Thursday 18 January 2018

When all of the world tuned in to Millstreet

Niamh Kavanagh met up with members of Millstreet Pipe Band at the Eurovision Tea Party.
Niamh Kavanagh met up with members of Millstreet Pipe Band at the Eurovision Tea Party.

John Tarrant

MILLSTREET journeyed back 20 years to relive its proudest achievement - the 1993 Eurovision Song Contest at a special party in the Green Glens Complex last Saturday night.

As Ryan Dolan was singing for Ireland in the 2013 Eurovision in Malmo, close on 380 revellers partied late into the night and shared brilliant memories with video clips and photographic stills. Capping a night to remember was the return visit of 1993 winner Niamh Kavanagh, who took delight in her title as ambassador supreme and a truly wonderful friend of Millstreet.

And messages of congratulations were screened from An Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD and novelist Deidre Purcell.

Millstreet Community Council chairman Noel Buckley spoke of the town's fairytale success story. "After Ireland won the 1992 Eurovision one man had a eureka moment. That man was Noel C Duggan," said Cllr Buckley. "He sold the concept to RTE of bringing Eurovision to Millstreet and brought the local community on board."

Cllr. Buckley recalled the subsequent mardi gras atmosphere in Millstreet with thousands savouring the atmosphere for a diverse programme of fringe events.

"The Green Glens became the world's TV studio, everything went according to plan. What a sense of pride we felt on hearing, 'Good evening, Millstreet, this is Paris calling'," he said.

"This small town on the periphery of Europe was certainly at the heart of Europe on that night. And the icing on the cake was Niamh Kavanagh's wonderful rendition of 'In Your Eyes' to claim outright honours," said Cllr. Buckley.

Local organisations got involved, with the community council setting up a steering group and sub committees. A 'Euro Bureau' was sited in the town square to process public and media enquiries. Elsewhere, groups focused on finance, publicity, accommodation, entertainment, tidy towns, car parking and security, linguists and county council liason.

1993 secretary Ken Brennan lauded the inspirational work of so many people who worked tirelessly towards completing their goal. "These people were amateurs, holding day jobs but everybody worked, might and main, to ensure everything was perfect," he said.

However, there was a serious glitch when the RTE technical personnel visited the Green Glens and pointed out that the roof was too low. The answer was another bolt of inspiration from Noel C - instead of trying to raise the roof, they decided to simply lower the floor.

A proud Noel C Duggan still savours the results. "We did much of the donkey work but Niamh's win helped put the name of Millstreet on the lips of millions of people around the world. I'm not exaggerating by stating that we've a trailer load of letters and cards from people from all over the world congratulating us," said Noel C.

The Duggan family had watched Linda Martin win the 1992 Eurovision Song Contest, in Malmo, with the Johnny Logan composed song 'Why Me?'

"I took an old envelope from the mantlepiece, gathered the family around the fireside and wrote to RTE signalling 'Why not Millstreet' as the venue for the1993 Eurovision," he recalled.

Millstreet had already put together a major effort to host the 1980 European Junior Showjumping Championships, with positive results. "The community came together to play a blinder. I had a gut feeling that they would do so again and I would like to say a big thanks to the efforts of the Millstreet community," said Noel.

Some people were sceptical about the staging and a small minority of journalists questioned Millstreet's selection

This came to a head on a RTE Radio show where presenter Marianne Finnucane questioned both sides of the argument, with Noel C batting for Millstreet.

"Initially, I thought it was to be 3-5 minutes, instead it was 40 minutes," he recalls. "Some rounded on Millstreet, stating the Garda station was only open til 3pm; but I interjected to say there wasn't any crime after 3pm, we lived in a peaceful community."

The debate became so intense that Finnaunce was forced to take a commercial break.

"On her return, the presenter had trouble, no trace of the Dublin journalist. I said, 'Marianne, I'm here in Millstreet, and delighted to say I'm using a twist-handle telephone'.

"Millstreet had answered to win the argument," quipped Noel C.

Cards and messages flowed in, extending good wishes and congratulating the local organiserss and the greater community.

"An elderly lady send me a Mass card with £20 enclosed to buy flowers. Thinking that I was singing, she advised me to take honey to help my voice," said Noel C.

At the party on Saturday last, guest of honour Niamh Kavanagh, backed by her husband Paul Megahey, delivered a selection from her reportoire, including the Eurovision winner 'In Your Eyes'.

"With the title of 'ambassador supreme and truly wonderful friend of Millstreet', that's some honour for me. Last week, I was with the Orchestra in Dublin, every one of them recalled the wonderful achievement it felt for them and Ireland to win the Eurovision," said Niamh.

The party continued late into the night, the dance floor full as the multitudes let their hair down to the music of Edmond O'Gorman and Pacific Blue.

Video clips, photography and memorabelia from 1993 were assembled by Millstreet Museum curator Séan Radley who thanked Dan Joe Kelleher of LTV, John Hickey, Mick Fitzgerald, Cork Film Services and Millstreet Museum staff for their support.

The celebrations began with a photographic exhibition in the Wallis Arms Hotel in addition to a 'Euro Karaoke Night' with category winners including Muireann Buckley and Brian O'Leary. Meanwhile, residents and business outlets displayed memorabilia from 1993 in window displays with street bunting adding to the atmosphere.

Millstreet rose to the occasion in 1993 and, 20 years on, can deservedly acknowledge that astonishing achievement.


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