120,000

Bray People - - NEWS - ES­THER HAY­DEN

The size of the crowd Ark­low band ‘Boru’ played to at a fes­ti­val in Coney Is­land, New York, in the

early 1990s

THE cur­tain went down on Ark­low band Boru for the fi­nal time last Thurs­day night af­ter an il­lus­tri­ous 29-year his­tory.

Formed in 1985 by four Ark­low mu­si­cians – Tommy Breen, John Ho­gan, Johnny Byrne and Christy Mur­phy – three of the orig­i­nal mem­bers re­main, with Cour­town's Noel Dun­bar hav­ing taken over the reins from Christy in the late 1980s.

The group, which was the youngest bal­lad group in Ire­land at the time, gigged ex­ten­sively in Wick­low and Dublin in a bid to build up a solid rep­u­ta­tion. Through this they came to the no­tice of mu­sic man­ager Jim Hand, who also man­aged The Fureys, Paddy Reilly and The Dublin­ers.

From there their ca­reer re­ally took off and be­fore long they were tour­ing with leg­endary co­me­dian Brendan Grace. Their first al­bum ‘About Folk N Time' was re­leased to co­in­cide with this na­tion­wide tour.

A missed op­por­tu­nity for an­other band turned into a golden op­por­tu­nity for Boru when they were asked to per­form on the Late Late Show with Gay Byrne af­ter an­other band, trav­el­ling to Ire­land for the show, couldn't make the slot.

‘ That was a huge boost for us,’ said Tommy Breen. ‘It was great ex­po­sure for us and people re­ally liked us.'

In ad­di­tion to ap­pear- ing on the Late Late Show, Boru also per­formed six times on Live at Three and on one oc­ca­sion brought up a bus load of stu­dents from Ark­low Girls Na­tional School to act as back­ing singers.

In 1987, a meet­ing with Shay Healy led to their first sin­gle, Carry On, which was a trib­ute to U2 writ­ten by Dublin man Bill Bon­ner. The song was to en­ter the top 30 chart list but its chart suc­cess was short-lived.

‘ The song en­tered the charts at 29; it lasted a week and was never seen again af­ter that!’ laughed Tommy.

How­ever their sin­gle Free­man­tle Bay had much more suc­cess, and was 14 weeks in the charts, even be­com­ing a Top Ten hit.

Al­bums such as ‘ Just for the Folk N'Craic' and ‘Sen­ti­men­tal Songs' were re­leased and a four-track sin­gle re­leased for the Mayo GAA in 1989 mark­ing the county's All Ire­land ap­pear­ance saw news­pa­pers in Con­nacht hail­ing Boru as the best bal­lad band in the west of Ire­land!

‘ Then we got the chance to tour Amer­ica,’ said Tommy. ‘ We played our first gig there at a fes­ti­val to 50,000 which was a mas­sive break. We've had a lot of luck along the way.

‘ We played Hunter Moun­tain three years run­ning which was a big achieve­ment be­cause the or­gan­is­ers usu­ally change bands each year.

‘We played to a crowd of 120,000 in Coney Is­land and in the early 1990s, Au­gust 23 was de­clared Boru Day in Brook­lyn.

‘We also did a fes­ti­val in Chicago and did a ra­dio in­ter­view there on a show that has five mil­lion lis­ten­ers, then in 1994, when we wrote a song for the World Cup, we sent it to the show and it got a lot of air­play there.'

Tommy said the band also played ev­ery Sun­day night in the Olympia Threatre for the hit Brendan Grace show, ‘Sun­day Night at the Olympia’.

‘Brendan Grace was a pure gen­tle­man,’ said Tommy. ‘He al­ways made a point of in­tro­duc­ing us and it was great.

‘Fin­bar Furey is an­other great buddy of ours and I re­mem­ber on one oc­ca­sion when we were do­ing sup­port for the Fureys he told the sound men to ‘give us a good mix or you'll be mix­ing ce­ment in the morn­ing!' That re­ally meant a lot to us be­cause if our sound check wasn't done prop­erly we would be three or four songs into the set be­fore we got the bal­ance right.

‘I re­mem­ber one night meet­ing Liam Reilly af­ter hours in a Mayo ho­tel and ask­ing him would he not write a song for us. He later left The Flight of the Earls into Jim Hand's of­fice for us be­cause we were a young band start­ing out.

‘But he'd also given it to the Dublin City Ram­blers and to the Wolfe Tones and they both wanted to record it as did Paddy Reilly.

‘ The Dublin City Ram­blers got it (the song) but af­ter the song had come out the Wolfe Tones quickly re­leased their own ver­sion of it and both songs were in the charts at the same time. The Wolfe Tones were at Num­ber 2 and the Dublin City Ram­blers at Num­ber 3. Nei­ther of them ever got to Num­ber 1 with it.

‘But the fol­low­ing year Paddy Reilly re­leased it and got to Num­ber 1,’ said Tommy.

Al­bums such as Down Through the Year, From Ark­low to Dublin, Boru 2003 and Rebel Heart were re­leased in the noughties.

The band rarely play to­gether now for var­i­ous rea­sons sand Tommy said the de­ci­sion to hold the farewell con­cert was ‘ to go out on a high'.

‘People were al­ways ask­ing if we were go­ing to do some­thing lo­cally and we said then we would.

‘ This is it for us and Boru won't be the same again. We don't want to di­lute the name and this will be the last time the four of us per­form on stage as Boru.'

Tommy Breen and John Ho­gan of Boru at their farewell gig in Sally O'Brien's, Ark­low.

The lads from Boru in a re­cent photo (above left) ... and as they were in their 1980s hey­day (above right, right).

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