I had always intended to kick start my blog in January 2017, I had a plan for a redesign and a few articles lined up to publish, however instead of a piece enthusing or raging about something or other I’m writing a piece about the very sudden and unexpected death of my dad three days before Christmas. Typing those last few words is still so alien to me that it takes my breath away and makes me feel a little light headed.
I received the news on a phone call from my uncle on the afternoon of 22 December, I can remember the sensation as my blood ran cold and I sat in my car in disbelief, how was this possible? How? Not why, just how can such a huge presence no longer be. I had only been speaking to him and laughing on the phone the day before and I was due to meet him at the airport tomorrow. We were going to be spending Christmas in London together…how is this happening…
The following few hours were a hurried blur of contacting relatives and close friends to let them know before it broke on social media. I don’t think I’d ever had to manage Facebook in such surreal circumstances, asking a few people to take down their comments before I had the chance to draft a status update on behalf of our family, I recall someone even asked if I wanted to issue a press release but I dismissed that as an overreaction, I seriously underestimated the press interest in dad’s passing.
I shan’t bore you with all the organisational considerations and preparation details but if anyone needs a hand arranging a very large funeral at short notice overseas between Christmas and New Year, give me a shout. In the words of another Irishman “I have a very particular set of skills.”
Dad’s service was spectacular and everything we could have asked for, and more. It was a very special, celebratory day and night and it couldn’t have happened without the help of a couple of brilliant people who provided support and sanity in the long days and dark nights. Thank you to all who came, to the brilliant musicians who played, to those who sent messages of love & support and to friends and family who watched online from all over the world. (Yes, a Catholic church live streaming a service online, crazy times people, crazy times.)
I had noticed a couple of photographers outside the church but was not at all prepared for the media interest the next morning. I was particularly taken aback to see much of my eulogy quoted in the press, not once had it crossed my mind that this might happen, if it had I might have put more time into it rather than scribbling it in the early hours for the morning before the service! Everything said about it has been lovely and I’ve been asked for copies of it by a number of people. Which brings me to the point of this post, I’ve decided to post the eulogy here for people to read. Not because I think it’s amazing and I want to give myself a pat on the back, quite the opposite, it’s very personal and quite hard to put out there but as much of it has already been quoted in the papers I’ve decided to publish it in full for those who have asked for a copy.
The thing with a eulogy is that unless the loved one was unwell you don’t have advance notice to prepare, it feels like the most important piece you’ll ever write but you have to turn it around in a couple of days/hours whilst in a state of shock, grief and a half a dozen other intense emotions. I put so much pressure on myself to recall stories, funny memories, personal moments, I wanted the eulogy to be about him as my dad, not the music manager; but slowly I realised I didn’t want to share the best stories, I wanted to keep them within our family and cherish them, it feels like holding him close. So ultimately I just trusted that when all was quiet something would come to me, and it did, between midnight and 2am the night before his service.
Someone once said to me that if you feel a strong urge to write something perhaps it’s because someone else really needs to read it; so my hope is that this may one day be of some comfort to someone else grieving a loved one.
Firstly I’d like to thank you all again for being here, it means so much to see so many people who loved our dad. I know some of you have come from England, America and further, thank you so much. I have no doubt that most of you have brilliant stories of time spent with dad, and through those stories we can keep his memories alive. Some of the stories from the industry are already online for everyone to read (with slight embellishment) and I’m sure and I hope they’ll be retold by many of you for years to come. We are lucky to have so many amazing public tributes to him for us to read about this so called, legend, charmer, rogue, driving force, gent with old school Hollywood swagger (he’d have loved that one) but he was so much more than that. I want to tell you about the man behind the music. He was a son, brother, uncle, husband and to us he was dad.
He was incredibly intelligent and largely self taught, with a huge amount of street smarts and no fear of confrontation in any situation. Many of you who worked with him will know he wasn’t one to shy away from confrontation but that also manifested itself in other ways. I remember about a week after 9/11, we were at a petrol station and he went inside to pay, there was a bit of a queue, the cashier was new and needed a little extra time. 3 young men started having a go at her which lead to them verbally abusing her for being Asian and Muslim, whilst others in the queue stayed quiet dad shouted out and told them in no uncertain terms to shut up. As they and he walked back to their cars the shouting continued and I was really nervous for him, but he had no fear, he stood his ground and they drove away. What I’m trying to illustrate is that he always stood up what he believed was right and he made sure he instilled that in us from an early age.
His love for Dublin was immense, he was a hugely proud Irishman, full of culture, history and of course politics, God help you if you entered a political debate with him from an opposing point of view, though he loved it, especially if it was someone of equal intelligence, he thrived on those stimulating conversations and it always, generally concluded amiably. As many of you have said he was a gentleman.
He was a staunch defender of women’s rights, he invested in a women’s theatre group, Trouble & Strife, in the 80s that was telling the stories for women incarcerated in an Irish prison, and he raised me to have confidence in myself, to speak up, to believe there was no ceiling on my potential, I have never ever once in my life thought I couldn’t do something because I was a woman, he and mum made sure I was very independent – perhaps a little too much.
When I was 13 the Pogues were supporting Bob Dylan in New York and joined him on tour for a few days, on the final day he’d promised me one last trip to Bloomingdales, but he was a little the worse for wear and wasn’t able, so without telling him I hopped on the train from Gramercy Park, did my shopping and went back to the hotel. There was no way I could tell him, he’d have flipped that I went off around Manhattan on my own. A year later when I had my accident and he spent 3 days at my bedside, I figured it was the best time for a confessional, he laughed his head off and 25 years later retelling that story still tickled him. I think he liked that it should chutzpah at a young age.
We spent wonderful family holidays together, the States, the Canaries and an epic road trip across Ireland with the Dubliners and the Chieftans as our soundtrack. I realise for many of you here your memories of him are based in Dublin, or New York or Austin, but for my brothers and I the streets of London are where we grew up with him, Camden, Soho, Kilburn.
Mum and dad had known each other for 44 years, they started dating as teenagers in Dublin and even they were no longer together they were still best friends. Our last phone call was the day before he passed away, all 3 of us on speakerphone laughing and joking about our Christmas together. Mum wanted everyone to know how wonderful he was and though he is gone far too soon, she is happy of the time they had together and the 4 children they raised together, of whom they’re both very proud. As someone wrote to me last week, when they were at their peak they were the coolest couple in town.
Dad might be best known for music but he loved art and literature and I’m glad that he was able to pass that love on to us. He saw art in everything, he was forever looking up at the architecture of buildings, pointing out historical landmarks, telling the stories, he always had so much history to share. It would drive me crazy when he was driving he’d always be pointing out houses, streets, buildings for which he had stories, whilst I’d saying will you keep your eyes on the road! It became a running joke how many turnings he’d miss because he was pointing out the landmarks, he had a story for nearly every building in Dublin!
He was still so curious and passionate, some seem to lose their passion for life as they age but he still had so much more that he wanted to do. He had started writing a book and had sent us a few pages, I genuinely loved it and couldn’t wait to read more. He had such wonderful plans for 2017.
People have saying 2016 was a horrific year, and yes politically it was a shocker but on a personal level it wasn’t that bad for me until a few weeks ago, but while everyone else is skipping into 2017 I actually want to stay in 2016, putting it on pause with my dad still with me. I now have to get through 2017 and beyond without him and I don’t want to.
Tomorrow most of you will get on with your lives, but for us it’s a new beginning, it feels less bright, scary, the colours feel dull, there is less joy around and the future looks very distorted, everyone says time helps but right now there is an almighty deafening silence where his presence should be.
I can’t grasp how someone so full of love, huge amounts of energy and with such a massive zest for life be gone? There one day and then just gone, no warning. Who’ll give the huge tight bear hugs he used to give us, who’ll call me the silly nicknames only he used, who can I call to exchange silly tittle tattle, who’ll take my late night calls when I’m having a crisis of confidence about my career choices? Who’ll love me unconditionally when I’m being a nightmare? He was my rock, my sparring partner, my confidante, my guidance counsellor, my champion cheerleader, and I’ve only really realised in the past week that he was also my best friend. I have no idea how I’m going to live without him on speed dial.
To put it simply dad loved life, even when things were down he could see the positive, be it a stroll on the beach, looking at wildflowers, and spotting wild birds. He could always see the light in the darkest tunnels. Admittedly I used to get infuriated with his youthful optimistic outlook sometimes when I was stressed out and worrying, I’d call him Peter Pan. Always optimistic and playful with a penchant for mischief, he occasionally embraced his inner child and I see now that I need to take that lesson on board. His last Christmas present to me which I received a few days after he passed was a beautiful sketch from a scene in Peter Pan.
There are no words that adequately describe the magnitude of a loss as huge as dad. He lit up every corner of every room he entered, he was ever the raconteur with people gathered around him. He had the best stories, he always ended up in the craziest situations, only last month he met some of the Dubs GAA team on a flight to New York and he got to hold the Sam Maguire cup, he was so overjoyed, he sent me a text telling me he felt like a big kid. I’m so, so glad he had that experience.
Anyway, we all know he is joining the great rock n roll roll call of 2016, he’d have loved getting his name down on that guest list, last minute as always, just before the doors close and as many of you have said, that many awesome musicians need an awesome manager to keep things under control. I hope wherever he is that he is happy and laughing that big broad laugh of his, gathering more stories to tell us all some day. I saw a dedication at the end of a film last week referring to someone as a great storyteller and a purveyor of dreams, I’m going to borrow that dedication for dad today, it seems to say it all that needs to be said about him. Thank you.