Thursday 29 September 2016

Rockin' Rowley: 'I'm glad Daniel didn't take my advice!'

Eddie Rowley

Published 06/07/2016 | 02:30

'Queen of Country': Philomena Begley
'Queen of Country': Philomena Begley
Big Tom
Mike Denver

Philomena Begley, who was recently honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Irish Country Music Association, has never forgotten the day she tried to dissuade a young Daniel O'Donnell from becoming a singer.

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The 'Queen of Country' remembers being pregnant with her first child and up to her elbows in flour baking bread when Daniel arrived unexpectedly into her kitchen one afternoon in 1980.

Daniel, she recalls, plucked at his jumper and shifted nervously from foot to foot before finally announcing that he wanted to become a singer. He was looking for advice.

Philomena knew that Daniel was then doing a business course in Galway Regional College. "Stick to the books, Daniel," she told him.

"At the time it wasn't an easy business to be in," Philomena says today.

"It wasn't as good as when I was starting out, so I thought it was best for him to get his education and have something to fall back on."

With hits like 'Blanket On The Ground,' Philomena became one of the biggest attractions in Ireland.

But the entertainer from Pomeroy, Co Tyrone, says her singing career happened by chance.

The young Philomena was working in a shirt factory when one night she sang with a local group, The Old Cross Ceili Band, as a dare.

It was the start of a 54-year career in showbusiness as the band hired her and then went down the country music route.

However, she recalls that it wasn't all glamour and glitz in those days.

"It was rough on the road, and the venues were primitive. You had to change in toilets or the back of a van for the stage, but I took it all in my stride."

Daniel, too, would take showbusiness in his stride. "I'm glad he didn't take my advice," Philomena adds.

All roads lead to Cong

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The roads to Cong, Co Mayo, will be chock-a-block this Friday when two Irish country superstars arrive in the village to see imprints of their hands immortalised in bronze at the statue of The Quiet Man characters.

Big Tom (pictured) and Daniel O'Donnell have both been chosen for this year's Cong Hands of Fame Award, an honour that the village - made famous by The Quiet Man movie - bestows on celebrities each year. Cong Festival chairman Patrick Luskin said: "Daniel and Big Tom are two icons who have been friends to Cong throughout the years and it's only right and fitting that the village honours them in this way."

Daniel O'Donnell says he is delighted with the recognition, particularly as he's sharing it with one of his musical heroes, Big Tom.

The ceremony will take place at 7.30pm on Friday and the event will have a country music theme. For more information go to www.congfestival.com

Dancing away the blues

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Mike Denver, who last weekend won the coveted Entertainer of the Year gong at the RTE Irish Country Music Awards in a  public vote, says country dancing is one of the best forms of  relaxation around rural Ireland.

"People tell me that going dancing clears their minds and they forget any worries they have in their lives," said Mike.

"Dancers also get the opportunity to meet new people, so the social aspect to it is fantastic."

As for his own loyal fans, Mike adds: "There are hardcore fans who follow me from one end of the country to the other. You couldn't buy that support."

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