Today we remember Luke Kelly, who died on this day, 1984.
Luke Kelly was born in Lattimore Cottages at 1 Sheriff Street, a quarter of a mile from Dublin's main thoroughfare, O'Connell Street. He left school at 13 to work as a messenger boy before going on to work as a docker, builder, drain digger and a furniture remover.
In 1958, Luke traveled to England where he worked at steel fixing with his brother Paddy on a building site in Wolverhampton. He was sacked after asking for more money. After a number of different odd jobs, and a number of different locales around England, Kelly eventually found a musical voice and began performing folk tunes at McReady's pub in Leeds.
In 1962, Luke Kelly returned to Dublin. O'Donoghue's Pub was already established as a session house and soon Luke frequented and was singing with, among others, Ronnie Drew and Barney McKenna. Shortly after Ciaran Bourke became a singing partner followed later by John Sheahan. They came together and named themselves The Dubliners at Luke's suggestion, as he was reading James Joyce's book of short stories, entitled Dubliners, at the time.
The band was an instant success around Ireland. International success was to follow, with the pop world in general beginning to embrace Irish folk ballads. The Dubliners toured extensively as far as Australia and New Zealand and brought Irish folk ballads to high profile TV shows such as the Ed Sullivan show and Top of the Pops.
On 30 June 1980 during a concert in the Cork Opera House Luke Kelly collapsed on the stage. He had already suffered for some time from headaches and forgetfulness, which had been ascribed to his alcohol consumption. A brain tumour was diagnosed. Although Kelly toured with the Dubliners after an operation, his health deteriorated further. He forgot lyrics and had to take longer breaks in concerts as he felt weak.
He died in a Dublin hospital on this day in 1984. He was 44. His gravestone in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin, bears the inscription: Luke Kelly – Dubliner.
This was the last song that Luke recorded before his death - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PlJVWV0MfIw
Drawing by artist Dave Gleeson.