By Eugene McGloinRALPH 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.''
years have passed now since The Fureys popularised that emigration
anthem of missed Mass, hard drinking, unwritten letters home and hard,
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.
He has also a been a brickie and for a short time served in the British army.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.