Sean O Neill opened the Sir Henrys @UCC Library exhibition. He was the lead singer with 80s Cork rock and pop outfit Burning Embers, who released a number of singles and had a very good live reputation. He started managing Sir Henrys in 1988 and not only booked bands but also introduced Greg Dowling and the soon to be legendary Sweat dance night to the venue. He was in charge when Sonic Youth and Nirvana touched down in Cork plus his era also coincided with the expansion of Sir Henrys into more rooms such as the Back Bar. The renowned DJ weekenders also started at this time and it was Sean who gave the go ahead to a supposed one-off indie night called Freakscene too. Below is his speech from the night. Thanks Sean for a great speech and, as a former punter, thanks for vision you brought to the club…
Firstly I have to thank UCC for putting on this celebration of Sir Henry’s and to its curators Martin O’Connor, Eileen Hogan & Stevie G, Cronan and Colette and all the staff.
Sir Henry’s didn’t just open one day it was born out of history. The Lucey brothers, Murt, Michael and Jerry were at the vanguard of the music scene from the 1960’s. They were innovators, risk takers and forward thinkers. There would never been Sir Henry’s without Murt, Michael and Jerry Lucey. Sir Henry’s was Jerry’s baby.
For those of you who never experienced Sir Henry’s let me paint you a picture.
I am most associated with being the manager in the heady days of the dance scene, aptly named ‘Sweat’. However, I started my relationship (yes, it was and even still is a love affair) with Sir Henry’s like everybody else when I was 18 (maybe even 17), just trying to get into this mysterious, weird and wonderful place. That my mother would have classed it as a den of iniquity made it even more important to get in through those doors. Yes, it had it’s detractors down through the years, but, it’s always hard when it’s different.
Sir Henry’s was exciting, Sir Henry’s was cutting edge, music being the thread.
This little club crossed musical and social boundaries from folk to rock to punk to the dance scene, it mirrored the music culture of the world.
This was only possible because of Jerry Lucey’s willingness to take a chance, to try something new. Jerry gave things time. Jerry saw something in me that I didn’t see, he took a chance and gave me a chance.
This exhibition gives vent to the wealth of talent that passed through its doors, played on its stage, enjoyed it’s spirit. From the 70’s right up to and through the 90’s if you went to Sir Henry’s you remembered it.
History will always judge, for better or for worse and Sir Henry’s is now getting its rightful recognition. I think that is fantastic.