Saturday 24 February 2018

The Dubliners are breaking up? Now that's a sobering thought

After countless drunken nights, the TT member of the original line-up announces the end, writes Declan Lynch

As John Sheahan announced that The Dubliners will be no more, I suppose the moralists would note that Sheahan, the only one of the original members who didn't drink, was the only one left to make that announcement.

But then with The Dubliners, there was always an immense amount of lateral thinking going on – for example, how did they manage in the first place to bring a man on board such as Sheahan, perhaps the only completely sober musician on the island of Ireland at that time? Was it not remarkably prudent of them to have this guy to look after all the tedious stuff like phoning for a cab, ordering the last drinks and paying for the damage?

Barney McKenna, who died last April, also wanted to end it now. It remains one of the golden memories of my time in this industry that I once went drinking with Barney McKenna – we called it an "interview".

Having shocked me to the core of my being by mentioning that he was off the drink that day, on health grounds, he confused the matter further by ordering a white wine and soda – a "splitzer" as he called it – restoring a kind of order to the universe when he explained that he would be having that splitzer in a pint glass.

As a lateral thinker, Barney was centuries ahead of Edward De Bono.

The Germans, who are perhaps more inclined to think along conventional lines, have always been huge fans of The Dubliners.

As John Sheahan told RTE's John Murray last week, they've been getting crowds of 2,500 in Berlin, 3,000 in Hamburg.

"We give them Seven Drunken Nights, and they give us a thousand days of remorse."

But I guess by now they are used to desperate Irishmen roaring drunkenly at them about their troubles – and they're used to The Dubliners too.

They would also have a deep admiration for a brand that has lasted so long – yes, The Dubliners became nothing less than a brand that outlived most of its original creators. A global brand, indeed, that was started in a pub, and that never strayed too far from a pub.

And if the Germans are wondering how such extraordinary musicians never really bothered to write a song, or to engage the services of a drummer on any of their work except The Irish Rover, the massive hit they had with The Pogues, there is this response: they had a highly successful business model, and they didn't mess with it.

They were our BMW, run on porter.

A world without The Dubliners seems unimaginable, and Sheahan says they will do "the odd gig from time to time, maybe a few special occasions" – which is what I thought they had always done.

On New Year's Eve on BBC2, years after most of them have actually died, The Dubliners will be playing the Jools Holland Hootenanny. This was not just lateral thinking. This was a miracle.

Sunday Independent

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