June 4th 2021
I got a right buzz when word came through that An Post* had nominated my image to adorn a stamp. My immediate reaction was to think of my grandparents Jack, Ellie and Bridie, how they might be tickled pink at such an outcome. Our old band Planxty were similarly honoured some years back, that too brought on a smile.
“My” stamp is part of a set of four marking 50 years of the World-renowned Glastonbury Festival. The other three performers are Sinéad O’Connor, Hozier and Lisa Hannigan. I’ve had the good fortune to play Glastonbury five times. I have many memories from those gigs, the earlier ones all the fonder.
The whole “stamp” project moved into a different gear for me when I was invited to sing in the G.P.O. (Our General Post Office in the centre of Dublin is the most iconic and historical building in Ireland. It was the hub of the 1916 Rebellion). More than the stamp itself, I perceived this an honour. From the day it was first mentioned it became the main focus of my rehearsing and preparation. I trawled the back repertoire to find two suitable songs. Eventually I settled on “The Foggy Dew” and “Down By The Glenside” neither of which have ever been in my public repertoire.
Our Grandfather, Jack Power came from Hayes, Navan Co Meath. He had one song – “The Foggy Dew”. Jack would have witnessed volunteers from “The Plains of Royal Meath” hurrying thru to the GPO that Easter tide. Our Grandmother Ellie Sheeran came from The Cotton Mills, Navan Co. Meath. Ellie had one song – “Down By The Glenside”.
Thus I arrived at the G.P.O. on April 23rd 2021 all set with two songs learned from my Grandparents
The place was thronged, an industrious hive of activity. Valerie came with me and was equally excited at the prospect. Michael Devine, my colleague of 30 years was in charge of our visit. We were warmly welcomed and shown to the Boardroom of An Post. There were security personnel, car park personnel, An Post personnel, Producers, Directors, Camera Crew and Assistants, Sound Engineers, a make-up artist, Set staff, Photographers, a cleaning crew to maintain covid cleaning regulations and others – every single one of them performing their tasks to the very best of their ability.
I soon realised that there were two very different gigs going on. The entire production crew were there to make a commercial ad for An Post whilst I was there to sing in memory of those who died fighting for Freedom. I sang The Foggy Dew three times (for Camera purposes) and that went well. Sitting there in the great hall I became very aware of that iconic painting of James Connolly lying mortally wounded on the marble floor. I realised that I was sitting adjacent to that very spot where Connolly lay. Patrick Galvin’s powerful song came to mind and I decided to do an accapella version. The cameras rolled and I sang Paddy Galvin’s iconic verses. If there is one rendition of a song that will remain in my mind after 65 years of singing, it will be this one. At the end there was deadly silence, then the crew began to move around again. The first thing I heard was “we were hoping to hear something festivally, something with a bit of a Glastonbury vibe”. I must admit, this threw me – twas then I realised that I had come ill prepared
I did my best to finish but fell asunder a bit. I’ve no idea what will emerge from the exercise. I tried a few other songs but my focus was gone. I sincerely hope they will use Patrick Galvin’s great song. The Director promised he would furnish me with the footage and I trusted him to do so.
As for the stamp itself – it features a 35-year-old photo taken around the time of my first Glastonbury experience and is due out in July.
*(Our Irish Postal System pronounced “un pust”)