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John Martyn's long love affair with Ireland - and the demons that followed him here

Writer Graeme Thomson looks back at the singer's long love affair with Ireland, and the demons that followed him here

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John Martyn

John Martyn

Redferns

John Martyn

I first met John Martyn, as many did, in a bar. The beer garden of Carroll's Bar in Thomastown to be exact. I was interviewing him for a British music magazine, and was on the fizzy water. He was on the cider and quadruple vodkas. It was 2005 and Martyn - the once beautiful curly-haired sorcerer who belonged to a folk-jazz-blues genre of one - had seen better days.

I subtitled my new biography The Long Night Of John Martyn for a reason. For all the beauty in his music, Martyn's life was filled with what the folk musician Ralph McTell called an "awe-inspiring darkness". The final chunk of his three-score years were spent in Thomastown, and, at times, things got very dark indeed.

Martyn had moved to Kilkenny at the turn of the millennium, after bankruptcy forced him from his previous home in rural Scotland. With the kind of grimly humorous flourish he appreciated, a summons had been served on his 53rd birthday: September 11, 2001.