Wednesday 17 July 2019

Ronnie's final chapter

Ronnie Drew as a member of the legendary Dubliners in 1970
Ronnie Drew as a member of the legendary Dubliners in 1970
Ronnie with son Phelim after receiving a Legend in Life award in 2001
Ronnie Drew greeting former Taoiseach Charles Haughey and as a member of the legendary Dubliners in 1970

John Spain Books Editor

RONNIE Drew's family have posthumously completed the memoir he had been working on up to the time he died.

Ronnie had written about half the book before his death in August and there were fears that it would never be published because there was not enough text for a complete book.

But his son Phelim and his daughter Cliodhna had other ideas. They were determined that their father's work would not be lost and that the book would be finished.

Now, with their help, the book has been completed and will be published in a few weeks. Given the singer's enormous popularity and renowned wit, it seems certain that it will be one of the Christmas bestsellers this year.

Gifted

Though he was a gifted storyteller, it was only in 2006 that Ronnie agreed to put his own story down on paper. But it was to be strictly on his own terms.

He told publishers Penguin Ireland that he would do it on his own, in his own words, and there was to be no attempt to make his writing sound grand.

Ronnie started his book with warm, witty and insightful accounts of his early days and his pre-Dubliners life.

In his 20s, before The Dubliners took off, he worked in various jobs like apprentice electrician, trainee draper's assistant, telephonist and language teacher.

In 1962, his casual singing sessions with Barney McKenna, Luke Kelly and Ciaran Bourke evolved into the group that eventually became The Dubliners.

For the book he also wrote about the ballad boom of the early Sixties, the formation of The Dubliners and the madness of life within the group.

There are beautifully written chapters which make it clear that Ronnie Drew was a wonderful writer as well as a great singer and storyteller.

Six months into the project, Ronnie was diagnosed with cancer. With the encouragement of his wife, Deirdre, who died in June last year, and his family, he continued to think about the book.

Interviews

He conducted a number of interviews to keep things ticking over until he would be well enough to resume work. Sadly, much as he wanted to, Ronnie did not get to finish his story.

However, with the help of his daughter Cliodhna and his son Phelim, it has been possible to put together Ronnie's work on his memoir along with his other writings, interviews with Cliodhna and Phelim, a wealth of photographs and other material from the family archive, and contributions from close friends, to create a book that is a wonderful portrait of, and a fitting and loving tribute to, the man Bono called 'the king of Ireland'.

Ronnie once said: "I wouldn't call myself an actor or a singer for that matter, just a journeyman.

"I feel I must have a talent somewhere for doing something but I'm still not terribly sure what it is. I suppose it's a talent for being myself."

To that list of talents can now be added writer.

'Ronnie' will be published in hardback by Penguin Ireland on November 24, at €24.99.

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