Follow us on Facebook/Twitter


Join our 12,000 Twitter Followers and 14,000 Facebook friends

What The Dubliners really drank back stage…

It’s good to see The Dubliners are still touring regularly and packing large theatres wherever they go.

They played several gigs every month of last year, mainly in venues all over Europe.

Now they’re getting ready for a tour of the UK. They start at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow on February 18th and play another 15 gigs before finishing at the Fringe Theatre at Great Malvern on March 22nd.

St Patrick’s Day in Birmingham

They’ll be playing Birmingham Town Hall on March 17th so that should make the city’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations that little bit more special.

I saw the band play several times in the 1970s and 1980s and they always put on a fantastic show, always full of energy, spirit and great Irish music.

In those days, of course, they had a bit of a reputation for liking a drink or two before and after a show.

Drink got the band in trouble in the early days

Drink was the reason the band found themselves sacked by their promoter in their early days before they even got started. The late, great Ronnie Drew told the story on the Irish TV programme the Late, Late Show way back in 1984.

In 1963, when they were just starting out they were booked to play a series of shows across Ireland. Unfortunately, the tickets weren’t selling and the promoter was looking for a reason to cancel the tour so he wouldn’t have to pay the band.

Barney MacKenna at the top of a radio mast

One day in Carrick-on-Suir, Ronnie and Barney MacKenna came back after drinking at lunchtime and the promoter accused them of being drunk.

Barney decided to prove that he wasn’t drunk by climbing to the top of a nearby radio mast … which, of course, had the opposite effect of proving the promoter’s point.

The Dubliners draw their first big audience

Barney’s exploits at least had the effect of pulling in the crowds at last – hundreds of people lined the streets to see him as he sat there combing his hair at the top of the mast.

Eventually, he was persuaded to come down, but only after the police promised not to arrest him. He got a standing ovation from the crowd who clapped and cheered as he came down.

The promoter was not amused and, having at last got the excuse he wanted, he promptly cancelled the tour and sacked the band.

Tales of drinking became a little exaggerated

The band survived the setback, of course, but their reputation as a hard drinking band persisted long afterwards.

The reputation wasn’t really deserved though, as I found out when I went to see the band at Batley Variety Club in 1979.

As the compere of the show introduced the band just before they came on stage, he did a little mime of someone drinking fast, suggesting that the band had had a few and were drunk.

Audiences liked the idea of a hard drinking band

It got a laugh and a cheer from the audience as people generally liked the image of a band – especially an Irish band – liking a drink or two.

I couldn’t see any signs of their performance being affected by drink as they were absolutely superb that night.

Sorry if I’m shattering a prized Dubliner’s myth

After the show, I went back stage to meet the band and they were doing some hard drinking all right but – and I’m sorry if I shatter any myths – they were drinking tea!

It was quite surprising and quite amusing considering their reputation.

I’m not sure what they’re drinking these days but they’re still producing great music and long may they do so.

Written by Patrick Kehoe

Patrick Kehoe

Pat Kehoe is a writer for Irish Music Daily.
His favourite Irish music bands are the Dubliners and Planxty
You can follow him on

We hope you enjoyed this article. We’re constantly adding new articles so why not bookmark our blog home page and come back to see our new posts! Blog News Home Page

Check out more stories on Irish Music Daily

George Donaldson Street Team exceeds fund-raising target
Down to earth father of 1D star refuses son’s money
Fundraiser for Keith Harkin’s favourite charity
George Donaldson – why fans wanted to help his family
Dolores on her battle with cancer and booze
Irish rock legend speaks about his demons
Young Irish talent begins to shine
Star Wars wedding for The Wanted star
CT creator holds auditions for new band
Folk stars Villagers scoop Irish album award
Sinead O’Connor to renew her wedding vows
Dylan appears in Chrysler’s SuperBowl advert
Why Ireland is number one for Garth Brooks
Keith Duffy’s splash for cash
U2 scoop Golden Globe award for Mandela song
Line up for TradFest 2014 revealed
Bono hopes to get better and better
Wire creator set to make Pogues musical
Last Call – Mary Black farewell world tour
Choirs gather for world record attempt in Dublin
Charity single races up Irish charts
Connolly got punched defending Christy Moore
Cranberries star sings for the Pope at the Vatican
Bono: personal tribute to Nelson Mandela
Jagger a great-granddad – don’t call him granpa
Museum to honour 1D star Niall Horan
Justin Timberlake’s Auld Triangle splits the fans
Lonely Sinead prefers America to Ireland
Councillors keep hold of Van Morrison tickets

New PVC look for Sinead’s new album
Auditions for Irish stage show receives worldwide interest
Singers hit back at critics after weight slurs against Tara Erraught
Spotify playlist that could save lives
Fans raise money for George Donaldson’s daughter
Paul Simon and wife cleared of disorderly conduct
Damian McGinty set for solo US tour
U2 echo Beatles with rooftop gig
Sinead on ‘danger’ that made her shave head
Dropkick star helps fight against substance abuse
Bono says U2 are becoming irrelevant
McGinty and Carlin represent Derry
Magic Pie, would you like a Roll With It?
Rock star poses for pics at Dublin wedding
Enya’s in the money despite no new album
Bono busks Dublin on Christmas Eve
Fairytale of New York ‘special’ for Coronation St
Niall Horan to learn guitar from Stones legend
Chieftains to give master class in Irish music
Susan Boyle bullied after incorrect diagnosis
Irish teens hit #1 with tribute to teacher
U2 felt pressure on Mandela song
Ronan: "Tour after Gately’s death was mistake"
Irish star is Britain’s 3rd most influential Tweeter
Irish Spanish musical set in 16th century Ireland
Paul Byrom private concert

Sign up for Ireland Calling Newsletter
Once you have filled in the form, you should receive a confirmation email which you will need to click. Please check your junk mail folder in case it gets sent there.

powered by MailChimp!

Check our archive for great stories

Slap on the wrist for Bono over handshake
Cranberries star joins The Voice
Sinead turns her fury on Simon Cowell
James Galway's lifetime achievement award
Sinéad O’Connor hits back at Miley Cyrus
Sinéad’s ‘motherly’ warning to Miley Cyrus
Celtic Thunder -the kings of Social Media
Barney McKenna – genius and great man
The Dubliners' Barney McKenna dies aged 72
All the Way Home – Cathy Jordan
Folk &rock stars play Rory Gallagher Festival
International stars at the Temple Bar TradFest
Join in open trad sessions at Temple Bar
Mary Black Stories from the Steeples Review
Why do we love Fairytale of New York

Paul Byrom – Kickstarter for PBS Music special
Paul Byrom – raising money for a PBS special
Anuna: Behind a Fan’s Eyes
Irish trad sessions – sharing music and the craic
Festivals in Ireland
Irish American dream set to hit the road
Irish piano students make a big impact
Padraig Lalor – Ismay’s Dream
Arlene Faith – Spirit of the Celtic Violin
New album by Celtic Tenors – Feels Like Home
Van Morrison – the ten million airplays man
Death of Bert Jansch – inspirational folk guitarist
Times Past from JH – melodic, thoughtful songs
How Ralph McTell twisted my fingers
Online social forum for Irish traditional musicians

More great blog posts on Irish Music Daily

Loud earphones damaging children’s ears
Chasing the American Dream
Royal Opera House goes Gaelic
Irish singer Bob Geldof leads Live8
Music At the Heart of Ireland’s Renewal
Tara O’Grady’s magical fusion of jazz and folk
Ireland’s new Musical World Champions
Supporting Magdalene survivors
Magdalene charity video

Christmas bonus for MacGowan from Fairytale
Martin Hayes concert
Michael William Balfe – Ireland’s Mozart
‘Minstrel Boy’ writer Thomas Moore
Tara O’Grady – Irish music fused with jazz
Moonrakers – Celtic music that ‘oozes quality’
Gaelic Harmony
Calling musicians from Ireland’s 32 counties
Singer Oonagh Cassidy joins our video showcase

Great stories on the Irish Music Daily blog

Brendan O’Loughlin – Irish singer-songwriter
A listener’s guide to Irish song
Showcase your videos on our website
Derry wants to host Irish music festival
Singing in Irish – The Sean-nós tradition
Singing in Irish: yes – it’s a language
Fureys take mother’s advice
Kate Bush turns to Irish novelist James Joyce

Irish composers honoured by music academy
Did Wild Rover have a raunchy English cousin?
Irish singer Geldof honoured by Israeli university
When Ronan Met Burt album released
The Dubliners – flying the flag for Irish music
Is the Wild Rover an anti-drinking song?
The folk hero appeal of Whiskey in the Jar
When Ronan Met Burt

Elsewhere on Irish Music Daily

Bob Dylan tops the bill at Irish music festival
Singer Christy Moore backs forest campaign
Fields of Athenry – Irish song and football anthem
Dropkick Murphys evoke wild Irish wake
Ronan Keating to release Bacharach songs
Dubliners take a breather ahead of next tour
Dropkick Murphys back workers
BBC documentary on Irish rock band Thin Lizzy

Frankie Gavin Up Close and Personal
Irish songwriter sets Mandela speech to music
Gary Moore – An Irish music legend
Classic Irish fiddle music straight from the kitchen
What The Dubliners really drank back stage…
How Raglan Road came to be written
The death of Gerry Rafferty
Oh no…Hitler was a fan of Irish music