The Dublin Legends set to appear at Moseley Folk Festival
The Dubliners may be no more but the band which has done more than any other to popularise Irish music around the world lives on – albeit in a different guise.
The Dublin Legends feature the nucleus of the band following the sad death of Barney McKenna last year and a subsequent decision by founding member John Sheahan to retire.
And don’t tell everyone, but one of them isn’t even a Dubliner.
Sean Cannon might hail from the Emerald Isle but he’s been an adopted Midlander since moving over with his family several decades ago. His family roots are in Galway and Donegal and his father was a renowned fiddle player.
In fact if you pop down to the Hearsall Inn in the Chapelfields area of Coventry on a Tuesday evening there’s a good chance you’ll find him taking part in the weekly Comhaltas seisun there.
The rigorous touring schedules might not be what they once were but the music made famous by The Dubliners is very much alive and kicking.
And folk and Irish music lovers in the Midlands will be able to see and hear for themselves when the band headline the ever-popular Moseley Folk Festival at the beginning of September.
Speaking to The Harp, Sean said: “We’re not so busy at the moment, next month we’ve got a one-off in Italy and then it’s Moseley.
“I haven’t been to it before but we’re really looking forwards to coming to Moseley.
“I’m looking forward to seeing Kate Rusby playing too. I know here from when she was very small and now she’s the same age as my kids and in her 30s.”
Sean, who was with The Dubliners for 30 years and now lives in Coventry, admits he might be a little closer to calling it a day himself, though not just yet.
He is joined in The Dublin Legends by Eamonn Campbell, who played with The Dubliners for 25 years, and Patsy Watchorn, who’s a veritable newcomer with just eight or nine years under his belt. The fourth member of the line-up is Gerry O’Connor, a member of Four Men & A Dog and who has played the banjo with everyone from Sharon Shannon to Shane MacGowan.
The talented foursome capably continue the legacy started by Ronnie Drew, Luke Kelly, Ciaran Bourke, Barney McKenna and John Sheahan back in 1962.
Explaining how the current set-up came about and reflecting on the death of Barney McKenna, Sean said: “John retired at the end of last year. He made up his mind to do so.
“This followed on from the death of Barney last year. Although Barney wasn’t well, we didn’t think he would go the way he did.
“He was weak and his eyesight was failing but he had a heart attack. He did 49 years and didn’t see it through to the 50th, which was kind of sad.
“Then there were the others who passed away earlier – it’s 29 years since Luke Kelly died, that’s a long time ago.
“When John retired the rest of us decided we would fly the flag and do it for another while.
“We are all getting on and in various states of health. Eamonn had to have an operation on his lungs and we had to postpone a tour of Scotland earlier in the year until June.
“There was never any long-term plan made within the group and we had been talking about retirement for years.
“I am in my seventies now which is well past the retirement age – past the sell-by date.
“But we’re still able to do it, still able to knock it out and still enjoy it so we will carry on for another year or two – however long our health holds out. We’re just glad to make music.”
Asked what made the Dubliners so special Sean said he believes it’s a combination of factors, but central is the fact they are custodians who are keeping Ireland’s musical heritage alive, with songs that have been around for generations.
“People say ‘oh that’s a Dubliners’ song but many of these songs were in existence before any of us were born and have been handed down over the centuries.
“We sing songs going back to 1600, so to call them Dubliners’ songs isn’t quite correct – the Dubliners just cover them.”
* Moseley Folk Festival runs from August 30 until September 1 in Moseley Park Birmingham and the Dubliners headline on the Sunday night. Friday headliners are Ocean Colour Scene, with Edwyn Collins topping the bill on Saturday. To find out more and book tickets visit www.moseleyfolk.co.uk.