Patsy Watchorn Magazine Article [Published 1998]
He comes forward to meet me, great smile on his face. A big-hearted man, you would say, as soon as you saw him coming. And that's what he is, that's what got him where he is.
His warm, confident, blue eyes look out from
under wiry black eyebrows, and his massive bush of steel-grey hair forms a halo
round his face. He is the kind of man that could take on the world, you'd say.
Indeed, he has taken on many an audience in many a concert hall, many a pub, and many a theatre on both sides of the Irish Sea - both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, in fact. He is a star, and I am trying to remember the movie star he looks like. Burt Reynolds, yes - Burt in his prime.
As soon as he opens his mouth you know he is a Dubliner, even you didn't know already. And he is proud of Dublin, he loves the place, the talk of people, the wit and the kindness of the genuine article.
He is passionate about his music too. It is not
a sideline or pastime, it is his life, his reason for leaving. And he plays it
and sings it with passion.
Patsy is freelancing at the moment, doing
corporate gigs and that kind of thing, operating under the band-name 'Patsy
Watchorn agus a Chairde'.
Nowadays, apart from entertaining the Irish at
home and abroad, Patsy Watchorn - agus a Chairde - are frequently called upon to
play for groups of tourists, especially Germans, that arrive in Ireland.
Patsy formed the Dublin City Ramblers back in
1970, and it was as lead vocalist of that band that he became famous.
He comes from a very musical family. His
father, Eanest, played the fiddle and piano, his father's brothers played
mandolin and banjo, and his mother, Christina, who was one of the Rings Of
Abbeyleix, was a singer. They always had music in the house.
Patsy was born in Crumlin, Dublin, and went to
the Christian Brothers there. "I wasn't mad about it, to be honest with
you", he says without hyperbole. "They were very severe on us."
Patsy went on to Ard Scoil Eanna on the Crumlin
Road. "They were very good to me. There was a big difference between them
and the Christian Brothers."
He worked for a number of years in a voluntary
capacity as steward in Croke Park.
He formed the Dublin City Ramblers in 1970 with
Mick Crotty, Kevin Geraghty and Sean McGuinness. They turned pro in 1972, went
to America, and released an album when they returned. Patsy has made 27 albums
to date. The biggest hit he ever had was The Rare Auld Times, written especially
for him by Pete St. John in 1977. He got a gold album for it.
In Britain, he has performed in the National in
Kilburn, the Swan in Stockwell, the Galtymore in Cricklewood, the Archway
Tavern, the Thatch in Highbury, any many more.
The Dublin City Ramblers gained an enviable reputation far and wide for the great energy and zest of their music. They had fire in their bellies. "We hurled it out!" says Patsy.
But the time came for the band to go their
separate ways. Patsy left in 1995. Then, all of them left except Sean
McGuinness, who now leads a reconstituted Dublin City Ramblers.
He reminds me that Pete wrote for him a tribute to Luke Kelly, called Luke Kelly's Land - which became Number One in the Irish charts in America.
Patsy, in fact, became so popular in the States that they gave him the freedom of the City of Fort Lauderdale, as well as the City of Hollywood (both in Florida).
Patsy has always been mad about sports of all kinds. In recent times he has sung songs about Sonia O'Sullivan and Steve Collins. He counts among his friends Jack Charlton and John Giles.
His last venture is a series of songs about the Insurrection of 1798 - all written by Pete St. John.
Apart from all that, a new album of 20 tracks, called THE CRAIC & PORTER TOO, is about to be released at the end of this month. [Editor's note: Please remember that this article was first published in 1998].
Many of Patsy's songs are about Dublin, as, indeed, the city always held a special place in his affection.
"I love the people - the old stock. I suppose when you're born and reared and grow up in the atmosphere and everything about it, it's hard to renege on it. Abbeyleix was my second home. We'd be out in the fields hunting rabbits and hares, or fishing, or picking mushrooms, when we were kids, and there was an old railway line that used to have the oul' steam engine that went by, but you'd always still like to come back to Dublin to play with the kids, and even go into the pubs and hear the old wit. It's a different lifestyle now, but the Dubs, I just love them."
What kind of music would he take with him to a
desert island if he knew he was about to be marooned on one?
"Elvis Presley was my idol, and I admired the Beatles. I love all types of music, but if I was on a desert island it would be strictly Irish music!"
Patsy has three daughters: the eldest, Lorraine, is married in Sweden, wit two children; the second, Carol, is a hairdresser in Dublin, and will be married next year; and the youngest, Tracey, is 16 and still at school.
I ask the great baladeer what music means to
What is his philosophy of life?
I notice that Patsy Watchorn is wearing a
miraculous medal round his neck, something rare these days, especially on the
neck of a successful musician.
When he was a child and they went down to Laois
on holiday, his mother would take them to the holy well of St. Fintan.
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