The Dubliners have been honoured with the BBC Lifetime Achievement Award at the Radio 2 Folk Awards at Salford in England.
The award was in recognition of the band’s outstanding contribution to music. The Dubliners first formed in 1962 and this year celebrate their 50th anniversary.
The award was presented by their long time friend, the English folk singer Ralph McTell.
McTell began by reading out a message from the President of Irleand, Michael Higgins, which said: “The Dubliners have made a unique contribution to Irish culture and continue to have an impact wherever Irish music is heard.
“Their enormous musical talent has played a key role in ensuring the revival and continuing popularity of our traditional folk music. It’s made Irish ballads popular throughout the world.”
Commenting on the president’s words, McTell said: “When a band is elevated to ambassadorial level for their country, there is more at work than just the music.
“In the Dubliners I believe a nation catches not just a glimpse of itself but of how it would like to be perceived. Perhaps it was the very disparate natures of the Dubliners’ founding fathers that exemplified this.
“I never knew Ciaran but in Luke Kelly – the thinker, the radical, the man with the beautiful voice. And in Ronnie Drew, a unique voice again, a teacher, actor, raconteur. An amazing character.
“John Sheahan – sensitive, a wonderful fiddle player, a musician, artist, diplomat and poet.
“The warmth and enthusiasm of the virtuoso Barney MacKenna. Later on there was Jim McCAnn – mercurial wit and a brilliant mind.”
“Vocals were always delivered with a commitment and belief whether rasped out or sung with nuance and delicacy. You can see why they are so loved by Ireland and the rest of the world.
“The music is infectious, bewitching and uplifting. Coming out of the grey 1950s in Ireland, The Dubliners had a literary inheritance that included O’Casey, Kavanagh and Behan. They carried the rich and living folk tradition of Ireland but they brushed aside the preciousness and brought a brightness and joyful boisterousness into their music.
“Each new band member has added to and enriched the whole.
“Their legacy can be seen worldwide in the work of the countless bands who’ve explored, interpreted, innovated in many different directions – but all would seem to stem from this wellspring.
Ciaran Bourke, Luke Kelly, Ronnie Drew, John Sheahan, Barney MacKenna, Jim McCann, Sean Cannon, Bobby Lynch, Eamon Campbell, Paddy Reilly, Patsy Watchorn – I am honoured to present your BBC 2 Lifetime Achievement Award.”
Speaking in both Irish and English, Barney MacKenna thanked the BBC for the award. John Sheahan also thanked the audience and the BBC, describing the award as a great honour.
The night provided a double celebration for Irish music. Up and coming band Ioscaid, made up of musicians from four counties in the north of Ireland, won the Young Folk Award.
The night, however, belonged to the The Dubliners who closed the show by performing Dirty Old Town in recognition of the late Ewan MacColl, who lived most of his life in the town of Salford where the awards were held.