Ipswich/Clacton: Highs and lows, but Dublin Legends roll on

The Dublin Legends, playing Ipswich and Clacton this week. Photo@ Niels Husted www.nhcfoto.dk

The Dublin Legends, playing Ipswich and Clacton this week. Photo@ Niels Husted www.nhcfoto.dk - Credit: Archant

The Dublin Legends’ Eamonn Campbell considers himself a lucky man. He’s still playing the music he loves after the sudden death of life-long friend “Banjo” Barney McKenna and survived a health scare himself not so long ago.

“I had an operation on January 31 last year for lung cancer which I survived, obviously,” he laughs.

“I was very lucky. Then I did 28 concerts in England after that. The surgeon thought I was mad but I did it. Life goes on, that’s the way it is. I’m not saying I felt great but I did it.”

The Dublin Legends had only formed, rising from the ashes of The Dubliners when McKenna died soon after the band celebrated 50 years in the music business by receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.

“What was lovely about that lifetime achievement award, Barney was the only surviving of the original members and he was able to accept it. He died within six weeks of it,” says Campbell, a member of the band for nearly 26 years.

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“It was really sudden; he’d been suffering from diabetes but there was never any mention of a heart condition. He just literally sat down, finished his breakfast, closed his eyes and that was it.

“He’d become family... you’re living in each other’s pockets, literally. Sometimes you have these minor differences; it’s like cabin fever when you’re on tour. At least with a family you can walk out your front door - when you’re stuck on the bus, in the same hotel, same dressing rooms...” he laughs.

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After 48 years of touring, John Sheahan decided it was time to step off the tour bus and it was agreed The Dubliners, as a touring band, would come to an end.

Long-serving members Sean Cannon and Campbell, 10-year stalwart Patsy Watchorn and Four Men and A Dog member Gerry O’Connor agreed - as McKenna himself said - it’s too late to stop now.

“I’ve never done anything else all my life but play the guitar. I’m 67 now so it’s a bit late for a career change,” laughs Campbell, adding the new line-up is essentially The Dubliners in everything but name.

“We thought it better to let the name go. The idea is to keep the spirit of what Ronnie (Drew), Luke (Kelly), Ciaran (Bourke) and Barney started back in 1962 alive.”

They can’t wait to continue playing the classic songs and ballads known the world over.

“We do a lot of the Old Black Velvet Band, Whiskey in The Jar, there are a lot of songs people expect to hear and if you don’t play them...” he laughs.

“Honestly, I remember some years back the amount of complaints the promoter got - ‘we came to see The Dubliners... playing all these songs we didn’t know’ so it taught us a lesson. The show’s very fast moving, good fun, we all enjoy ourselves, so far audiences are enjoying themselves so let’s hope Ipswich is the same.”

The Dublin Legends play Ipswich’s Cameo Hotel on March 4 and Clacton’s West Cliff Theatre on March 5.

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