One of Tralee's great troubadours

The late Herbert Corkey


THE ERA of the dance bands lost one of its great troubadours with the recent death of Herbert Corkey, St John's Park and formerly of the Island of Geese, Waterloo Lane, Tralee. Herbert passed away peacefully on Thursday, January 10, at St Louis Nursing Home, Moyderwell, Tralee, where he had been resident for a period of time.

He will be remembered with great affection by a generation of people who attended the dance band days, when he sang and played the drums.

Herbert, the musician, was very much influenced by the big dance bands emanating from America, the likes of Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Arty Shaw and Tommy Dorsey. These great band leaders not only shaped the way Herbert and his fellow musicians performed, but also in the way the presented themselves on stage.

The black tuxedo was the standard code of dress when he took the stage with the late Terence Landers and the Kingdom Dance Band. They serenaded the dance goers in the CYMS and Ashe Hall, Tralee, as well as all over Kerry and Munster, as far up as Galway and Mayo.

With the demise of the dance band era, Herbert played with the Danny Diggins Band in Horan's and Ballyroe, along with providing the music for countless wedding receptions. Herbert cut his teeth with the famous Gil O'Brien band as an accordion player, but sadly many of his fellow musicians have departed to play in the big orchestra in the sky.

Aged 86, Herbert was born in the Island of Geese, Waterloo Lane, on February 1, 1926, to parents Bobby and Kit Corkey (nee Healy). Bobby was a former employee of The Kerryman, having worked in the plate making department, when the company was situated in Rock Street.

Being born at that side of town it was only natural that the young Herbert played football with Caherina and Kerins O'Rahillys He also represented the club at numerous athletics meetings, being a sprinter of note, as many clubs held their own track and field events.

The love of Herbert's life was Betty Finnerty from Stack's Villas and they shared many happy years together, until Betty passed away in 2011. Their home in St John's Park was where they raised their family - sons Robert, Junior, John, Paul and Billy and daughters Elizabeth and Majella.

Not alone was Herbert gifted with a musical ear, he was the envy of many with a pair of hands with which he could make anything and green fingers that grew flowers and vegetables in his garden.

During his working lifetime Herbert was employed at the Boot Factory at the Basin, the Ball Bearing Factory in Clash, Danny Diggins Glass and Glazing and Werner Heinrich Engneering Co. He also served many customers a pint or glass of their favourite tipple when he worked as a barman.

When his working days were over, Herbert could be found rambling out the canal bank and along Cockleshell beach with his friends, accompanied by their trusted canines. Many a fun-filled day was passed enjoying the scenery of Tralee Bay, interspersed with stories and ball hops of bygone days. Indeed Herbert would have made a great tour guide of Tralee and its environs, as he had a vast knowledge of the town in which he was born and reared.

When his darling wife Betty passed away in 2011, a little bit of Herbert died as well. With his eyesight failing and his health giving cause for concern, Herbert resided at St Louis Nursing Home. There he received wonderful care and attention from all the staff, for which his family will be forever grateful. They also wish to thank Dr Michael McGrath, Frs Healy and O'Rourke and friends who called to the house to offer their help.

The removal of Herbert's remains took place from Hogan's Funeral Home to St John's Church, on Saturday, January 12. The Kerins O'Rahilly's GAA Club provided a guard of honour and flanked the hearse. Requiem Mass was celebrated on Sunday at 12 noon with interment in New Rath Cemetery.

Herbert is mourned by his children, sisters Rosie, Tilly and Mary, grandchildren, son-in-law James, daughters-in-law Betty, Geraldine, Fiona and Judy, brother-in-law Willie, nephews, nieces, relatives and friends.

No doubt there was a brand new set of drums, ready for Herbert to play, when he was welcomed to his place in Heaven. Like the many other musicians who passed before him, he may be gone, but will not be forgotten.

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