 

Before Liam’s December 8th concert and his return to the Equine Therapy Centre in Liskennett in February, he was due to have another big night out close to the end of this month. Now, you may have picked up on the use of the words “he was due to” in that last sentence. And the reason – naturally – is that this event is another to have fallen to the times we’re in. However, when you’re a Cork man receiving a Pride Of Cork Award, having to wait a little while longer for it to happen only keeps the smile on your face a little bit longer too…

“Yeah, that’s gone now as well, to the 11th of March. Do you see the way things are moving? It’s a nice honour to get any award, but this is a Pride Of Cork Award so it’s lovely for me. I’m from Newmarket in Cork, living in Killarney now. It’s nice to be acknowledged and it’s always nice to get any award. They just emailed me [to let me know], and asked would I accept it, and of course I said I would. It’s a nice honour, it was a surprise. Any award is a surprise!”

June of this year marked twenty-five years since Lord Of The Dance first lit up the venue that used to be known and loved as The Point. In a post on his personal Facebook page to mark the occasion, Michael Flately named and thanked some of the people who were pivotal to the show’s outstanding success. One of them was Liam. I asked Liam for his memories of that time, and of course, of Michael himself…

“Brilliant. All brilliant. Michael is a master. Was AND IS a master. It was a great honour to work for him. And it was a great honour to be on the original team. I recorded all the ‘Lord Of The Dance’ accordion pieces on the original album. That’s something that I’ll always be very proud to have been involved with. And a big thank-you to Michael Flately for that. He really is the master of performance. That first night in the Point, it was the Point Depot at the time, that really stands out for me because my dad was there. He’s not around anymore now. My mom died when I was quite young, so my dad was there on that night. That’s why that one, the first night, stands out so much.” 

Even though Liam himself is also – as he described Michael – “a master of performance”, I wondered if, on nights like that, he ever gets nervous before a show? 

“You’ll always have a few nerves. That’s part of it being one of the biggest shows in the world. You’re working with some of the best in the world there. When you’re playing your own shows, and doing your own stuff, or doing anything with anybody, there’s always a few nerves. If there isn’t, there’s something wrong! That’s what makes it [performing] that bit of a thrill.” 

Liam, it’s more than fair to say, doesn’t just play the accordion. He has developed a style of performance that makes it simply impossible for people to take their eyes off him. In fact, he’s often been referred to as the Jimi Hendrix of the accordion, and no wonder! But how did this on-stage flair develop over the years? 

“I suppose it was a feeling inside. But getting on stage with Michael Flatley, all of those things are building confidence. You can’t be afraid. Do it the way you want to do it, that’s it. But I didn’t set out to do that. It’s a feeling. I created my own show then because you should try to be what you want to be. Don’t ever be afraid. I’ve done ‘The Late Late Show’ now with all three presenters; Gay Byrne, Pat Kenny, and Ryan Tubridy. I also did ‘This Is Your Life’ for Eddie Jordan, with Michael Aspell. That’s some stuff that people mightn’t know. But all those things are stepping stones along the way for buildingyour confidence. But really, it’s just a feeling. Some people like it. Some people love it. Some people hate it! But that’s fine, you know.” 

A lot of performers talk about how they’re almost a different person when they walk on-stage. Liam always comes across as a very quiet, shy, almost reserved person off-stage, in complete contrast to the man he becomes on-stage. Does he feel like he has a different persona for when he performs? 

“Off-stage, I’m just me. And on-stage as well. But when I’m on-stage, I’m passionate. You have to use the stage when you’re up there. I’m a performer at the end of the day. I’m up there on-stage playing music. It’s all about the music, yes, but it’s also about the performance. You’re entertaining people as well. You have to give everything up there.” 

After American actor, singer/songwriter, and comedian Charles Esten (most consecutive weeks to release an original digital single by a music act, with his Every Single Friday campaign beginning on July 15th 2016, and ending on July 21st 2017), I think Liam is only the second person I’ve ever interviewed who has been in the Guinness Book of Records. Back in 2008, Liam was – and remains, actually – the fastest fingers in the world on the accordion. I asked him to tell me about that experience and process…

I was playing over in Scotland and the Guinness Book of Records people were there so they asked me. There were five adjudicators, and they had a repertoire of tunes that you must play, you pick one of those and do it. I went on and I broke it then again. But look, it was a bit of fun, and it was nice to be in the Guinness Book of Records. And I’m still in it! So it’s still good [laughs].” 

The speed at which Liam can play, was that something he set out to do through practise, practise, practise? Or was that speed always part of his natural talent anyway? 

“No, no, no. I play many different instruments, but I have a good feeling for the accordion. But it’s not about speed at all, music is not about speed. I love music and I love the right tempo and all that. There’s an old saying, ‘Give time time’, ya know. Take your time. It’s not about speed, but I suppose I can play fast and that’s ok too.” 

Some wonderfully talented names had come up during the course of our chat, from Moya Brennan to Brian Kennedy, Maureen O’ Hara to Danny O’ Reilly, and others too. But who else, I wondered, might Liam love to perform with or for? 

“Well I did the famous flashmob with Christy Dignam on the streets of Killarney, that was another big one. If anyone searches flashmob and my name they’ll find that. Who else would I like to work with? Well there’s so many famous artists, isn’t there. It all depends. If we cross paths, that’s important. I have some beautiful new music coming out, a couple of tunes I recorded with Michael McGoldrick during lockdown. They’ll be coming out in the new year. Just a couple of singles, a couple of tunes.” 

Liam had mentioned his daughter Saoirse who now performs with him, as do his sons Oisín and Cillian too. And I’m sure Liam has been able to give them some priceless pieces of advice for working in the entertainment and showbiz worlds. If he could share one or two similar pieces of advice with anyone else already in those industries, or coming into them, what might he say? 

“Work hard. Practise. Be honest about it. And don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid of being yourself. And don’t be a bad copy of anybody else.” 

~ LIAM O’ CONNOR will be performing at Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Killarney on December 8th, with MOYA BRENNAN, the SAINT BRENDAN’S COLLEGE MUSIC GROUP and SOLOISTS, and with guest speaker JOE CANNING. Tickets available from 064-6631021 and ticketstop.ie Show begins at 8pm. 


Linda Martin

First Published November 2021


The thrill of watching LINDA MARTIN win the Eurovision for Ireland when singing Johnny Logan’s brilliant Why Me? is a memory that will never leave me. Nor will hearing it ever fail to stir those same emotions of excitement and pride that I felt bursting in my heart as I watched Linda cast her spell over a continent back in 1992. Hearing her perform Why Me? in person in the Tullamore Court Hotel a couple of years ago was just like travelling back in time. I wasn’t a sixteen year old sitting at home in the kitchen in Lusmagh anymore, but I might as well have been. Music is magical, and songs like Why Me?, performed by artists like Linda prove why that’s true. 

Little did I know way back then, of course, that one day I’d have the pleasure of working on a project with the very lady who won the first of Ireland’s famous three-in-a-row, leading the way for Niamh Kavanagh who took the crown in 1993 with In Your Eyes from the pen of Jimmy Walsh, before Charlie McGettigan and Paul Harrington gave us the hat-trick with Brendan Graham’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Kids in 1994. But, that pleasure did indeed come my way. And just last week, it was my privilege to sit down for another chat with Linda. 

We’d been meaning to get around to this for a while now, and with Linda having two spectacular concerts coming up in Dublin’s Pro Cathedral next month, what better time to finally make it happen?! 

“I’m grand, back to work again”, revealed Linda, as our chat got underway. “I had a year and a half off like everybody else. What can you do? You just get on with your life. But it’s been so difficult for everybody. I mean, looking back on it, I can’t believe that for a year and a half there wasn’t any gigging, or meeting musicians, or setting keys for songs, or doing something. It’s just incredible.”

 Moving on to the forthcoming concerts of December 6th and 7th next, Linda explained how they came about…

“Well, we’ve been running them for about the last five years, hugely successful. Not last year, obviously, because of Covid. But this year, I reckon that people are gonna want to get out and revisit those fantastic nights that we had in the Pro Cathedral, which is a beautiful place. So I thought ok, we could go with a night which is Celine [Byrne], who is an opera singer, Red [Hurley], Mary Byrne, Michael English, and the choir [the Halleluia Gospel Choir], do that sort of a night. Then the second night, I was talking to Johnny Logan, and I said to him are you around at all on the 7th, and he said he was. ‘Will you come in?’, I asked him, and ‘I will’, he said, so when he said yes I got onto the other ones and they all said yes immediately. The only one who couldn’t do it is Eimear because she lives in Geneva, you see, so she couldn’t get home. So we went ahead and put all our arrangements in place and that’s what we have, two nights, and all profits, of course – as usual – going to three charities. The first one is The Peter McVerry Trust, I adore that man. I just think he should be sainted. We have a new charity on board [this year] called Blossom, which helps mentally impaired people get into the work-place. And the third one, of course, is the charity that I’m a patron of, and that’s Dogs Aid, up near Finglas in north county Dublin. That’s what we’ll be doing. And we have a raffle both nights in the middle of the show, and then we’ll have our guest readers as well, like Mary Kennedy, Anne Doyle, Rory Cowan comes in and he does a little Santa skit with lots of little kids dressed up as elves. He’s done that before for me and the public love it because all of the little tint kiddies are dressed up and he’s talking to them about Santa and everything. Peter McVerry will speak too. He enthralls everybody. People just sit with their mouths open listening to that man talking. Covid, I know people are scared, but we’re definitely adhering to every Covid rule that that government has told us to do, I think that’s important to say and for people to realise as well.” 


One of the charities Linda will be helping to raise funds for is the Dog and Animal Sanctuary, and animals – dogs in particular – are and have always been a hugely important part of her life. In fact, Linda has twelve – that’s TWELVE – rescue dogs living with her. I wondered was there a moment, or perhaps a combination of certain moments in her life, that her love of dogs grew from? 

“Ah yeah, it’s twelve. But listen, for this house, that’s quite a small number. Trust me. Trust me! I remember one Christmas many years ago, there were twenty-four dogs in this house. I couldn’t walk across the kitchen [laughs]. But sure I don’t care, I love them! My father’s family were the same, they always had animals, always. So it comes from that side. When I was a child, I didn’t actually play with dolls and prams and things like that, it was always a dog. And I was always allowed to have dogs as a child. But my mam, she used to say to me, she never had to worry if I was lost, she just had to look for a tail wagging somewhere and she knew i’d be beside it. So it’s just in my heart. I just adore them.” 

How old is Linda’s eldest dog at the moment? 

“Fourteen. I can tell you that immediately because I’m going to the vet with her on Saturday morning, just for a check-up. When she came in here, she was a little mange-ridden puppy fourteen years ago, and he’s still here. He’s called Tinky-Winky, and he looks like one of the characters out of Emmerdale, I think his name was Red? [Laughs]. He’s fourteen, still moving about, still eating away, still doing everything. I became a patron of the sanctuary just because they asked me. That would be the closest one to me, it’s only about twenty minutes away from my house, so I’d known of them. I can’t really remember the exact reason, but I got a message from them asking would I come on-board as a patron, and I did so gladly. And I’m still with them. They’re good people. It’s a voluntary organisation. Nobody takes any money, all of the money that comes in goes to the dogs. It’s actually operational because of public donations, it’s marvellous.” 


Eurovision is the theme of one of Linda’s concert nights, and no-one in this country is more connected to Ireland’s Eurovision history than Linda. Not only did she win it in 1992 with Why Me?, she also came second in the contest in 1984 singing Terminal 3, and has been a National Song Contest entrant nine times, a number that is – to the best of my knowledge – still a record. But in recent years…ok, decades at this stage, sadly… Ireland has badly lost its way in the Eurovision. There’s a Late Late Show Eurosong special coming up again soon, something which doesn’t fill me any hope because this is an event that deserves and warrants its own stand-alone show, not simply being tagged as another Late Late Show special, or indeed, having anything to do with The Late Late Show. How would Linda go about putting us back on the right path again? 

“Well, exactly what you said. I’d make a special night of it. It could be in one of the studios in Dublin, but you could make it special [for the night], or else you could go to one of the theatres in Dublin and make money out of it. I truly believe that you’d be able to sell tickets. It’s a competition alright, but you could also have stars from Eurovision [as guest artists], you could bring them in. Think of Brotherhood of Man, for instance, they could be brought in. You would obviously go for the Irish winners, but you could go outside the box as well. Different countries that have won, RTE could approach them and just ask how they would feel about taking part in a show like that. It could be anybody. I think that would be a huge success, and it would make it something special again. When we don’t make it special, then the public tends to dismiss it. And Terry Wogan, God rest him, he was the worst! Jesus, the things he used to say about it [laughs]. But at the same time, he loved it. Graham Norton absolutely adores it. And I just think if we made this something special, whether we made the competition a stand-alone event, or really started trying to change the public’s opinion of it, because when you think about it on a base level, you’re providing work for an awful lot of people. Songwriters. The studios where the songs are recorded. Employees involved in putting the show together. There’s so much work in it that people would benefit from. People shouldn’t dismiss it, but think of it as a platform. If you can get your voice out in Europe in front of four-hundred-million people, that’s a platform for you! I just think we have to make something special of it. And we also have to take into consideration the days when we were all performing in cabarets, discos, variety shows on RTE and in the theatres, people got to know you, and you got your experience. So by the time that you had a few years under your belt, RTE would have heard about you, and you could put your name in the hat, and they would say well this song would suit X, Y, or Z.”

Linda continued, “Now I’m well aware that those situations don’t exist anymore. But, it’s not a contest for beginners. There’s no point unless you’ve got experience, are used to crowds, and dealing with people, don’t touch it. Seriously. If you think of last year’s Eurovision, and the amazing acts, all of those acts were brilliant. And I’m thinking of the women in particular. They were beautiful, dressed immaculately, smiling, dancing, singing, and they looked as if they owned the stage. And that only comes from experience. That applies to the boys as well. I remember suggesting to RTE one time, why didn’t they go around the karaoke competitions in Ireland. And they looked at me as if I’d just grown two heads! But it’s the only way these days that you’ll actually see and hear somebody. But I don’t know what we are going to do, because we can’t compete monetarily, or with some club-beat song, it doesn’t work for us. The Europeans have that nailed down. You know what their tracks and everything sounds like. We’ve always won with the big ballad. And I think we have to stick to that. Don’t try to compete with the other ones.” 

So, what Linda is really saying, if I’m correct, is that it all comes down to the song still? Or at least it should all come down to the song? 

“Yeah. Yeah. It really does. The song should be the most important thing. But it means nothing if you haven’t got a package around it. There has to be a ‘look.’ There has to be good vocals. They have to be camera-friendly. It’s a complete package that’s needed. And it’s very, very difficult to get that.” 

It’s that time of the year again when loads of fabulous new books begin to appear, and one in particular that I can’t wait to get stuck into soon is Backstage Pass by Pat Egan, a man Linda knows well. 

“I do, I do of course know Pat.”

And everyone is eagerly awaiting the day when another good friend of Linda’s, Louis Walsh, finally puts pen to paper! 


But what about Linda herself? Has the thought ever crossed her mind to tell and share her incredible story in that way? 

“Well, do you know something, I was approached a couple of times and I met up with a couple of publishers. And I just kept saying to them that I wasn’t going to name any names [laughs]. And they were sort of like well you’re no good to us then [laughs]. But I think I’d be boring. And I’m not looking for you to say, ‘Oh no, you wouldn’t’, or anything like that. I mean, genuinely, I think it would be boring.” 

I knew Linda wasn’t just looking for compliments because that simply isn’t her way. But I had to disagree, and I said it anyway: No way would her book be boring. No way. I think it would be fantastic.

“Well you’d never know what would happen in the future [with me], but Pat Egan’s is definitely going to be worth reading. I’ve known Pat for years, and he’s an extraordinary character. He’ll tell you the stories, but he never, ever runs anybody down, I’ve learned that from Pat. He always speaks very respectfully of people, no matter who they are. He tells amazing stories of stars he’s worked with and booked into Dublin, the festivals he’s run, and everything in between. A really interesting and lovely man. His book is definitely worth a read. I’m a voracious reader. My favourite author of all time is Frederick Forsyth.” 

It’s funny that Linda mentioned her karaoke idea to RTE all those years ago, because with their latest show – Last Singer Standing – well, it’s basically just karaoke and nothing more. When it comes to TV shows like this, of course, Linda has been there, done that, and went home with the tee-shirt as well, as they say. She worked with Louis on The X-Factor, and she played a major role on You’re A Star, so she knows what these shows are like. But in terms of something like Last Singer Standing, and indeed, the recent mess that was Virgin Media One’s The Big Deal (definitely not a big deal!), what were thoughts? 

“I have to give kudos to people who are actually trying to bring things forward. From what I’ve seen, there wasn’t anybody that sort of stood out and made me say oh Jesus Christ, you’ve got to sign that guy or that girl, you know. I did notice the winner of the first week of Last Singer Standing, a guy called Alex King, I remember Alex when he auditioned for Louis’s bands and things like that. And he’s a fine singer alright. But trying to get a record deal [now], it sounds to me like you need to have millions of followers on Facebook, then the record companies take notice, then possibly they’ll sign you to something. But there’s no money involved anymore. There isn’t. In days gone by you might have got €100,000 up front. That doesn’t happen anymore. Unless you’re Lady Gaga or somebody like that, that’s a different thing altogether. But no, I have seen anybody standing out. And Louis Walsh watches these things like a hawk. And nothing has come to his mind either. But he is putting some sort of a new act together. He’s looking for ‘something’, or ‘somebody’, or maybe a group, or people that he can put in a group, sixteen to twenty-one years old. He’s going to do something, he just doesn’t know what. The way he feels about it is when he sees it, he’ll know. And then he’ll push with a record company. But like I said, it’s very, very, very difficult.” 

Is it so difficult now because so many people try to just copy what’s already out there, rather than trying to be themselves and stand out as an individual? 

“There’s some unique people alright [that stand out]. Dua Lipa, I think she’s fantastic. There’s some around. But I don’t know if copying is the right word because you fall into that trap anyway without realising it. Somebody could sit down and start writing a song and then realise it sounds like Elton John, but listen, that’s just the way it goes. Music selling, of course, has been destroyed because of Spotify and all of those things. Songwriters are making nothing because of that. It’s so easy to go online, listen to a song or listen to an album, and if you don’t like it, you don’t buy it. In the old days, you had to buy the album to listen to the one song. We’re caught in that trap as well.” 

Returning to the idea of if Linda did ever write a book, I have no doubt that she could fill volumes with advice to those in the worlds of  music, showbiz, and entertainment. Acknowledging the fact that it’s hard to ever narrow down advice to one or two golden nuggets, if Linda were to try, what words of wisdom might she pass on? 

“Yeah. To all young people who ask me that, I say you’re limited where you can be seen, so go and join your local amateur dramatic society. And they’re looking at me like, ‘Whaaaat?!’ [Laughs]. But I say, I’m telling you, these people know so much, they’ve been there for a long time, they will teach you stage-craft, voice projection, they’ll teach everything that happens backstage, and it’s so well worth trying. I don’t know if anybody has ever gone and done that, but I think it’s a great idea to do it. Most of these people [in local ADSs] are so helpful as well. The second piece of advice is go and camp out outside Louis Walsh’s house! [Laughs]. The options are limited. You have to push yourself because if you don’t, nobody hears about you. But then there’s an over-confidence that turns everybody against you. You’re looking for that middle-line all the time.” 

As we tip-toe around the edge of another new year now- and even if things are still somewhat uncertain in a lot of ways – what is Linda looking forward to or hopeful about in 2022? 

“Not so much for myself, but what I’m hoping we can do is progress animal welfare laws in this country, that the government will actually say no, and start to take action against these dreadful puppy farmers and people who inflict such cruelty onto animals. That would be one thing that’s always on my mind. And for myself, just getting back to work! That’s all. That’s how my life has been spent, so it’s alien to me to be sitting not doing anything. And the Covid, I know we’re going to be living with it for the rest of our lives, but hopefully we can get it down to where it’s there, but we’re not actually getting sick from it.” 

~ CHRISTMAS VOICES from the PRO CATHEDRAL takes place on DECEMBER 6th, featuring Celine Byrne, Michael English, Mary Byrne, Red Hurley, Anna Kearney, the Halleluia Gospel Choir, and Linda Martin. The EUROVISION VOICES at CHRISTMAS concert takes place in the Pro Cathedral on December 7th, featuring Johnny Logan, Dana, Paul Harrington, Charlie McGettigan, Niamh Kavanagh, Anna Kearney, the Halleluia Gospel Choir, and Linda Martin. Tickets for BOTH shows are ON-SALE NOW, available from eventbrite.ie, and the Pro Cathedral Parish Office.