The Dublin City Ramblers are one of the most prolific bands to come out of Ireland over the last 50 years. They have performed all around the world and have had some of Ireland’s top musicians and songwriters in their line-ups.
The band first started out in Dublin in the 1960s with the name the Jolly Tinkers, although that was quickly changed to the Quare Fellas. The original band members were Patsy Watchorn, brothers Sean and Matt McGuinness and Pat Cummins. At this point the band were only playing for a bit of fun but they did produce two albums, At Home and A Fond Tale.In 1970, the band changed their name again, this time to the Dublin City Ramblers, and two years later Philip “the horse” McCaffrey and Kevin Molloy joined. This line-up enjoyed the best success of the band so far with a top ten hit for their album, A Nation Once Again.
Controversial Irish Republican Jail songs
They caused a stir in 1978 when they released the controversial album, Irish Republican Jail Songs. The songs were about the political struggle between the Irish Republicans and the British. Bring Them Home, sang by Philip McCaffrey, was in of support of the campaign to allow the Price Sisters to serve their prison sentences in Northern Ireland, after their part in a car bombing in London.
19 Men was another controversial song on the album, about the prison escape by members of the Provisional IRA. A member of the Irish parliament at the time described the album as ‘ludicrous and full of delusion.’
Captured the mood of the Irish public
During the 1980s the Dublin City Ramblers were at their most popular, with almost every song they released becoming a big hit. The Rare Ould Times and the Ferryman, both written by Pete St John, were two songs that described the changes to the city of Dublin and the effect it was having on its people. The 80s were a difficult time for people living in Ireland, with the country suffering a recession and that mood was reflected in the 1987 album, The Flight of the Earls.
Such was the Dublin City Ramblers’ popularity in the late 1980s, they were selected to record the anthem for the country’s soccer team as they qualified for the European Championships in 1988 in Germany. We are the Boys in Green was a massive hit and inspired the team to a shock victory over their old foes England in the group stage.
Two years later the Dublin City Ramblers recorded an updated version of We are the Boys in Green for the soccer team as they had again qualified for a major tournament, this time the World Cup in Italy. The side had a memorable campaign and progressed to the quarter final where they were narrowly beaten by the hosts.
‘These guys are the real champions’
The band played at the homecoming party of the team and Jack Charlton, the manager said: “These guys are the real champions. I’ve heard them on the radio, on the team bus and now we have the privilege of having them play here tonight. Thank you guys, or ramblers even, and keep up the great work both at home and away.”
The late 80s saw the end of both Philip McCaffrey and Kevin Molloy’s time with the Dublin City Ramblers, Shay Kavanagh and Paddy Sweeney came in as the replacements. The next two albums were both big successes with a great selection of Irish pub songs.
Sean McGuiness still there after nearly 50 yearsIn 1995 Patsy Watchorn left to pursue a solo career, later going on to join the Dubliners. Watchorn’s departure left Sean McGuiness as the last remaining original member of the Dublin City Ramblers. The band was now down to three members, Sean McGuiness, Paddy Sweeney and Shay Kavanagh. They carried on touring Ireland and America and released a Millennium album with some of their original songs.
Kavanagh and Sweeney both left in 2002, but the band is still in existence. The Dublin City Ramblers are still touring with Sean McGuiness accompanied by an ever-changing line-up.