Thursday 18 January 2018

Eurovision memories of the boys of Wexford

It's hard to imagine the impact winning the Eurovision Song Contest had on the country 45 years ago.

A slip of a girl from Derry in an embroidered mini dress, perched on a stool, beat favourite and established star Mary Hopkin and Spanish hearthrob Julio Englesias to lift the trophy in Amsterdam, returning to a hero's welcome only matched since by Jack's boys in green.

Eurovision meant that much back then, back before the voting blocs, the terrible novelty acts, the drummers and the dancers and the belly dancers, the awfully patchy eighties, and Dustin the turkey.

When Dana won Eurovision in 1970 virtually every Irish household with a TV set tuned in. In the days and weeks after the event, everybody wanted to meet and greet Dana. If the Vatican had agreed, she'd have been Beatified on the spot.

With 'All Kinds Of Everything' stuck at number one in the charts, Wexford promoter Danny Doyle scored the mother of all coups. He'd booked Dana to perform here well in advance of Eurovision. No sooner was she off the plane and catching her breath, she was in Wexford performing to an over-packed house on a sweaty night that resonates to this day with those who were there.

Eurovision would not set Wexford pulses racing as dramatically again. But in 1988 one Wexford man was in the thick of things, not as performer, but master and commander.

In the sixties and seventies, boys of Wexford coveted Action Man, Meccano and Airfix. Not Declan Lowney - his heart was set on a Super 8 movie camera that would shape his career. Lowney rose rapidly through the ranks of RTE, producing and directing, before landing the Eurovision gig which came Ireland's way in 1988 after Johnny Logan's second win the previous year.

The Wexford director's RDS Eurovision of 1988 is remembered for two things - the winning singer, and setting a new standard for large-scale Eurovision production.

Soon after, Declan Lowney would leave RTE for the UK and a string of high profile jobs, including director of 'Father Ted'. Meanwhile, the Canadian who gave Switzerland the win in Eurovision 1988 with 'Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi' - Ms Celine Dion - would also go on greater things.

The same single-mindedness which gave Declan Lowney his place in Eurovision history could also be said to have resulted in Nicky Bailey's brush with the biggest talent/song contest on the planet.

Bailey's passion was not cinematography, but percussion. It is said that, as a baby in the pram, the Wexford rhythm king did not have a rattle, but a drumstick. By the time he took the Eurovision stage in 2013, he'd already beaten a path to stardom with Extreme Rhythm and Riverdance.

Unfortunately, Nicky Bailey's drumming could not propel Strabane's Ryan Dolan to victory for Ireland in Malmo, as 'Only Love Survives' finished last in the final, but - as Greg French is probably discovering this very minute - win or lose, Eurovision is an experience never to be forgotten.

Wexford People

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