Sean was always exposed to Irish music as well as rock, reggae, etc. … in the ‘music’ folder of his computer profile, along with Radiohead, Oasis, and all the rest, can be found The Dubliners. He knew that these songs were part of his identity and his culture, and those things were important to him – he also just happened to like them. They chimed with his own Irishness.
When Sean was around 10 he developed a love for Planxty … I remember him trying to sing ‘Follow Me Up to Carlow’ exactly like Christy Moore, with somewhat unusual results. We encouraged him to try to find his own singing voice.
He continued to like Planxty all his life … we listened to the Well Below the Valley CD in the car quite recently. He also liked The Pogues and, especially, the Dubliners – he was a great admirer of both Ronnie Drew and Luke Kelly as singers, and they embodied a certain spirit of fun and freedom with which he identified. Both Drew and Kelly, sadly, have passed on, like Sean.
Sean turned many nights with his friends into singing sessions, we hear – he would burst into song at the drop of a hat, in the forest, in his flat, or wherever. His friends loved this … I think he got a lot of them interested in Irish songs. Some have told me that he was very proud of my capacity to sing and play in pubs, and spoke of it often. During the Fleadh last August, when Sean was working behind a bar, I made some new friends in front of it through my singing; at the end of the night Sean joined us and sang too. He loved the craic.
My next-door neighbour recalls the opening of the local cattery a couple of years ago – towards the end of the night, when the drink had been flowing, he, Sean and I were standing singing ‘The Rocky Road to Dublin’ together. This was Sean’s party piece; it has been one of mine for 30 years or more.
At a wedding a few years ago, Sean went up on stage at the end of the night, when the band were finishing up, and sang ‘The Rocky Road to Dublin’ into a microphone. Another time, in the local pub, the two of us sang ‘McAlpine’s Fusiliers’.
But we didn’t have enough singing sessions together. I suppose we thought we had all the time in the world for that kind of thing. C’est la vie.