The death on St. Stephen’s Day of veteran showband singer and recording artiste, Joe Dolan, has saddened his many friends and fans in Waterford and across the South East.

In his late 60s, Joe had been seriously ill for some time but had been at home in Foxrock, Dublin, for Christmas. He took a turn for the worst on Christmas Night and was rushed to the Mater Private Hospital where he died on Wednesday afternoon having succumbed to a suspected brain haemorrhage. The numerous tributes to his memory, from across the broad spectrum of Irish life, were led by The Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern.

Personal friend

Don Duggan, the Waterford entertainer and former lead singer with the Savoy Showband, was a personal friend of Joe Dolan for many years and he and his wife, Rebecca, spent several holidays abroad with the Mullingar man.

“Joe was the nicest and most decent man I ever met and he always kept in touch. We went on holidays together several times and he was always great fun and a good craic. He loved children and confided in me several times that he regretted not having any of his own. He is being mourned by people all over the country but, on a personal basis, Rebecca and I will miss him greatly because we have lost a wonderful friend”, said the Waterford singer.

Joe Dolan was an enthusiastic and serious collector of Waterford Crystal products, a long-time passion that began when he was taken on a tour of the Kilbarry factory by Don Duggan many years ago. When asked about his hobbies, he often told interviewers that he enjoyed collecting Waterford Crystal.

Joe Dolan’s passing means that Brendan Bowyer (Royal), Dickie Rock (Miami), Brendan O’Brien (Dixies) and Eileen Reid (Cadets) are the only lead singers left from the small original group of top showbands that created a dancing revolution that changed the face of entertainment in this country. Many other wonderful bands and singers followed close on their heels but they were the original bands and singers that packed ballrooms solid the length and breadth of the country.

Originally from Mullingar, Joe was an apprentice printer (compositor) with The Westmeath Independent but, once qualified, he immediately turned professional as lead singer with The Drifters Showband led by his elder brother, Ben. He had his first Irish hit in 1964 with ‘The Answer To Everything’. His biggest international success was ‘Make Me An Island’ written for him by Albert Hammond. The record went to No. 3 in Britain in 1969 and went to No.1 in fourteen other countries. While his peers continued to have very successful careers, Joe Dolan was, arguably, the most consistent draw of them all in recent years until illness curtailed his appearances.

Joe Dolan and The Drifters were regular visitors to the Olympia and Atlantic Ballrooms in Waterford and Tramore at the height of the showband phenomenon and they also played the big venues in New Ross, Adamstown, Kilkenny and Youghal. As was the case with the other big names, their fans thought nothing of driving fifty or sixty miles to hear them play.