Ea­monn O’Neal

Stockport Times West - - FASHION -

ONE of the great joys in my life was be­ing able to play in scratch bands over the years with some of Manch­ester’s best tra­di­tional mu­si­cians.

Back in the 70s I went to the Bri­tan­nia pub in Mid­dle­ton for Sun­day night ses­sions along­side the fa­mous Don­nelly lads.

Des, Frank and Leo were the main attractions and they were gra­cious to al­low me to join in, mainly as a pi­ano ac­com­pa­nist.

The next gen­er­a­tion of Don­nellys has also taken the tra­di­tional mu­sic world by storm and Dezi Don­nelly is now a glob­ally ac­claimed mu­si­cian who’s played on all the fa­mous stages.

One of Manch­ester’s finest, Dezi’s just been in­vited by the Ir­ish pres­i­dent, Michael D Hig­gins to per­form as part of his state visit to Be­ji­ing next week. Dezi will be WE first met as teenagers then went our sep­a­rate ways. Fate was to bring us to­gether later in life and we’ve been mar­ried for 25 years.

So if you don’t mind, I’d like to wish a very happy spe­cial birth­day to my wife Shirley... Oops! Sorry I mean Sheila.

She’s a fan­tas­tic join­ing the Sharon Shan­non band at the For­bid­den City State Au­di­to­rium in front of the Ir­ish Pres­i­dent and the Chi­nese Prime Min­is­ter Li Ke­qiang.

It’s an amaz­ing hon­our to be asked and Dezi will no doubt be fly­ing the flag for Manch­ester as well as cel­e­brat­ing his Ir­ish her­itage.

He wasn’t born when I was knock­ing about with his dad and un­cles but as soon as he could hold a fid­dle, you could tell he was to be­come a maestro.

I was priv­i­leged to ac­com­pany Dezi on some BBC record­ings the odd time years ago but I couldn’t tickle the ivories in the same way now, I’m way too rusty.

So I follow Dezi’s ca­reer from afar and that of Mike McGoldrick. Mike was also a young­ster learn­ing to play in the days when I could still knock out a tune and he too is now en­joy­ing an amaz­ing mother and grandma and is the foun­da­tion of our fam­ily.

We of­ten rem­i­nisce about the day we got mar­ried.

After the party had fin­ished, we checked into the ho­tel but the so-called suite was tiny and there wasn’t room to swing a cat.

Tak­ing con­trol of the sit­u­a­tion, Sheila im­me­di­ately phoned down to re­cep­tion and ca­reer, play­ing with the likes of U2 and The Chief­tains. Dezi and Mike are amaz­ingly hum­ble and great lads and de­spite their suc­cess can of­ten be found join­ing in the ses­sions around Greater Manch­ester.

In fact as soon as Dezi gets back from China, he and Mike will be joined by Ed­die Shee­han, Dave Smylie and Che Beres­ford for their an­nual band re­union, the Toss The Feath­ers Christ­mas Party Bash.

The ‘Tossers’ as they are af­fec­tion­ately known only get to­gether once a year to play for their home­town crowd after en­joy­ing tremen­dous suc­cess in the 90s tour­ing all over Europe.

This year’s gig is at St Kentigern’s Ir­ish Club, Hart Road, Fal­low­field, on Satur­day, De­cem­ber 13 and you can book your tick­ets now on 0161 224 2033.

It’ll be great craic. within min­utes they’d sent us up a smaller cat.

Dezi Don­nelly, a world-fa­mous fid­dle player from Manch­ester

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