Monday 23 September 2019

Music, stories and songs as Ireland's 'King of Cabaret' Sonny laid to rest

Sonny Knowles’s daughter Aisling Knowles and grandaughter Lorna Dunne at the funeral in St Agnes’s Church Photo: Colin Keegan
Sonny Knowles’s daughter Aisling Knowles and grandaughter Lorna Dunne at the funeral in St Agnes’s Church Photo: Colin Keegan
Sonny Knowles’s wife Sheila Knowles. Photo: Colin O’Riordan
Sonny Knowles’s coffin is carried from the church. Photo: Colin O’Riordan
President Michael D Higgins speaking with Fr Brian D’Arcy. Photo: Colin Keegan
Fiona Dillon

Fiona Dillon

'King of Cabaret' Sonny Knowles has been remembered as a gentleman who brought much joy to audiences throughout his long career.

Family and friends came together for a music-filled funeral Mass at St Agnes's Church in Crumlin, Dublin, yesterday.

Among the mourners were singer Red Hurley, RTÉ's Joe Duffy, Ronan Collins and Mike Murphy, comedians Sil Fox and Noel V Ginnity, and Olympian Eamonn Coghlan.

President Michael D Higgins extended his condolences to Sonny's wife Sheila and his children, Geraldine, Gary and Aisling, at the beginning of the Mass.

Red Hurley sang the first hymn as the coffin arrived into the church. Fr Brian D'Arcy, who was the celebrant, said Sonny and Sheila had married in the same church 62 years ago, and were "an inseparable pair".

Among the symbols of the musician's life, which were placed on a table beside his coffin by his daughter Aisling, was a platinum disc he received for record sales.

"Very few people got a platinum disc in Ireland. No better man deserved it," said Fr D'Arcy about the singer who was famous for his 'window cleaner' circular hand motion.

A pair of patent shoes were also presented, which Sonny called "shiny shoes", as he was always well turned out, said Fr D'Arcy.

The singer, who died last Thursday at the age of 86, was born in Dublin's Liberties, the fourth of six children. His father was a great drummer, so "music was in the family from an early age".

However, his father died the day Sonny made his First Communion, and then he became an orphan at the age of just 14.

It was his brother Harry, who played trombone in the RTÉ Orchestra, who encouraged him to play music, and Sonny became an extremely competent saxophone and clarinet player, said Fr D'Arcy.

He said that Sonny was "a gentleman to his fingertips".

Mr Collins told the congregation: "At the age of 16, Sonny started his association with music and that proved to be his life's work.

"The greatest joy Sonny got from music was the people that he encountered."

He said Sonny loved musicians and "musicians absolutely loved him, not just as a contemporary, as a musician, but they loved him as a person because he exuded a warmth and an honesty".

Mr Collins said that Sonny had forged an extraordinary bond with musicians over the years, from "the sit-down bands, to the show bands, to the cabaret".

Irish Independent

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