By Tom Gillespie
Seventy years ago, in the 11 October 1952 edition of the Connaught Telegraph, extensive coverage was given to the Brose Walsh Orchestra‘s ‘most successful and memorable’ 10-day English tour of Castlebar.
The report reads: On Sunday evening September 28, exiles from across Ireland danced in a grand farewell dance at the Buffalo Club in London, as a special tribute to this outstanding 10-piece combination.
Enthusiastic scenes marked the end of the ceremony, the thunderous applause, not to mention the cheers, etc., being an eloquent but deserved tribute to the ‘Men of the West’.
When asked on their return home, popular singer and manager Joe Chambers said the band had had a “remarkably successful” tour – it was eventful both on and off the stage.
The attendance at each of the many dances they performed was a true reflection of the band’s great popularity and how the music appealed not only to Irish exiles but to people of all nationalities.
Aside from the great success that accompanied their ballroom endeavors, what impresses them most and will long be etched in their memory, Joe said, is the hospitality extended by everyone they met.
In fact, the Irish exiles vied to invite the band members into their homes.
Continuing, Joe said it would be impossible to mention the names of all the old Castlebar friends they met, as well as those from Mayo and every county in Ireland. They had to thank them for all the hospitality and kindness. They made things easy, too easy, for the band.
They had special thanks to Mr. Bill Fuller, organizer of the tour; Miss Pat Allen (secretary); Mr. Jack McAuliffe, director, and his team.
Other people to whom they were greatly indebted included the famous wrestling family, the Caseys of Kerry; the Gannon brothers (Michael and Eugene), of Newport, Co. Mayo, who are big noises in show business in London, and members of their team; also Pat O’Donovan (saxophonist), whose brother Johnny is a member of the group; Bill Monaghan, Ballina; Tom Melody, do., and MB Nagle, partner of the Gannon brothers.
Famous people the band met and invited them to the famed Tin-Pan Alley Club included ex-manager Henry Hall Tommy Jack; Hubert W. David, representative of the publication “The Melody Maker”; Michael Carr, composer of hits such as “Did Your Mother come from Ireland”, A Little Dash of Dublin”, “Hometown”, “Red Sails in the Sunset”, etc., who is working on another Irish-flavoured song that can also become the rage around the world.
Another famous personality who received the group with great kindness was Leo Towers, composer of “Sally” for Gracie Fields.
Others they encountered included Denny Denvirs, Jack White, Harry Leader, Joe Loss, Jack Hilton and, believe it or not, the one and only Charles Chaplin; Oswald Foot, BBC, agent, who was very interested in broadcasting the group on a date to be agreed.
But here, as in many other cases, the tour’s only regret was having to turn down bookings due to home commitments that needed to be fulfilled.
One of the highlights of the tour was playing the Irish national anthem at the end of each dance in the Empire Ballroom.
“As for our exiles in England, they were all, without exception, happy, very happy. They were well dressed and visibly well fed. In fact, they all do honor to the old land and we were justifiably proud of them. They had a great outing. »
They sent greetings to the band members to pass on to family and friends across Ireland.
When the band performed at Euston Station on Monday September 29, in addition to their legion of friends, a representative from each of the 32 counties was present to give them a hearty farewell – a farewell that meant so much to them. that long after leaving London, they could still hear the cries ringing in their ears: “You were truly wonderful”, “Goodbye, God bless you”.
“I’m not ashamed to admit,” Joe concluded, “that Brose and I were moved to tears, or something, as the old train pulled out of the station and we sat in silence, a lonely silence, after 10 glorious days and nights in the largest and most hospitable city in the world.
We quote the following from Times Pictorial’s of October 4th, with the title “Brose presents Phelim Brady in London”.
The article read: From Camden Town to the City of Westminster, and from Ealing to Bayswater, dancers sing to the strains of the ‘Old Homing Waltz’, the ‘Bard of Armagh’ in one of the most successful tours ever undertaken by an Irish Group in England. Castlebar’s Brose Walsh and his boys have joined their minstrel, Joe Chambers, to plug the Irish song that has reached the top of the Top Twenty, and looks set to stay there for some time to come.
And back at his office in Dublin, Dancalot smiled in defeat. Little did I know Brose would accept the suggestion to educate our English cousins about the big world that begins where Tin-Pan Alley ends.
But he did. First night in the heart of the good Empire, Brose raised his staff; Joe walked over to the microphone and the dancers sang what they thought was the “Old Homing Waltz”.
It was then that they heard Joe’s voice coming with, “Oh, listen to the layman of a poor Irish harpist, and despise not the strands of his withered old hand…”
The crowd didn’t shout (the English reserve you know); they sang, and by the time the tune ended, “bould Phelin Brady” was the hottest man in Bill Fuller’s Buffalo Club dance.
Probably the most delighted man (apart from Brose) was the club’s resident bandleader, the exiled Gerry Dogherty. Gerry kept the old flag flying over the City of London, not to mention his own popularity flag which is still high.
“After tonight,” said Gerry, pointing to Brose and his men on the bandstand, “history will repeat itself. The English will become more Irish than the Irish themselves.
And he was right. A colleague who later visited a West End “hoppery” told me that the lyrics of the “Old Homing Waltz” are no longer considered “chic” by sophisticated West End dancers.
“We just sing it Irish or we don’t sing it at all, darling,” is the remark he quotes authoritatively.
Thanks, Brose, I didn’t think you really would.