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


‘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: 


“… both hairy & Interesting times…” – a view from Mike Lyons

Got an email from Mike Lyons [some might remember him from Treehouse, Hooky, Box Camera] – he certainly triggered a lot of memories for me. Hopefully reading this post, from the email, will do the same for you. Thanks Mike
My name is Mike Lyons. I learned of the upcoming Sir Henry’s Exhibition at UCC on Twitter recently. When I saw the call for submissions I immediately regretted not having been more of an archivist or a magpie during my time there. I realise that it might be a bit late to contribute now but for what it’s worth like many of my contemporaries from 1988-89 on I regularly frequented Henry’s to see bands like The Power of Dreams, Toasted Heretic (I think), Whipping Boy, Something Happens, The Stunning, A House, Sonic Youth, Super Furry Animals, The Wedding Present and Therapy. The Indie Discos on Friday nights in the late 80s and early 90s were a welcome release from the school/colege week and guaranteeing getting in was a well planned and carefully executed exercise. 
Subsequent to that, between 1991 and 1994 I worked for freelance promoter Shane Fitzsimons at the Village and Sir Henry’s as well as for occasional gigs he ran at the City Hall and other locations around town. I did flyers and posters for Shane while in the second  and third years of my degree  and after often taking tickets/cash  for Shane at the doors of both venues and others to make some dosh while studying at UCC. 
During that time, I also played in a band called Treehouse that regularly played at the Village and Sir Henry’s supporting bands like Mercury Rev, Daisy Chainsaw and participating in showcases such as 2FM Cork Rocks. I also worked on lots of gigs at the Village and Sir Henry’s for bands like Rollerskate Skinny, Leatherface, Babes In Toyland, AC Temple. Manhole, The Mary Janes, Pet Lamb, The Shanks, No Means No, Sebadoh, Jawbreaker, Dub War, Alice Donut, Brawl, Jam Jar Jail, Pitch Shifter, In Motion, Pavement, Mexican Pets, The Sultans of Ping, The Frank & Walters and others. 
Later on, I worked for the Simpson Brothers who owned the hotel after Jerry Lucey. Admittedly, those were both hairy and interesting times. I managed entertainment at the venue behind Sir Henry’s, The Forum for a while. On one occasion, we had The Manic Street Preachers + Nicky Wire playing at The Forum. They had us facilitate the decking out of the tiny back-stage dressing room in camouflage netting  on arrival and James Dean Bradfield was the only one who said hello. I remember that the tour manager on the night, whose name was Rory Lyons, refused to allow the band to go on stage with drinks served in glass from behind the bar . We were sold out and doors were opening. In a blind panic, I eventually got plastic pint glasses from the Metropole Hotel on loan so the gig went ahead to a full house. Phew. I have fonder memories of bands like Shed Seven though who felt sorry for me and bought me drinks instead of telling me what to serve them in.
Later in 1999, I played there in support of Mercury Rev with a subsequent band Hooky. I attach the poster in case you’re interested. I also found a battered VIP Pass from Sir Henry’s (1999) and a faded Frank& Walters AAA pass for a gig there with Hubble in support in 1997 (See attached). These are the only items that remain in my possession besides vague memories of meeting bands like Pavement in my role as promoter’s go-for/lacky. They were really nice guys. They played with Grandaddy that night I think.
Given what was going on around me it is incredible that I wasn’t more prescient but perhaps I was too wrapped up in the moments as they happened.  Anyway like I say, I don’t have much from my time at the venues in the Grand Parade Hotel but I spent a lot of time there and I hope this small and insignificant contribution is of some mild interest.
On another note and in a wider context, if there is to be an ongoing social/cultural history project taking in other music, memorabilia and photographs from Cork I have lots of material from my time with Hooky and Box Camera, the last two bands I played in. I have a wide ranging digital archive of music an photographs of a total of three albums (two studio and one live) made with both bands. I have copious photographs and other relevant material such as demos/posters/setlists etc. If you, your colleagues or any other party engaged in collecting such material have any interest please don’t hesitate to pass on my e-mail address to them. 
Again, for what it’s worth…thanks and best regards,
Mike Lyons

Sweat – the people of Cork were in their own way what made it magic

A nice email arrived in from Alan Collins… now our latest post. Thanks Alan…

Hi my name is Alan Collins. I served my time in Sir Henrys from 93 to 03 hardly ever missing a Sat or Thurs night. I know Stevie. I was blood sober for every one of those nights. Sad I know ha! That place was and is very special to me.  It’s still a big part of my life. It inspired me at the time to visit the infamous Shelter, and Body and Soul clubs in New York and The End up in San Francisco , the Rex in Paris but Sweat was really better ,the seemless mixing of Greg and Shane , the sound system I think came from New York was flawless and the people of Cork were in their own way what made it magic. I used to sit on a railing on the stage at the back of the main room when I was all danced out and look around at a mass of bodies jacking grooving doing their own thing ,it didn’t matter to the music , I never took it for granted I savoured every second and I will never forget! Strong words I know but it and the music were my life. I was very lucky to be part of it. I wish you well with your project drop me a line if you want my stuff or If I can help in any way Alan

Not just a black room at the top of the stairs

We received a wonderful email from Triona Dunlea in response to our request for material and stories from and to do with Sir Henrys. Below is the email in almost its entirety. We believe it beautifully encapsulates what Henrys was and still is for many people. Thanks Triona…

I know that the exhibition is imminent and theres a bit of a buzz around about it! This is great and just shows the power that this club had and the affection that still exists in the City for it.

For me personally it was a huge part of growing up. I probably first went up the stairs in 97-98….. I actually first kissed my husband on a Thursday night BeachBall session and we are always saying that our kids will know that their mammy and daddy were once so cool that they actually first met in Henrys! Come to think of it, my brother also met his wife there….

Anyway, for me I think the reason it was such an important part of my life is that it was a place where you were free to belong. Through music and dance there was a brotherhood and the sense of community that I have never felt anywhere else. Ray Scannell expressed the feelings that I could never put in words in his play “Deep”…..

One of my favourite memories was at the end of every Saturday night, without fail, when the lights had come up and the music had been faded out people would stamp their feet, dance, whistle and keep going!!!!

I saw a beautiful quote from someone when Henrys was finally closed – “Someone once said that Henrys was just a black room at the top of a black stairs…. I realised when it closed down that physically thats all it was…. for those who belonged it was a whole lot more…..”

I hope Ive stirred a bit of nostalgia (I certainly have for me….)

Regards and best of luck, I will certainly be at the exhibition.

Triona Dunlea

Call for material for Sir Henrys Nightclub – Exhibition & Archive

Sir Henrys Nightclub: A Cork Institution – Reflections on popular music & culture in Cork

Sir Henrys bar and nightclub, located on South Main Street, Cork (1978 – 2003) was renowned locally, nationally and internationally for its vibrant music scene.

This summer UCC Library is mounting an exhibition to document the distinctive history of this legendary and iconic Cork city music venue.  It is the intention of this exhibition to begin the process of establishing an archive relating to Sir Henrys and the related popular music scene in Cork.

The Exhibition opens on July 9 and runs until September 27.

For more information please contact Martin O Connor at martin.oconnor@ucc.ie or 021 490 2111.

Details of Exhibition & Archive on Sir Henrys Bar & Nightclub, Cork

Sir Henrys bar and nightclub, located on South Main Street, Cork (1978 – 2003) was renowned locally, nationally and internationally for its vibrant music scene. What are your memories of the time and the club?

This summer UCC Library is mounting an exhibition to document the distinctive history of this legendary and iconic Cork city music venue. It is the intention of this exhibition to establish an archive relating to Sir Henrys and the related popular music scene in Cork.

This exhibition is opening at UCC Library Wednesday July 9 and will run until Saturday September 27. It will be held in the exhibition space in the foyer of UCC Library and will be open to the general public.

The objective of the exhibition, curated by Martin O Connor, (UCC Library) Stevie Grainger (Radio Presenter & DJ at Sir Henrys) and Eileen Hogan (School of Applied Social Studies, UCC), is to begin the process of creating a permanent archive of popular music in UCC Library starting with Sir Henrys and branching out into Cork’s wider popular music scene.

The aim is to systematically collect artefacts relating to Sir Henrys. This is very much a hidden history and our aim is to collect it and preserve it for future interested parties.

Oral histories will also be collected as part of archive – these stories will provide a rare insight into the lived experience of Sir Henrys from the perspective of key actors in the scene. The inclusion of oral histories will document these memories for posterity. The exhibition will illuminate in a fun and accessible way a sense of what Sir Henrys was like and why it was significant to the people of Cork and beyond – in short, its emotional, aesthetic, musical, cultural and historical value and legacy.

The Sir Henrys Archive and exhibition will contain donations from the family of the founder of the club, employees from the very beginning of the club, when it was a restaurant and bar and various other staff from over the years as well as bands and DJs who played there. And of course from people who attended the club over the years.

A series of exciting public seminars and talks and other events will be held throughout the duration of the exhibition, details of which will be announced in due course.

Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/sirhenrys.exhibition

Twitter: @sirhenrys2014


Contact Details:

To donate material or for more information on donating please contact Martin O Connor at martin.oconnor@ucc.ie

021 490 2111

For further information on UCC Library Special Collections & Archives or PR queries related to the exhibition or Archive contact Crónán Ó Doibhlin at

c.odoibhlin@ucc.ie or

086 319 9417