Updated: 14/10/16 : 06:23:09
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Sligo savours soft spot for Ralph McTell

By Eugene McGloin

RALPH McTELL, if he was a senior soccer player, would have been repeatedly capped for Ireland.

Not bad for one whose childhood in Croydon, South London, was spent playing in the bombed out sites of World War Two.

Everybody from the Queen can probably privately belt out the great English song he wrote, ''Streets of London.''

McTell also wrote one of the great Irish songs of the past half century, ''From Clare to Here.''

Forty years have passed now since The Fureys popularised that emigration anthem of missed Mass, hard drinking, unwritten letters home and hard, hard work. 

Both ballads were greeted with enthusiasm by an appreciative audience in the Hawks Well Theatre last night, Thursday.

Over the past half century McTell has busked on the streets and 'slept under the stars' in many major European capitals.

Brickie, Soldier

He has also a been a brickie and for a short time served in the British army.

In both he met young men from the Republic. McTell's immense respect for this country, which comes out in everything he does. It possibly began right there.

The past half decade of (half) opened doors has been immensely kind to his unmistakable voice. It is undiminished. Remarkable.

He has not rested on his laurels as the writer of one of the most famous songs in Europe this past half century.

He has just written a new song about how and why we commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising, even tying in a famed line of Yeats.

Other songs in Sligo last night he wrote about and was inspired by people he admired.

Bob Dylan, Dylan Thomas, Luke Kelly, Rambling Jack Elliott, Woody Guthrie and ragtime pickers like the Rev Gary Davis.

Touching Tribute

His tribute to the genius of comedians Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy was nuanced and touching.

Along with bombed out sites, his childhood neighbourhood had half a dozen cinemas from which to to choose.

Sligo Statues

McTell led a round of applause in the Hawks Well for the latest winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Bob Dylan now joins a select club which includes two men whose statues are on the streets of Sligo town -- Tagore and Yeats.

McTell's encore last night paid homage to how Bob Dylan inspired his own generation to be both writers and singers.

Name Check

There was a name check in those lyrics for Suze Rotolo, the woman forever frozen (in our hearts) in that cover photo of 'The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan.'

The song gave us a sense of how far back that continuous creativity stretches; the photo was 1963, when winter came like, he said, ''a fist'' with the killing of Kennedy on our TV screens.

For 90 minutes last night Ralph McTell enthralled his Sligo audience with his solo show, enhanced just by his Gibson and Martin guitars, 12 strings and six strings.

Oh, and that harmonica, of course as he weaved in and out of decades past, humanely 'signing off' all our hurts, all our hopes. It's a gift, given.

Link: See Sligo Today 25/10/2015