Sunday 16 December 2018

Obituary: Pat Lynch

Showband veteran who had a No 1 hit with When We Were Young, writes Liam Collins

SHOWMAN: Pat Lynch
SHOWMAN: Pat Lynch

After recording When We Were Young in March 1971, Pat Lynch and the Airchords broke up before it was released, with the other musicians scattering to join different bands, leaving lead singer Lynch on the verge of quitting the music business.

But like a good showbiz story there was a twist in the tale, and the Cork singer quickly changed his mind when the song hit the No 1 spot in the Irish charts on April 10. The Regal Showband, re-branded as the Airchords, was hired to cash in on the nationwide success of the single.

Success seemed short-lived when the song was bumped from No 1 by Lynn Anderson's Rose Garden after just a week. But, Lazarus-like, it bounced back to the top of the charts on May 10 and it stayed there for the next four weeks, until Neil Diamond's I Am I Said came along to claim the position.

That success was enough to keep Pat in the business he loved for a few more years.

Pat Lynch, who died on January 26 at the age of 84, was born into a musical family in the Blackpool area of Cork city. He was playing music by the age of six and, although he trained and qualified as a welder, he was always looking for an opportunity to graduate from the day job and intermittent gigs at the Palm Court in Oliver Plunkett Street, Cork.

His opportunity to follow in the footsteps of his elder brother Steve, who was a member of the great Cork showband the Dixies, came when Clipper Carlton split into two bands in late 1964 and he was taken on by manager George O'Reilly as lead singer in the one that retained the legendary name.

Meanwhile the Airchords, a band formed in 1960 by a group of musicians working in the Air Corps, had enjoyed various line-ups before deciding to leave their day jobs and go professional in 1964. Pat left the floundering Clipper Carlton and made his first appearance as their lead singer on Easter Sunday 1965.

After a few pedestrian singles like Are You Sincere and Worry, the band finally broke into the charts after recording a folk song, as was the fashion at the time, getting to No 6 with the rousing balled The Leaving of Liverpool. Manager Aidan Hand followed it up with An Irish Soldier, which reached No 3 in March 1967.

In 1968, Pat almost made the big time in the fourth National Song Contest, which was a major event in the entertainment and television calendar. Singing Kinsale, he was beaten into second place by Pat McGeegan, father of the boxer and now promoter Barry McGuigan, singing Chance of a Lifetime, who went on to represent Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest.

Pat's brother, Tony, left the group and by 1970 the Airchords were in a state of flux with various musicians coming and going. When We Were Young was written by English duo Les Reed and Barry Mason, who had also written Delilah for Tom Jones and The Last Waltz for Englebert Humperdinck. Its success on the EMI Ruby label was to be the highlight of Lynch's career, although it did not achieve any great success outside Ireland.

Not even a No 1 could save the Airchords in what was a competitive and crowded field, and early the following year they changed their name to the Treetops.

In the meantime, an ambitious young journalist from Northern Ireland called Derek Davis had performed a parody of Monaghan singer Big Tom on the popular satirical television show Hall's Pictorial Weekly. Singing versions of maudlin 'country and Irish' songs as 'Mean Tom' while scrubbing himself in the bath, the series of sketches was a huge hit with the growing television audiences.

When the series ended Pat's manager signed Derek Davis and re-branded the showband as Pat Lynch, Mean Tom and the Treetops.

But the novelty soon wore off and, in 1973, managed by his brother Steve, Pat left the circuit and went into cabaret. He retired in the late 1970s and took up a teaching position in the Cork Regional College, which later became the Cork Institute of Technology.

He retained a great interest in music and sport for the rest of his life and When We Were Young was for many years the anthem of the Cork Hibernians of which he was an ardent supporter.

He last performed in a major venue when he took part in the Miami Showband memorial concert in Vicar Street in 2005, an event described by the legendary promoter Jim Aiken as "the greatest showband concert ever staged".

Pat Lynch, who lived on the Model Farm Road in Cork and died in the Marymount Hospital, was predeceased by his first wife Bernie and is survived by his wife Chris and his children and stepchildren.

Sunday Independent

Entertainment Newsletter

Going out? Staying in? From great gigs to film reviews and listings, entertainment has you covered.

Editors Choice

Also in Entertainment

Back to top