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