Luke Kelly died on the 30th of January 1984. At the age of 43 he was still a young man with so much left to give. Unfortunately Liam Clancy (subsequently another great legend lost..) was unable to attend the funeral, so instead he wrote this moving tribute for his old friend:
Luke how glad I am that our paths have crossed
in that brief window of consciousness
that is given to us between Iike two great mysteries.
You came into my life through a window, the mens room window,
in the Central Hotel at the Fleadh in Miltown Malbay in 1964.
They wouldnt let you in the front door,
becuase they said it was after hours and you werent a resident –
but it was really becuase they didnt want a
Dublin Jack upsetting the session.
Willie Clancy was there in the parlour, and Jimmy Ward and,
the great Seamus Ennis who shares this piece of ground with you now forever.
You startled us all that night when you sang,
You were no self effacing rustic
waiting to be craved to sing soft sad love songs.
You were as strident as a street in Cricklewood,
as brash as a Dubliin Hackney driver
and you took delight in what you sang.
Joy and anger mixed in a powerful blend –
that was your hallmark – then as always –
Yoy is the act of singing – anger in the words that spoke of injustice.
You came from the mould of the great commune-ists
who knew it was right to rail against the tyranny of class and privilege.
Look at us now Luke, here in this cemetry,
a small hudlle of the living, amidst a vast throng of the generations
that marched through before us and, coming fast behind,
the generations to be born.
So what signifies?
Not signifies is that you fulfilled your destiny
that you did not Stint in the giving of the talent that was unequally yours.
Had you been a blade of grass you would have been very green and very tall and very pointed
because all things must be what they are to their fullness
Since we laid you down here, how many years ago?
you have been joined in the long silence
by so many of those we knew
by Kieren Burke and Seamus Ennis
and Joe Heaney and Willie Clancy –
and by my own brothers, Tom, Paddy and Bobby.
But are you really silenced,
N0! No and and never will be
Its all preserved, isnt it –
in reality as well as in memory.
And when in the future there an those who want to hear,
not the froth of fashon by the pop song of the month,
but the timeless vision of the true story told,
they will listen to you Lukey –
you and your likes,
if such there are.
And even though we understand all this with our heads,
we still lament in our hearts, as the song says –
“No nay never, No never no more,
will you play the wild rover,
no never no more.”
I first heard this tribute at Liam Clancys concert in Kilkenny, the only time I saw him play. Hearing him speak this tribute was one of the most moving things I have ever witnessed in a musical setting… amazing.
Words originally transcribed a few years ago, a present for my Dad. This time found here.
Here is a great hour long documentarty from TG4 about Luke:
a gem from @CobblestoneDub on twitter
True Dub Luke Kelly gone to that Great Gig in the Sky 30 years ago today @OldDublinTown
In this radio interview from 1963, a 22-year-old Luke Kelly tells Ciarán Mac Mathúna how he was converted from jazz to folk music after hearing ‘The Auld Triangle’ sung in a pub in Newcastle in England. Luke had “about 50 jobs” in England, “cleaning lavatories, cleaning railways”, but had recently returned to Ireland. He had been singing “since I started bawling in the cradle”.
This interview was recorded in May 1963 in Johnnie Fox’s pub in Dublin. After seeing the show ‘A Ballad Tour of Ireland’ at the Gate Theatre in Dublin around this time, Ciarán Mac Mathúna wrote in his RTÉ Guide column ‘The Trad Scene’
as reported on the RTE 30 year tribute