Month: July 2014

Sean O Neill opens Sir Henrys @UCC Library

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.

Sean O’Neill


More than just a nostalgic nod to the past

This was posted on Stevie G’s Blog yesterday ahead of the opening. We post it here today cause we thought it was so great. Thanks Stevie   Tonight the Sir Henry’s Exhibition opens at UCC Library. Everyone is welcome and it kicks off at 6pm, plus it will be running all summer. I’ve helped curate this exhibition but in truth Martin and Eileen of UCC did nearly all of the work. The support from Cronan and all at the Library and UCC has been unbelievable and it’s great to see that they look at the whole thing as an important part of Cork’s social history.  When initially asked to get involved I was very reluctant as it was just after Shane and Greg had marked the 25th anniversary of the beginning of Sweat with some big nights and a very good exhibition in the Pav. Like us all I was nostalgia’d out, and could not see much point in further doing what the Sweat and Go Deep duo had done so well. The UCC library one though took a different direction, and it soon became apparent that it was gonna delve into territory that even long time gig goers & clubbers like myself had little idea about. I wasn’t about in the 80s when many of the great gigs in Henry’s took place, and I was fascinated to learn more about the different bands that I had heard so much about growing up. The stories from those involved were amazing and I soon realised that if we didn’t document this now an opportunity would pass forever. The Lucey family, Jack Lyons, and a cast of hundreds, had material to submit and stories to tell, and the exhibition gathered amazing momentum on facebook and twitter where people often forgotten about suddenly surfaced.   I knew pretty much everyone on the dance side of things as I had been there through most of that era and DJ’d there for nearly ten years, but the opportunity to present a snapshot of both dance and rock elements was too good to ignore, and I hope people enjoy checking it out. I have been previously frustrated with one or two of the attempts to document things that were important to me 20 years ago, and even valiant efforts such as the 120 BPM documentary didn’t capture the magic of the place for me. It hardly mentioned the music which was always the key and the key people such as Greg and Shane were relegated to tiny roles.   In recent years, Ray Scannell, a good friend of mine and a Henry’s regular in its later years, put some great research into his one man show called “Deep”, which remains a must see and which will return to Cork later this year. This UCC Exhibition in a relatively small space is not gonna answer every question, cover every band or acknowledge all of the DJ’s and people who made those years special, but in truth that was gonna be impossible. I repeat that it is a snapshot that has been created by and large by those people who have been very forthcoming and helpful in supplying material and memories.   My biggest fear was that more nostalgia would hold things back, especially seeing as I personally think Cork has never been more exciting for young people and “medium to young” people like myself! The amount of great bands in Cork now is unreal. The Altered Hours, The Careers, Shaker Hymn, Elastic Sleep, Laurie Shaw and others have got me really excited, and the massive wave of DJ’s from the 90s has been replaced by a bunch of producers and electronic acts who are doing their own thing too. I’ve just started my own record label releasing soul music, and it’s quite significant that many of the DJ’s from that era are all living firmly in the present and looking to the future.   Greg and Shane are at the cutting edge of house with Go Deep and Fishgodeep and they have led by example by only rarely looking back once a year. Marq Walsh has his own label too, while my former Back bar protege Colm K is a highly respected producer with international releases as well. There’s tons more too. Many of the Henry’s regulars of the 90’s such as John Daly have taken things to the next level too as producers, while those who DJ’d there and run nights, like Joe Kelly, Hungry, Eddie K and Fork, to name a few, are still actively involved in the Cork music scene in 2014. I’m more excited about now and though I appreciate that as people get older many romanticise their youth, I can honestly say that things are better with more opportunities now. But the lack of choice elsewhere was one of the key reasons why Henry’s was so good too at the time.

We’ve worked with some kids from Gurranabraher who have created a piece inspired by a place they never experienced, and that will be on display in UCC too. Another youngster, Tuathla Lucey is the granddaughter of Jerry, who opened the building and whose vision shaped the place, and she has been actively involved in documenting its history by interviewing many of those involved. The exhibition will hopefully inspire creativity from our young people, I know that that era shaped everything I’ve ever done subsequently, and it was the same for many more. I’d love to hear their thoughts on this exhibition too.   Donkeyman jpegI don’t think it was the actual bricks and rock of the building itself that made it so special I wasn’t even slightly bothered when it got knocked in 2003. Many of us had left and never returned in 2001, and it was clear that things were over. I certainly did not want to look back back then. It was the music and the people that made everything special, and hopefully the exhibition will celebrate this. There were many other special places too, and many of these are now also gone. Such is life. To my own eternal embarrassment, I forgot to mention many places when submitting a list of these for the exhibition, and I’d like to acknowledge Lebowskis right now, which was a great pub during the last few years of Henrys and was often a feeder bar for the venue that often captured the atmosphere of the club inside too! Nights like Immramma, the Funk Shop with DJ Fork, Joe Kelly’s Friday nights, Revelation Sound, Bastardo Electro, Free la Funk and tons more have had little mention, and some of the DJ’s I worked with and influenced me, such as Gina Johnson, should have got more coverage too. I’ve been thinking about some great gigs with bands like Collapse, who were ahead of the game mixing electronica and rock. But it’s a tiny exhibition and it was about more than all of these great DJ’s and acts, I guess.   Fashion Shoot jpegI’m sure many other people and DJ’s and bands and places will have been not mentioned, but the exhibition is also very much a rolling effort where social media and blogs like this will shape how we look at Sir Henrys. Originally, we also wanted it to be much more than Henry’s, which was not everything, but time and space meant that it was important to keep the focus relatively limited. Maybe someone might try and dig deeper into the history of the Arcadia now, or go further back that the 70s and 80s with another exhibition?  Books have been written and admirable attempts have been made, but this is our social history and there’s scope for more. The single most exciting thing about this for me is that UCC are keeping much of this material in a permanent archive, that will survive long after you and me are gone. While we are here it’s imperative that the people who knew about this venue are the ones telling others about it, before it’s too late. I studied up in UCC 20 years ago and started DJing up there in the old bar on Friday afternoons with Colm O’Riordain, Brian Power and company. We were the alternative and I’m suprised we got away with it back then. I used go upstairs and listen to my newly bought records on the music departments Technics (still there!) on the top floor of the very building that will today house this exhibition. UCC jpegI’ve spent more time in that library in the last few weeks than I ever did studying English and History but i’ll always remember the head of the history department Joe Lee shaking my hand when i got my degree and telling me to pursue what I was really interested in. He knew that was music. It’s funny how things come around and I’m delighted that a small fragment of Cork’s social history is now on show in one of the most beautiful places in our wonderful city.                      

‘Don’t Ignore Me!’ – the Lost recordings of Aidan McCarthy

‘Don’t Ignore Me!’ ‘Lost’ recordings of Aidan McCarthy of Cork’s first punk band Berserk have surfaced and are now ‘premiered’ exclusively here on the Sir Henry’s Exhibition page. Paul O’Mahony sets the scene.


Aidan McCarthy pic 1


Such has been the reaction to a piece in my Sir Henrys Blog  a few weeks ago in which I referenced Aidan McCarthy, a founder member of Cork’s first punk band Berserk who was killed in a car crash with his wife Linda in 1981, that I went rummaging in some storage boxes in search of an old cassette demo of his that I knew I had put away. Somewhere…

As a fellow member of Berserk, I know we’d never recorded a demo in the studio but I remembered that Aidan did a recording of some of the tunes in our set list, after the band broke up, with guitarist Martin Kelleher under the name Romeo Butcher.

Well, I’ve found them, MP3’d them, SoundClouded them, and here they are to be heard for the first time in 33 years!

And I talked with Amy, his daughter who is now 32, the first time I have done so since my previous sighting of her in a pram so many moons ago and prior to the accident. I received her blessing to unveil the tracks – and she, too, will also be hearing them here for the first time. Which is pretty amazing. Her dad’s songs, her dad’s voice.

When I posted a piece about Aidan on Sir Henrys Exhibition Facebook page


Paul O Mahony - Aidan Grab 2 jpeg


I received some really nice feedback about Aidan (and Linda)


Aidan Comments jpeg


On the point I made about Aidan and Berserk having been mysteriously written out of the history of Cork alternative rock, Ricky Dineen of Nun Attax paid tribute: “I went to school with him. He was one of the main reasons I became involved in band things. A brilliant character and a very nice guy.”

Ricky also added: “I remember he came to a Nun Attax jam one time and played the drums. Absolutely brilliant he was! The chemistry between himself and Donnelly was something special.”

Furthermore, Tom Curtin, a Cork artist who worked on the original (and splendidly atmospheric) interiors for Sir Henry’s back in 1977, offered his perspective.

“In the first year or so the live acts (in Sir Henry’s) consisted of the more familiar local groups and acoustic artists, but as Sir Henry’s became more established, the younger groups began to gain a foothold. The first group to break into the scene and herald the change was Aidan McCarthy and Berserk in 1978. Aidan epitomised the new sense of rebellion and social awareness of late ‘70’s music. He set the mark for the up-and-coming musicians in Cork. Aidan was angry, passionate, compassionate, intelligent, articulate, ambitious but sensitive, a great musician with an inbred sense of standards and a wicked sense of humour! In his non-comprising way, Aidan opened the doors and challenged the other aspiring groups in Cork to follow and in doing so prepared the way for the next transition of Sir Henry’s. Tragically, Aidan and his wife Linda died in a car accident in 1981 as they drove back to Cork late one night after a gig in Dublin. In many ways Linda reflected the ethos that had come to define Sir Henry’s. She had worked in the bar, knew many of the people who went there and would hang out there with her friends. Linda was a gentle, laid back kind of person with an unassuming sense of charm, but she was sure! It was a surprise to everyone when they got together considering how they seemed so opposite in temperament, but somehow it just seemed right. Their deaths had a deep effect on Sir Henry’s. The feelings of sadness and loss underlined the sense of community that had evolved around the place. It was in a way a coming of age, I think that for many it signalled the need to focus on other more important considerations. People gradually began to drift away; there were less and less familiar faces as their places were taken by a new generation bringing a new energy and a new sense of optimism.”

And so, without further ado, here are the tracks, seven in all, recorded in 1980 or 1981 with Aidan on lead vocals and drums, and Martin Kelleher on guitar. I couldn’t find any info on who might be on bass. As mentioned, most of these tunes were played live by Berserk initially.

  1. Lorraine: 
  2. Don’t Ignore Me: 
  3. I’m Only Human: 
  4. Suzie’s Turning: 
  5. Sometimes: 
  6. I Got Fever: 
  7. Die: 


The worst band to ever play Sir Henrys.

Came across this latest post, courtesy of John McCarthy on his blog Smile and be a villain. Thought it fitted in perfect with our other posts. He had titled it  But this eternal blazon must not be To ears of flesh and blood. We prefer his subheading  – The worst band ever to play Sir Henrys. Thanks John…


It might have been the darkness that added to the mystique of Sir Henry’s. It might have been that the floor was un-seeable but could very much be felt. It might have been the posters strewn across the corridor in with bands’ names that seemed to be made up on the flick of a coin. (Flick of a coin could be a good name for a band). It might have been the flagon of cider that we got somebody to buy for us in Galvin’s on the Bandon Road on the way into town. It might have been the neo-punks with hair to the ceiling and the Jesus and Mary Chain scrawled across the back of a parka.

I’d meet my cousins there. Damien and Raymond Mullally. The Mullally’s were music royalty in Cork. Their friend Morty McCarthy was the coolest person I knew. We went to watch bands. My friends, first Gary Gibbons, later Derek Coffey and Ian Flanagan and later still I dragged my girlfriend, now my wife, Fiona to watch bands.the smaller the better. The more obscure the better.

I loved the Cork bands. 3355409s with their little guitarist with a bumblebee jumper, Idol Joy, Porcelain Tears, Cypress, Mine! who should have been huge, Belsonic Sound and so many that came and went with not even a Fanning Session to their name. My childhood friend Kieran Cotter worked as a roadie for Cypress, Mine! and later the brilliant Blue in Heaven. He also got to play with Cork Super group The Mad Dancing Bastards From Hell. Another friend Patrick Healy played with his band there. (The name of the band is gone). The How and Why Insects went to my school. Everything was close, immediate but still so far away. The barrier from audience to stage was enormous. I needed to hurdle it. i needed to be in a band.

Gary Gibbons and I formed a band. Gary could play. His father Paul played in a Jazz band. Gary had some gorgeous guitars. At 17, I could hold a note no better than I could hold my beer. Gary sang. I wrote horrendous agitprop lyrics.I learned how to play the Bass guitar. I bought a Bass and an Amp from Small Paul in Crowley’s on MacCurtain street. I got lessons from Sinead Lohan’s dad in Greenwood out the road in Togher. He told me I had no rhythm. I didn’t care. I had the Bass. I had the trenchcoat. I had a glittery shirt. We found a drummer, Ivan Murray. we found a rehearsal room in Togher Boy’s School. We called ourselves The 5 O’ Clock Heroes after the Jam song. We were ready to go. We played a couple of talent shows. Sean O’ Neill in Henry’s was allowing bands play on Tuesday nights when Henry’s would otherwise be empty. We were in.

My brother arranged for Don Creedon to do sound for us. We were booked. We made some posters. We had twelve songs ready. Forty of our friends, all underage came to watch us and we played Henry’s. Don Creedon said we were the worst band he ever heard. We didn’t care. We played Henry’s. Then we broke up. I haven’t touched a Bass Guitar since. Gary and Ivan are still paying together with Gary’s brother Ivan. They are good. I wasn’t.

But I played Sir Henry’s.