Liam Clancy is the Irish singer and musician most famous for his performances with the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem.
He also had a successful solo career and formed a recording duo with Tommy Makem that lasted over a decade.
He is known for his sense of humour and charm as well as his great singing voice and stage presence.
Keen interest in acting as a youngster
He was the youngest of the Clancy brothers and was born in Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary. He was interested in different artistic disciplines when he was a youngster. As a teenager he would spend hours writing or painting. He also enjoyed drama and wanted to be an actor.
After he left school he became an insurance salesman in Dublin but also went to night school where he studied Art and Design.
But acting was his first love and before he reached the age of 20, he had founded his own dramatic society. It is still open now and is now called ‘Brewery Lane Theatre and Arts Centre’.
While in Dublin he also played the lead role in a celebrated production of The Playboy of the Western World.
Collecting Irish folk songs with a Guggenheim
In the late 1950s, Clancy met Diane Hamilton who had come to Ireland to collect and record Irish folk songs. She was a member of the wealthy American Guggenheim family. She used the name Hamilton to disguise her wealthy connections.
Clancy accompanied her around Ireland. She fell in love with him but he didn’t return her feelings. They remained friends for the rest of her life but their relationship was often difficult with Hamilton sometimes threatening suicide.
Hamilton could be credited for helping Clancy see that those old traditional songs that he knew so well and perhaps took for granted, were special works of art in their own right.
Liam Clancy meets Tommy Makem
While touring Ireland, Clancy and Hamilton went to see Sarah Makem who was a well known folk singer of the day with a wide repertoire of songs.
It was at Sarah’s home that Clancy first met her son Tommy Makem, the man with whom he was to develop a lifelong musical partnership. Clancy later described how he was amazed at the way Tommy Makem had enough presence and charisma to silence a noisy pub by pretending to tie his shoe, and then launching into a rendition of The Cobbler.
It was a skill Clancy was soon to develop himself. During the visit, the two young men talked about their ambitions to seek work in America. They agreed to contact each other if they did.
A few years later, both men did go to America but travelled separately. Clancy joined his brothers in New York and Makem went to Chicago.