Thursday 22 March 2018

Voyage of recovery as Duhan sues solicitor

The Granny's Intentions songwriter fought his own case in a dispute over royalties, and won, writes Declan Lynch

Johnny Duhan
Johnny Duhan
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

IT'S a mighty long way down rock 'n' roll, as Mott The Hoople put it. But there was no rock 'n' roll, no Mott The Hoople, or any other such diversion to be found last week at the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal when Johnny Duhan made his stand.

There was just the appalling seriousness of the matter in question, Duhan's case against Eddie McGarr, of McGarr Solicitors, Dublin, in relation to royalties for Duhan's best-known song The Voyage, a version of which was recorded in the US on a CD and video by The Irish Tenors.

Duhan claimed that when an all-in settlement of €50,000 was available, Mr McGarr had repeatedly failed to provide him with a clear idea of what his costs might be – though "they will not be small"– making it hard for Duhan to accept the settlement, fearing the entire amount would be consumed by solicitor's fees.

So this was not rock, and this was not roll. The venue in Smithfield was discouragingly called The Friary – and indeed the only echo of a happier place was the composition of the panel chaired by Michael Lanigan, which looked vaguely like the three-person set-up of The Apprentice.

And yet, despite the solemnity of it all, maybe only a man who has seen the darkness of rock 'n' roll, as well as what Bruce Springsteen called its "everlasting power", a man who has been in the music business since the Sixties, would have the heightened level of endurance needed to take this case all the way to the end.

Duhan was only 17 and hungry not only for success when he was in London as lead singer with the Limerick band Granny's Intentions – then Ireland's most successful beat group.

Later, as a solo artist he wrote a number of fine songs such as Just Another Town, and Don't Give Up Till it's Over, which are not widely enough known.

Duhan believes in "compromise in everything except art" – which led a former manager to say that the musician was the only person he'd ever known in the business who had "a will to fail".

Along with his legal papers, Duhan carried a copy of the works of Dante Aligheiri– and if the frustrations of wrangling with a solicitor for about 12 years are not quite Dante's vision of Hell, certainly they are Purgatory.

His opponent was accompanied by his own legal team including a senior counsel; while Duhan, dressed in white, sat at a table with his daughter Niamh.

He conducted his own cross-examination of Mr McGarr, while the few journalists sitting at the back of the room were convinced he was winning his case. Yet in these nerve-shredding legal situations, everyone is in that agonising corridor of uncertainty.

But he was winning. The solicitor was found guilty of misconduct and ordered to pay €7,500 to Duhan. His behaviour was "egregious".

The Voyage was over and the hero was coming home.

Irish Independent

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