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  • Writer's pictureChristiane Banks

AN EVERGREEN STORY: A LETTER FROM AN IRISH GENTLEMAN

As we prepare to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this week, I would like to honour the Irish and share two letters with you. I have posted this blog before honouring a genuine gentle Irish man. This is an evergreen story, and hopefully, one that will touch you all and lift our spirits during these challenging times. It was my intention to edit the letter, however, I have decided to leave the letters exactly as they were written.


One was written to the late Irish singer-songwriter, Mr. Val Doonican.


The other letter is his response.


Dear Mr. Doonican,


This letter is being written to you by a mature adult, but through the eyes of a young child, as she saw you 45 years ago. I was that child.


Forty-five years ago my siblings and I were living in a convent in Newcastle upon Tyne in England. Life in the home was a daily routine of tasks and assignments given by the Sisters. No one paid much attention to us as individuals, as there were not enough Sisters, and never enough time. one day after school we were directed to get on the bus outside. This we did with great anticipation and excitement. Asking Sister where we were going. She said that a very kind man called Mr. Doonican was singing at Newcastle City Hall tonight, and he arranged for the children to attend.


As you know, the children sat around Mr. Doonican in such a way that we were facing the audience. Approximately 3000 eyes were on Mr. Doonican’s back. To everyone’s enjoyment, Mr. Doonican began his wonderful performance. Later in the show, he stopped singing, explaining to his audience that they would have to excuse him.


“I have something very important to do.” Climbing off his stool, he picked up his guitar and turned his stool around to face us, the children.


He said, “Good evening children. How are you? Now it is your turn!”


Mr. Doonican proceeded to sing three songs, Delaney’s Donkey, Paddy McGinty’s Goat, and the Magnificent Toy. We were asked to participate, and we did with great vigour and enthusiasm.


Never at any time in my young life had anyone made me feel so special. It was a glorious moment for me. I had the best seat. I was facing you, and although I was young, I could sense your kindness and sincerity towards the children through your songs and your smile.


Today I would like to share with you that that moment has stayed with me all the days of my life, even to this day. I have told the story many, many times, and each time I have told the story I think about how grateful I was (and still am) for your kind, sweet, gentle extraordinary gifts.


My children and grandchildren now sing those songs, and I want to express my sincere, and heartfelt thanks for a very special moment that lives on, and on.


MR. DOONICAN’S RESPONSE



Dear Christiane


How nice to read of your 45-year-old memory of Newcastle, City Hall. In spite of the passing years, I still recall the occasion very well. Mind you, I had no idea you were one of my backing vocalists. Thank you!


A young priest from St. Mary’s Church in Sunderland was a good friend to us theatre folk around that time, and he came to ask me for help. The nearby village church in one of the small villages had been damaged by a fire badly and needed some funds to repair the roof, hence the concert!


The same priest still remains a dear friend, and recently enjoyed his 85th birthday. Incidentally, he celebrated our daughter’s weddings and indeed christened our grandchildren. Some years ago.


I am sending him a copy of your letter. I am sure it will be as welcome in his home as it has been in the Dominicans.


I have spent over 60 wonderful years in the music world and I still get a great kick from letters such as yours.


Thank you again, Christiane much love to you, and your family.


Sincerely,


Val Doonican


Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you all! ☘

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