Hound Dogs and hooleys: Remembering the reign of the Karaoke King

It’s a beautiful Friday morning, the last day of my holidays and I decide to take myself off to the lovely golf course in Castlerea where even if the golf might not be great I know the delightful surroundings and the wonderful fresh air will more than compensate for the poverty of my golfing.

  I sometimes think that I would be as well off to leave the clubs in the car and just walk from one hole to the next. At least that way the hard-working groundsmen wouldn’t have so many divots to fill in and I wouldn’t have to spend as much time trying to fish my golf balls from the river!

  Anyway, as I’m driving along I’m listening to an interview on the radio with two former All-Ireland hurling medal winners, one from Kilkenny and one from Tipperary. And the thing that made the biggest impact on me was the fact that both of them agreed that at the end of it all, it’s not so much about the winning or the losing but it’s all about the memories. And as I headed for the town of Castlerea, I realised that the little Roscommon town held a huge amount of memories on a personal level for me. I spent a few great years in the late 1970s and the early ‘80s working (with a big question mark!) in the Bank of Ireland and I had great craic football-wise playing in the Danny Burke inspired street football leagues. There was many a pint drank in Mulvihill’s, Tully’s Hotel, the Golf Club and other watering holes, some of which are still there, and sadly some that are no longer in existence.

  However, it was a later part of my life that came into my mind that day. It was the launch of my career (with another big question mark) as the Karaoke King, which took place in the Don Arms Hotel on the Knock Road in Castlerea sometime in the late 1980s. My good friend, Liam Callaghan, a member of the family who owned the hotel, gave me my first ever gig and so on a Friday night, myself and another good friend, Ger Dowd – who like Liam was a Creggs rugby player – headed down to the Don to begin a life that for me lasted more than ten years – and that for Ger was to only last the one night!

  I had only recently bought the equipment and as anyone that knows me will vouch, I haven’t a clue about anything to do with really anything, and so when we started to set up (there was a lot of wires and connection, and other electrical stuff) we had no idea what went where and it was long after our supposed starting time that we produced our first sound.

  The other big disadvantage I had was that I couldn’t sing, and so Dowdy launched the show with a rousing rendition of Elvis Presley’s ‘Hound Dog’, and somehow we got through the night. Thankfully in the Don that night was one Dympna Collins, who sang a few songs and was a brilliant singer and from that night on, Dowdy got his P45 and myself and Dympna travelled the high roads and byroads of Galway, Mayo and Roscommon, having the craic and listening to every class of singer, from the worst to some who were the very best.

  There were many wild nights on the road that time, but one that crossed my mind occurred on August 14th, 1993, when I was making my way home from the Village Inn in Loughlynn. I had safely negotiated my way through Castlerea and Ballymoe, but as I headed towards Glinsk, my car took off on a journey of its own, did a couple of twists and turns, hit a wall, bounced off that and hit the wall on the other side of the road, went up on its side and slid maybe 40 yards down the road back the way I had just come. Eventually it came to rest, slap bang in the middle of the road. When I pulled myself together and realised (thank God) I was still in one piece, I got out to have a look at the damage and I can tell you, it wasn’t a pretty sight. You could say there was nothing left in place, the headlights were in bits and literally everything was hanging off the front of the almost unrecognisable car.

  Back then there was no mobile phones – or at least if there were I didn’t have one – and so I decided to try and drive the remainder of my car to my brother-in-law’s place about a mile or two away. As I had miniscule light from the one bulb that wasn’t broken, off I hit, rattling and banging with my front bumper dragging along the road and less light than a small torch would give. What I didn’t know at the time was that at the next corner there was sadly a fatal road accident and when I arrived there the place was swarming with guards and ambulance personnel and as they were dealing with a major incident, the guards just waved me on.

  I made it to Raph’s place, and the insurance company declared the car a write-off and I’ve often wondered since what the guards thought when they saw me passing by at two in the morning in a car that was a total wreck. I would say if they had been able to pull me in, I might have had a long break from the road, however the tragedy that took place at the next corner made me realise it wasn’t that important anyway and the following weekend we were back again on the road, glad to be alive, and it was a few years later before the Karaoke King and Dympna finally came to a halt.

In praise of politicians… 

As you know there have been times in the past when I have been critical of our politicians and sometimes I have wondered what use these highly-paid people are to what I like to call the ordinary two and sixpence – and how do we benefit from their presence?

            Well, in the last week or two I needed to get a small favour done for an immediate family member and I looked for help from two of our best-known local politicians, Senator Terry Leyden and Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice, and I can only tell you that they both went out of their way to be of assistance.

  Michael Fitz made a very shrewd acquisition to his team when he got the extremely able Emmet Corcoran to join up and for a change I am publicly thanking all of those involved, including Emmet, for their very helpful response.

American Tea Party: a thank you

The Creggs Senior Citizens Committee want to thank everyone who attended their very successful fundraising American Tea Party. Also, to those who hosted tables, all those who donated money or prizes, the committee want to make it known that thanks to your kind generosity they now have enough funds to host the annual Christmas Party, which is the best social night of the year.

Congrats to Larry and Seamus

I had hoped to make it to the ‘Hatch’ for the free pint to celebrate their 20 years in business, but sadly I didn’t make it. I wonder how long will the free pint hold for!? But, in all sincerity, the Hatch has been one of the best pubs around for all those years and Larry and Seamus are what I can only describe as gentlemen of the trade. Congrats to you both and here’s to many more years of successful trading!

And finally…

Finally for this week, we are getting mobilised with the tickets for the dance in Dowd’s, Glinsk, on October 1st. Tom Connolly is already up and running and the rest of us will hit the highways and byways over the next few nights!

Till next week, bye for now