When Trudi met Shane
By Amy Ryan
When Tipp FM’s Trudi Lawlor arrived outside the gates of Shane McGowan’s home she had a plan. The plan was that she would call him when she arrived, she hadn’t however accounted for bad signal coverage! So she found herself outside a large intimidating gate, armed with an array of home- made goodies to ensure Shane sampled some good old fashioned Tipperary fare, like homemade brown bread, apple tart, jam and Cashel blue cheese.
There was only one thing to do. Climb over the imposing gate and hope it’s not alarmed! Having traversed the gate in her six-inch boots and managed to save the jam from a grisly fall, she makes her way up the avenue towards the house when the phone rings, signal restored it’s Shane telling her where to find the key, which is hidden in a “very safe place”.
Key in hand Trudi opens the door and like Alice entering wonderland she comes face to face with one of her musical heroes, the legendary singer, songwriter, poet, musician Shane McGowan.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” he greets her warmly and gently lifts her hand to kiss it.
His warm demeanor makes her feel instantly at home. She is brought to the kitchen, where she’s instructed to make herself a cup of tea while they chat away like old friends.
“We had ramblers coming to the house every night so there was lots of songs. My mother was a very good singer, they were all really good singers and very versatile musicians,” says Shane.
Shane’s mother, Therese, was a singer and traditional Irish dancer, and had worked as a model in Dublin. She won ‘Feis Ceoil’ while the family lived in Ireland.
The artistic flare didn’t only come from his maternal side, Shane’s father, Maurice, was a poet and playwright, with musical talents.
“He was into the music as well. He was a jazz musician. Jazz and church and stuff,” said Shane.
Shane was thrown into the festive season from day one, born on Christmas Day in Pembury, Kent in England in 1957.
He was just a few months old when he was bundled up and brought across the Irish sea to the Premier county. He spent his younger years in North Tipperary, surrounded by family.
Shane described his Tipperary roots being filled with sing songs with generations of the Dunne and Lynch families in Carney, in the parish of Kildangan.
“We sang stuff like Marie Barry saying “Do you love me Shane” and some other stuff.”
“My mother knew the Irish versions of “Down by the Glenside.”
The musical environment was natural to Shane, he learned to sing before he could walk.
“Yeah, I learned a couple of songs a day from the time I could talk,” says Shane as he sips his tea.
“My Uncle Mike could play the box and the accordion. He was a famous accordion player!” says Shane. “My granddad played the concertina. I remember him playing the box really-well when I was younger. I would stay up all night.”
Shane sits back comfortably in his seat while Trudi leans towards him. He tells her of a devastating year, following the deaths of his mother and his manager, Frank Murray.
“I don’t deny the fact that she has passed on, but I think that she is still around.”
Trudi feels compelled to open up about her own struggles with loss, her mother and brother are also gone from her life. She surprises herself with how much she tells Shane, as he sits cross-legged, nodding sympathetically.
Shane spent many summers in Nenagh, visiting grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and extended family. His childhood of ‘rusty tin cans and old hurley balls’ is captured in the song ‘The Broad Majestic Shannon’.
There was to be no mention of “that song” and so, no questions were asked of one of the most popular Christmas songs ever recorded. When asked if he would sing her something. Shane turns the tables and asks Trudi to sing to him, one of his mothers favourite’s. She duly obliges and starts to sing “The Water is wide” and as she sings she noticed his eyes were filled with tears. It was a poignant moment in their time together.
Fearing she would outstay her welcome, although Shane wasn’t giving that impression, Trudy hops forward in her seat, posing the most important question of the evening.
“So you would consider yourself a Tipperary man?” she asks eagerly.
“Yes, the first ever serious Tipperary man,” he smiles.
“Go on ya devil ya. He’s a Tipp man, he’s from the Premier!” screeches Trudi. “What’s your message for people back home”?
“A Happy Christmas and New Year to everybody in Tipperary,” he says.
And so, on a frosty December evening, Trudi Lalor bids a fond farewell to one of her childhood heroes feeling all the better and richer for the experience. This was one icon who lived up to all her expectations.