We know that summer is drawing to a close as the racing in Tramore is done, the schools are beckoning their pupils back and folk are heading for the last fling of summertime in Dunmore East for the Blue Grass Festival. Dunmore has I have happily declared in the past is one of my favourite places – a treasure trove of a place, just out the road from us city folk, even luckier indeed, for those who call it home.
For those who would like to learn more of it as a tourist destination, I would direct you to their wonderfully informative website: www.dunmore.ie but for a deeper look at this special place, its people and their stories and memories and so much more, I would highly recommend a truly great website established by Louis O’Dwyer, Ringo Regan and Von Rutter in 2006: www.odwyer.net
Among lots of other stories is that of the Lonesome Hobos a super Dunmore- spawned Bluegrass Band which can be said to have forged the original link with Bluegrass music and thus inspired the establishment of the Festival there. It has proved very successful over the years and as I said earlier, rounds off our summer with a twang.
However, this writer and others, while acknowledging the hard work of the organisers would like to see or indeed hear even more of the real thing – genuine rooted bluegrass – hard to beat. So courtesy of Louis and the Boys, we bring you the story of where it all began.
The Lonesome Hobos
The band began in 1987 when Jesse Lonergan and Ringo Regan returned from a year in Australia. John Gray RIP, secured the boys a Sunday afternoon session at the Candlelight for Charlie Boland, and that was more or less the beginning. The initial sessions involved sitting around a table playing guitar, five string banjo, and dobro. The boys covered old Bluegrass classics from Bill Munroe, Ralph Stanley, Doc Watson etc, with a reasonably healthy mix of tunes and songs. Fergus Tyrell from Dublin (whose brothers had a country band called Tyrell’s Pass) joined on bass and each Sunday the size of the crowds started to increase. Most people just liked the music which at the time was new to Dunmore, and the Candlelight.
In the spring of 1988 it was decided to have a go at launching the band proper. Fergus had moved on, so some new recruits had to be found and a much better sound system etc needed to be purchased. Ringo enlisted the services of Mick Dower from Waterford on bass and Jesse contacted an old drummer friend of his, Mick Kinsella, a former drummer with the Dave Prim band from Kilkenny. Mick Kinsella was also an excellent Blues Harp player. Then they needed a good fiddle player, so a search of the music department of Waterford Regional was conducted and it produced a very talented young Waterford musician Niall O’Brien who became the youngest member of The Lonesome Hobos. Last but not least Gerry Madden joined on the mandolin and so the Lonesome Hobos began.
The Lonesome Hobos travelled and played throughout the country for a few years. Most who heard the band loved the sound and the image. The sound was an American Bluegrass cross-over into country folk. The image was of a bedraggled bunch of old travelling Men taken from the very name The Lonesome Hobos.
Second Fiddle to No One!
The band played many festivals and venues, including The Killarney Folk Festival where they shared the bill with Altan, and the Dublin City Folk Festival. They appeared on RTE television with Shay Healy and The Nighthawks, and also on RTE radio with Ronan Collins. One famous double bill with The Waterboys at CJ’s in Salt Hill Galway, will always be remembered when the more illustrious fiddle player with The Waterboys was at a loss to deal with the young Hobo on the fiddle from Waterford. The boys also played (believe it or not) at the Candlelight one winter’s night with one of America ‘s foremost singer song writers John Prine, in the company of Phillip Donnelly. Throughout all the gigs and the travelling the Hobos always came back to town and especially to Dunmore where it had all begun. Some people will remember taking the Bus on a Saturday night to Katie Reilly’s Kitchen on the Tramore road to enjoy the band and the old Bluegrass classics including “Blue Moon of Kentucky ”, and “Will the Circle be Unbroken” The Lonesome Hobos played many bluegrass and country tunes and received a lot of support from the people of the South East. One song in particular however will always stand out in the minds of many in Dunmore as being the signature tune of “The Lonesome Hobos” – “Sam Stone” To this day it is still requested on country radio programs.
“ There’s a hole in Daddy’s arm where all the money goes, and Jesus Christ died for nothing I suppose”.
“The Lonesome Hobos” Thank you for the memories. And so say all of us, especially this writer who has his own great memories of the Hobos and all who sailed on her!
Enjoy the weekend.