Sep 24

“No Coward Soul : Jack Nalty (1902-1938)” by Steve Nugent .


No Coward Soul Front

First published twenty years ago (2003), “No Coward Soul” was the first comprehensive account of the life of Jack Nalty made available. Written by his nephew, Steve Nugent, his research ensured that the full story of his uncle achieved it’s rightful place and was not simply a few references found in accounts of the Spanish Civil War. Steve’s dedication to this work is all the more extraordinary given that he was living in Canada and in a largely pre-internet age tracking down the pieces of Jack’s life and finding people who held pieces of the story was no small feat.

This weekend the 85th anniversary of Jack Nalty was commemorated in East Wall, It is worth mentioning that the date of Jack’s heroic sacrifice (23rd September) was also the date of Steves birthday. Steve sadly passed away in 2017.

The book is long out of print, but we are delighted to make it available here to read online or download :



To mark the 80th anniversary of Jack’s death a plaque was unveiled in East Wall near the former family home. A new booklet “In pursuit of an Ideal” was published. While featuring additional material, this volume was based on Steve’s work and would not have been possible without his original inspiration.

It can be read online or downloaded here:

Jack Nalty In pursuit of an ideal

Nalty plaque

Sep 20

Jack Nalty – East Wall sports champion (and Republican soldier)

“Jack [Nalty] always gave of his best”


This year marks the 85th anniversary of the death of Jack Nalty , an East Wall man who died at the Battle of the Ebro on 23rd September 1938. A Republican , socialist and trade unionist , Jack had fought in the War of Independence and Civil War , and as an ITGWU organiser represented 600 workers in Dublin Port oil companies . In 1936 he volunteered to join the International Brigades to support the Spanish people against Fascism , and on the day when the Brigades were withdrawn from combat he was shot dead,having returned into danger to assist two British volunteers.

Jack Nalty with Dublin City Harriers third from left front row)

Jack Nalty with Dublin City Harriers third from left front row)

During the years 1925 to 1933, he also pursued another interest, a long distance runner with the Dublin City Harriers, winning championships on numerous occasions and even representing Ireland in 1931. The records of the club reflect his achievements:

In the seasons 1925-26 and 1926-27, he won the Seven Miles Cross-country Club Championships.

In 1927-28 he dead heated for the title and won it again in 1932-33.

Jacks medals (courtesy: Nugent family)

Jack Nalty medals front (2)

He is listed in individual performances in Cross-country Championships:

In 1927-28 – Second in the County Dublin Senior.

In 1928-29 –Third in the County Dublin Senior (“Nalty ran with great determination and finished a good third”).

In 1930-31 – Third in both the National Senior and the Connacht Province Senior.

In 1931 he received International honours when he represented Ireland in the cross country team at Baldoyle, County Dublin.

National Cross-country team 1931 (Jack in number 57)

National Cross-country team 1931 (Jack in number 57)

Following his death, the annual record of the Dublin Harriers recorded:

“Our season closed on a sad note when the Club members learned of the death of Jack Nalty in Spain, Sept. 23rd 1938. Jack always gave of his best; his name adorns many of our club trophies. R.I.P.”

Join us on Saturday 23rd September @ 1.30pm to commemorate Jack Nalty and his fellow Dubliner Liam McGregor (Inchicore) who died on the same day.

Jack Nalty and Liam McGregor commemoration

Assemble: St Josephs co-ed school , East Wall Road.

(Image: Dublin City Harriers , including Jack Nalty. Image courtesy : Nugent family / East Wall History Group)

Sep 10

“From the Calton to Catalonia” – Interview with playwrights John and Willy Maley

The Sean O’Casey Festival 2023 is delighted to present the Irish premiere of this acclaimed play by John and Willy Maley. Set in the 1930’s during the Spanish Civil War, it is based on the true story of their father James and other family members.

The story switches between a fascist prison in Spain and the tenements of Glasgow, as volunteer James and his comrades are facing possible execution, while their mothers, wives and sisters face a different struggle at home.

From the Calton


SO’C: Can we just start off by asking you about your fathers’ experience in Spain, as this is central to the story of the play?

 “Our father James Maley (1908-2007) was born in Glasgow, in the East End, populated by Irish immigrants. His father, Ned, came from Mayo as a young man. James joined the Communist Party on 16 February 1932, learned to use a rifle in the Territorial Army from 1934, and went to Spain in 1936 as part of the International Brigades to defend the Spanish Republic against General Franco’s fascist coup. As part of Machine Gun Company No. 2 of the British Battalion he was captured at the Battle of Jarama in February 1937 and held prisoner for several months before being released as part of a prisoner exchange. While he was incarcerated, a propaganda newsreel was shown in a Glasgow cinema and seen by his mother, who persuaded the projectionist to cut two frames from the reel. We grew up with these two images in the house – our father on the back of a lorry with his comrades, then lined up in a prison yard. When my father came back to Glasgow he had copies made for his comrades.”  

Newsreel footage - James Maley captured at Jarama February 1937 (front right)

Newsreel footage – James Maley captured at Jarama February 1937 (front right)

Newsreel footage- Prisoner James Maley (front row first right)

Newsreel footage- Prisoner James Maley (front row first right)

SO’C: Your father of course was only one of many Scottish volunteers, but is it fair to say that Glasgow seems to hold their memory in a particular high regard?

“Glasgow provided a large proportion of the British volunteers for Spain and hosted the city’s only significant socialist monument in the shape of a founding member of the Basque Communist Party, Isidora Dolores Ibárruri Gómez, better known as La Pasionaria, arms upraised, overlooking the Clyde. It was commissioned in 1974 by the International Brigade Association, which the help of the Labour movement in Scotland, and was finally unveiled on 5th December 1979 after the usual right-wing red-baiting. The sculptor, Arthur Dooley, was a communist and a Liverpudlian, best known for his sculpture of the Beatles depicting the Madonna cradling the band with the inscription: “Four lads who shook the world.” Dooley had a few church commissions in his portfolio, including one at Toxteth, and there’s a religious feel to La Pasionaria’s upraised and imploring arms. She is a kind of Madonna figure, and the men and women she salutes shook the world.”

La Pasionara / International Brigades memorial, Glasgow

La Pasionara / International Brigades memorial, Glasgow

SO’C: What was it that made you decide- this story needs to be told on the stage ?

“In 1990 Glasgow was European City of Culture. The publicity generated by Tory PR machine Saatchi and Saatchi was all empty corporate slogans. The real history of Glasgow as the hub of Red Clydeside, as a workers’ city, a European city, and a crucible of internationalism was glossed over. We didn’t have far to look for a subject that captured all the elements of the city that we felt were being excluded. We decided to home in on the extraordinary role played by men like our father and his comrades in the fight against fascism in Spain. The Cold War, and the collapse of the Soviet Union meant that the anti-fascist activism of the 1930s, and in particular the part played by the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), a dress rehearsal for the Second World War, was a forgotten episode.” 

James Maley with La Pasionara statue, Glasgow.

James Maley with La Pasionara statue, Glasgow.


SO’C: And once you had the idea it very quickly made it to the stage. Did you think that three decades later it would reaching new audiences?

“The production history of the play is quite patchy, as you’d expect for a play that began as a community project, modestly funded by Glasgow City Council, yet the play has persisted through word of mouth. The play opened at The Pearce Institute in Govan on 3rd December 1990 and has been revived several times over the years, most recently in 2016 as part of Celtic Connections Music Festival in Glasgow. To mark the 30th anniversary of the original production in 2020 there had been discussions about Irish and Scottish productions, but of course COVID changed all these plans.” 

Glasgow tenements, the Calton. So similar to Dublin.

Glasgow tenements, the Calton. So similar to Dublin.


SO’C: One of the aspects of the play which really appeals to us is the similarity with the classic works of Sean O’Casey. The contrasting struggles of the men in the prison and that of their women family members in Glasgow is central to the dynamic, and of course, it’s also a very funny play, despite the subject matter. Was this a deliberate approach?

“Our influences in terms of theatre were O’Casey’s tragicomedies, Brecht’s epic theatre, and John McGrath’s agitprop. These playwrights addressed political history in ways that we found satisfying, blending comedy and seriousness, using songs and speeches, mixing intimate moments with the impact of politics on families and friends. We were aiming for something we jokingly referred to as ‘commie-tragedy’ – the treatment of a socialist past that was already part of history, and a closed book for many. We were writing at a time of deep reaction under a British Tory Government that had been in power for over a decade. It was not an easy time to be talking about communist activism, but it was as ever a vital time to be addressing the rise of the Right and the very real and continuing threat of fascism. In that sense the play has never gone out of fashion.” 


SO’C: Another obvious similarity with O’Casey is the authentic use of language. His Dublin characters on stage spoke like working class Dubliners and your characters speak like working class Glaswegians. Did you see that as an issue for others who might want to stage it?

 “We wrote the play in the Glasgow accent we heard around us, for a Glasgow cast and a Glasgow production. We expect an Irish cast to make it their own. We’ve never been precious about language and appreciate that the play can be updated, adapted, and the characters made to speak in different voices from the ones we had in our heads when we wrote it. This was just our version of Glaswegian, and was never set in stone. We’ve always seen actors as the proletariat of the theatre, and since they’re the ones out there on stage speaking the lines you have to give them some license to roam and find their own voice in the script. The lines are there to trip off the tongue, not to trip the actor up, so actors can make it work for them – make their own music as it were. There’s a story, perhaps apocryphal, about a Scottish playwright sitting at the back of a theatre during rehearsals asking an actor if there was an apostrophe in the script and if not why did they put one there. That’s not us. Theatre is collaborative and the script is a green paper, not a blueprint.” 


Recreating history at the Sean O'Casey Theatre

Recreating history at the Sean O’Casey Theatre

SO’C: And I think it’s important for us to add that since we first discussed this upcoming festival production with yourselves you have been nothing but supportive and generous in your approach, and the actors have jumped in with both feet to their roles.

 SO’C: Now this is a very important question and one that cannot be avoided. Your family have Irish roots, you were born and bred in Glasgow, so tell us, there has to be a Celtic story in there somewhere?

“James Maley was a lifelong Celtic fan, and when he boarded the packed double decker bus in George Square in Glasgow in December 1936 to go to Spain he saw several neighbours and others he recognised as Celtic supporters. Celtic FC was home to radicals and republicans, as well as more conservative Catholics. At a time when the Catholic Church in Ireland and Scotland was backing Franco, Catholics and Celtic fans like Maley, the son of an Irish immigrant, took a stand for the traditions they felt represented what was best in the club’s history – defence of the underdog. In prison in Spain my father often wondered how his team were doing. Better, he hoped, than his side in the conflict in Spain.” 

maley celtic

Celtic fans pay tribute to James Maley following his death in 2007

Celtic fans pay tribute to James Maley following his death in 2007

SO’C: And finally, one last question. Your father lived to the ripe old age of 99. He personally is remembered in print, in song and on stage, and those who fought alongside him too are commemorated. What is their legacy?

“For decades, the International Brigade Association (IBA) held meetings to commemorate the role of volunteers in Spain. As the last of the veterans passed away a new expanded organisation emerged. The International Brigade Memorial Trust (IBMT) exists to preserve the memory and promote the politics of commitment integral to those who went to Spain. And of course, in Ireland there are groups like Friends of the International Brigades (FIBI). In Spain itself, the Law of Democratic Memory offers the prospect of Spanish Citizenship for descendants of members of the International Brigades. The lasting legacy of the volunteers for Spain is the example they set of anti-fascist resistance, their ordinary heroism, and their willingness to lay down their lives for a just cause, the cause of the Left.”   



“From the Calton to Catalonia”  by John and Willy Maley will be part of the Sean O’Casey Festival 2023.

 From Wednesday 13th September to Saturday 16th September  

@ 8pm   Sean O’Casey Theatre, St Marys Road East Wall. 

Sep 04

Sean O’Casey Festival 2023: OPENING NIGHT Monday 11th September @7PM

The Sean O’Casey Festival 2023 will be launched on

Monday 11th September,

@ 7pm at the Seán O’Casey Theatre, St Marys Road, East Wall.

All welcome to this FREE EVENT
The evening will be hosted by Ciara Byrne (of Hidden Skirts Theatre).
Sean O'Casey Political activist and writer

Author and historian Paul O’Brien will be our special guest and will officially open the festival. His latest book “Sean O’Casey : Political activist and writer” was published earlier this year by Cork University Press.

This will be followed by performances presented by Hidden Skirts Theatre.

Ciara Byrne , Hidden Skirts Theatre.

Ciara Byrne , Hidden Skirts Theatre.

A new exhibition “FRAGMENTS FROM LIFE” by artist Brian Palm will be on display throughout the festival (Monday 11th to Saturday 23rd September). Brian will be in attendance at this opening event.

Gasometer Gang by Brian Palm


Please share this invite and details.

Tickets for all other festival events available here-

Aug 28

FRAGMENTS FROM LIFE : art exhibition by Brian Palm

Gasometer Gang by Brian Palm

The Sean O’Casey Festival 2023 is delighted to announce that a new art exhibition by Brian Palm will be displayed throughout the festival, from Monday 11th September until Saturday 23rd September.

The exhibition , FRAGMENTS FROM LIFE will be on display at the official opening of the festival at the Sean O’Casey Theatre on Monday 11th September @ 7pm.


By Brian Palm

As the title suggests, this exhibition captures fragmentary moments in the lives of Dublin city dwellers captured on film decades ago by a young art student. The large archive of black and white photographic negatives created by Brian Palm in the late 1970s and early 1980s have now developed historical significance simply by the passage of time, and they provide a fascinating insight into that era when seen as photos in themselves. However, once the photos have been manipulated by the artist, collaged together and combined with oil paint, pencils, sprays and varnish, they become works of art depicting the city in a deeply personal sense.

The artist focuses on fragmentary moments of time, echoed by a wealth of smaller scale imagery collaged into the picture frames adding a subtle visual subtext. This extra narrative re-enforces the main image with more information, while optically mimicking the heavily ornamented gilt picture frames from centuries past. A sense of bittersweet nostalgia for a bygone era permeates the work, combined with a pragmatic understanding that the artist coexisted in these fragmented moments as well, and captured them with a camera for posterity. It is the cohabitation of the same city streets by locals and a passing artist which directly led to the creation of these images, but it is the artist’s solo occupation that transforms them into art.

Brian Palm’s work is fully supportive of the people and communities he depicts; he took photos of the community in which he lived, and where he was well known and respected. His camera was not a voyeur or interloper, he didn’t use it to expose or condescend. He used it to document aspects of life from that time, as he saw and felt them. A clear sense of trust exists in the eyes and faces of the people he chose to photograph, and there were many lifelong friendships made while creating this large body of work. While delving into this archive for several decades, the artist has created a large body of professional work which constitutes the output of a richly productive artistic career.

This latest exhibition from Brian Palm provides a glimpse into a specific time in Dublin’s history, with hints of stories from life quickly absorbed in passing but captured for eternity.

Street Seller by Brian Palm

Brian Palm was part of Dublin Ghosts, a very memorable musical evening during last years festival, taking to the stage with Pete Holidai & Tony St Ledger (Trouble Pilgrims) and Phelim Drew. We are honoured to have him return with a different expression of his artistic talent.

Brian Palm with Tony St Ledger , Pete Holidai and Phelim Drew at the Sean O'Casey Theatre 2022.

Brian Palm with Tony St Ledger , Pete Holidai and Phelim Drew at the Sean O’Casey Theatre 2022.

Brian Palm was born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1957 and moved to Dublin, Ireland in 1977 to attend the National College of Art and Design, graduating with an Honours BFA in 1981. Palm remained in Ireland and has maintained a studio in Dublin throughout his career. He has regularly shown his work in solo and group exhibitions including the Royal Hibernian Academy’s Annual Exhibitions, Royal Ulster Academy’s Annual Exhibitions, Eigse Exhibitions, Iontas Exhibitions, and many others. His work is on constant view in The Duke Street Gallery, 17 Duke Street, Dublin where the artist has held annual solo exhibitions since 2015.

Palm showed dramatic new work in his solo exhibition ‘Down Our Way’, in February 2015. The show was a triumph and was followed by ‘Myths of the Helga’, inspired by a notorious Irish ship. The show of maritime themed shadowbox sculptures and paintings was held in commemoration of events from the 1916 Rising. The exhibition was officially opened by Commodore Hugh Tully F.O.C.N.S. 2017’s ‘In the Neighbourhood’ brought a return of Palm’s urban based work, then in 2018 ‘On Land and Sea’ combined the two strands in a single exhibition, marking the Centenary of the sinking of HMS Leinster. A painting from the exhibition was used for an Irish postage stamp, and the show was officially opened by Col. Stephen Ryan, Irish Defence Forces.

In 2021 Palm held ‘Cognitive Dissonance’, an exploration of the psychological effects of lockdown through a delicate series of confined cityscapes. Despite the limitations of the time as we came through the Covid era, the show was hugely successful and seemed to capture the public’s imagination.
Brian Palm has exhibited widely throughout Ireland and his work has been sold at auction with Adam’s, Bonham’s, White’s, Mullens, O’Driscoll’s, Drums, and with Sotheby’s in London. Brian Palm has been the recipient of several Arts Council of Ireland awards and bursaries, and the artist has had numerous residencies at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Annamaghkerrig, the Cill Rialaig Project in Kerry and the RHA Atelier Programme.
Brian Palm’s work is represented in numerous public and private collections in Ireland and abroad. Brian Palm’s work is available at and is also presented by Saatchi at

Brian Palm is also a highly regarded professional musician of international renown. http

On stage with Pete Holidai and Tony St Ledger (Trouble Pilgrims)

On stage with Pete Holidai and Tony St Ledger (Trouble Pilgrims)

For details of all other events see here:


Jul 19

Sean O’CaseyFestival 2023 : Tickets now available

The Sean O’Casey Festival 2023 will take place between Monday 11th September and Saturday 23rd September. The following performances have been confirmed, with further details to be announced.


From the Calton to Catalonia


“From the Calton to Catalonia”  by John and Willy Maley.

Tuesday 12th September to Saturday 16th September

Tickets :

Pure Medicine


“Pure Medicine” by Cahal Flynn

Tuesday 19th September



Spaldeen Ascensions

“Spaldeen Ascensions: A Bronx Aria”

 A solo show written & performed by Annie Lanzillotto

Thursday 21st September






(Sean O’Casey Festival logo by Tara Kearns)

Jun 30

Family Fun Day – July 2023


Jun 26

“SAY A SONG: The words and music of Philip Chevron”

“The Radiators kicked doors open…and we all walked through”

“SAY A SONG: The words & music of Philip Chevron” was an enjoyable, emotional and very relevant celebration of the genius of Philip Chevron.

Say A Song

The Sarah Lundberg Summer School 2023 at the Sean O’Casey Theatre featured an amazing line up of speakers, performers and video contributions which paid tribute to Philip and examined his influence and legacy. This included some well articulated calls for his work to be included on the English Literature secondary school curriculum, and anyone paying attention yesterday could not have failed to see the value of this inclusion.

Video contributions included Cait O’Riordan, Joseph O’Connor, Phil Odgers and Aidan Gillen.

Phil Mullen (musicologist and friend of Philip) contrasted the conservatism in the vision of Ireland he was born into with that of Philips, and also explored his artistic, political and literary influences.

Phil Mullen

Catherine Ann Cullen explored Philips song writing and lyrics in the context of the Irish emigrant song tradition and within the literary world. She firmly identified the significance of his work and articulated perfectly why it, along with other song-writers she highlighted, deserves a place within the school curriculum.

Catherine Ann Cullen

In a powerful and regretfully still relevant contribution, Eoin Freeney described his experiences of growing up as a gay man in 1970’s Ireland. These were dark days, and Eoin addressed this in necessary and unflinching detail. He described the liberating power of punk rock, which led to his involvement in bands, theatre and activism. While we embrace the changed Ireland, there are still reminders that some of the old attitudes are not too far behind us.

Eoin Freeney

Eoin’s contribution was perfect for an event yesterday, and his final slide showed the ‘Pride Bus’ parked under Clerys clock. As this image remained on-screen, Pete Holidai stepped on stage and performed a beautiful version of the song. Perfect moment.

Pete Holidai Under Clerys Clock

It was noted that Philip would have found amusement in the fact that a number of participants were late arriving after being held up in traffic due to the size of the Pride parade.

These contributions were chaired by Mary Muldowney.

Mary Muldowney chairing proceedings

Mary Muldowney chairing proceedings

The panel: Declan Lynch, Stephen Averill, Michael Murphy, Roger Armstrong and Pete Holidai
The panel: Declan Lynch, Stephen Averill, Michael Murphy, Roger Armstrong and Pete Holidai

The afternoon session featured a round-table discussion chaired by Michael Murphy, in which Stephen Averill, Pete Holidai, Roger Armstrong (Chiswick Records) and Declan Lynch (journalist and playwright) discussed their experiences of working with Philip down through the years. Some great stories, and some amazing insights into the creative genius that he was.

Panel in action

In addition to the on-screen and recorded pieces , live performances throughout the afternoon included Catherine Ann Cullen with a traditional emigrant song, Tony Black with a version of ‘Faithful Departed’ and East Wall actor Anto Seery delivered a powerful spoken word rendition of Philips anti-racist song ‘Heugenot’. All the performances demonstrated the versatility of Philip Chevrons lyrics , and how they can be interpreted and presented in so many different styles.

Tony Black "Ballad of the Faithful Departed"

Tony Black “Ballad of the Faithful Departed”

Anto Seery "Heugenot"

Anto Seery “Heugenot”

The reception area of the Sean O’Casey Community Centre displayed an exhibition of posters designed by Stephen Averill, featuring a selection of images of Philip and his lyrics. Inside the Theatre there was a selection of memorabilia loaned by Pete Holidai, including an original t-shirt, badges and promotional material. A selection of Philip’s scrapbooks, chronicling the bands early days were amazing to see.

Stephen Averill and Conor Horgan
Stephen Averill and Conor Horgan

Deborah Blacoe

The event was opened and closed by Deborah Blacoe, who shared with the audience the story of her brothers childhood and youth, where his love of theatre originated and her own relationship with Philip and his art. She recalled that as children he bribed her with coloured pencils and comic books to join him in his youthful stage productions, until she got old enough to get him to accept that the stage wasnt for her. She noted the irony of once again standing on stage due to her brother – “the coloured pencils are still working”.

On behalf of the East Wall History Group, Hugo McGuinness presented Deborah with a pristine quality edition of her fathers book “The lost Theatres of Dublin”.

Hugo and Deborah

Deborah generously shared her memories and stories of Philip and helped bring him to life for the audience, offering great insight into someone most of those present knew through his writing and performances. She finished the day off with a quote from Sean O’Casey, which she felt, given the building we were in, perfectly concluded a day celebrating Philip :

“I have found life an enjoyable, enchanting, active, and sometime terrifying experience, and I’ve enjoyed it completely. A lament in one ear, maybe, but always a song in the other”

SAY A SONG stage

Jun 22

East Coast Trail : East Wall Rd/Alfie Byrne Rd – INFORMATION leaflet and detailed plans.

DCC East Coast Trail Eng Accessible Singles_Page_1

DCC East Coast Trail Eng Accessible Singles_Page_2

DCC East Coast Trail Eng Accessible Singles_Page_3DCC East Coast Trail Eng Accessible Singles_Page_4


Further information, more details and contact information can be found in 18 page document  at link below :

  East Coast Trail 31-5-23 rev FINAL_

Jun 10

“ROCK ON PHILIP” – Sarah Lundberg Summer School 2023 to celebrate Philip Chevron

The Sarah Lundberg Summer School 2023 will be “ SAY A SONG: The words & music of Philip Chevron”, taking place at the Sean O’Casey Theatre on Saturday 24th June. This will be a celebration of the life, art and legacy of Philip Chevron, and will include contributions from family, bandmates, friends and collaborators. A number of those who cannot attend will make video contributions, and here is another wonderful submission from an old school friend. Gerry Kavanagh (Senior Library Assistant, Special Collections., National Library of Ireland).

Say A Song

Where to start?

  I suppose “this graveyard hides a million secrets – the trees know more than they will tell” is as good as any. Philip Ryan, as he was known in O’Connell Schools, was a classmate of mine. We both attended O’Connell’s from the mid-60’s to the mid-70’s. Those lyrics I just quoted are from his “Song of the Faithful Departed” and when I hear them I am transported back to that classroom in ‘73, or 1974, in North Richmond St, where we sat together for certain classes. Back then certain teachers made you swap seats; so for one class you sat next to one person and another person for the next class. That song is peppered with Joycean and Yeatsian references and many of the images in that song come straight from that classroom. Across the street, if you looked through the beams of sunlight and floating chalk dust, was one of Joyce’s many boltholes, where he stayed one step ahead of the rent man and further up the street was the big grand house that inspired Joyce’s “Araby”. Don’t believe all that guff by the Brudders, about the Church driving Joyce out of Ireland, it was the bailiffs!

Another Brudder, who taught us regularly used the phrase “poetry in paralysis” and anyone who attended a C.B.S. school back in the 60’s, knew all the heroes of 1916 wore wings…………………made to measure history, indeed.  “We’ll even climb the pillar like you always meant to” will ring true to a generation of working-class Dubliners, who never quite got around to climbing Nelson. It was always on the long finger for us and then when one did, he blew the bleedin’ thing up! Ironically, Liam Sutcliffe, the man tha’ done it, lived around the corner from me in Drimnagh, but that’s a story for another day.

This brings me back to another insight, possibly lost today. O’Connell’s was the popular name of the school, but officially it was O’Connell Schools, as the Brudders regularly explained. The reason for this they said was because it incorporated St Canice’s on the North Circular Rd, (the Norrier), near the Russell St junction and St Laurence O’Tooles, (Larriers), over in North William St. There were very few pupils in O’Connell’s from the locality, because the Brudders always reminded us that they were better off attending Canice’s or O’Tooles, because after primary school, they would most likely be attending the Tech; pigeon-holed and ear-marked from an early age.

image_6483441 (2)

So, Philip from Santry ended up next to me from Drimnagh, while other classmates came from Whitehall, Lucan, Finglas, Cabra and especially along the Navan Rd………anywhere where there was a feeder bus service. Philip was not sporty and seemed more interested in Maureen Potter and her Gaels of laughter. In truth we all were, but most thought it was cooler to talk about football. Philip’s love of theatre was instilled in him by his father, Philip Sr, who in later years wrote some excellent books on the subject and on some of the characters therein. He wrote books about Jimmy O’Dea, Noel Purcell and the Lost Theatres of Dublin with great knowledge and even greater love. He wrote about the living theatre of the city and the actors that were loved by ordinary Dubs, not that mausoleum known as the Abbey, where all the snobs and bores were holed-up. These were the roots from which Philip Ryan grew to be Philip Chevron.

 I remember our English teacher, who was Scottish! To be precise, he taught us English. No more than 5’4”, he had total control of the class and enthralled us with tales of how he had been at Woodstock. He had a great way of connecting with the class and in doing so, he enhanced our knowledge of English. He would often say, instead of writing an essay on a given subject, write an essay on whatever you like! Or he might say to Philip, bring in your guitar and sing us a few songs. This was polar opposite to what you got from the Brudders. Philip was only too willing to oblige and perform for the class. That has struck me often how certain people, who might be described as shy, will get up and perform on stage. That was Philip.

He came into his own, when he became editor of a school magazine. For the life of me, I can’t remember its title. Although always quiet, he also had a hard neck and a steely determination, too. He never had a problem approaching the school authorities, as in that instance, to suggest setting up the “school mag”, which was a great success and was well supported and contributed to. It had everything in it, from daily school matters, to reports from Dalyer, or Croker,  to a review of the latest L.P. by Rory, Horslips, or whoever, which was often ripped by the writer (often me!) straight from the pages of the N.M.E.!

Philip and Deborah Ryan

Philip and Deborah Ryan

His lack of respect for convention was evident when he convinced Brother Garvey, the Head Bro’, to allow Planxty play a unique gig in the school hall, one wet afternoon in November 1972. Well, in my mind’s eye it appeared to be November, maybe it was May! I can still hear the unbridled roar, as Christy’s vocals on The Raggle-Taggle Gypsy faded, only for Liam Óg’s pipes to come to the fore, blasting out “Tabhar Dom Do Lámh”. It was a rare moment of spontaneous combustion, from band and audience! As well as conceiving and organising the gig, Philip appeared in the support band that day (as did his sister Deborah). Resplendent in a top hat covered in sequins, he and the band he was in, T.L.C. played a short set. He was a hero after that gig, because not only did we have bragging rights over other rivals like Belvo, or Coláiste Mhuire in Parnell Square, we got an official half day off school! Unofficial days off were another matter! “Mitching”, or “going on the hop” was not only a regular pursuit, it was an obligation. Quite often, we’d go down to the Garden of Remembrance to see how many coins you could fish out of the water and then if the weather wasn’t great, you’d head to the pictures. On one occasion, a few of us went to the Savoy to see “Shaft in Africa”, which was a sequel to “Shaft”, the hugely popular Blaxploitation film. That type of film was very popular then, with Super Fly or Black Belt Jones being good examples; now that I think of it, there was even a vampire film, named “Blacula” ! But what all of those films had in common was their soundtracks were brilliant. If it wasn’t Isaacs Hayes, it was Curtis Mayfield; if not the sound of Detroit, it was the Philly Sound! So, it wasn’t a surprise to see Philip already in the cinema that afternoon. What was surprising though, was seeing so many other classmates there, as well. Out of a class of 48, about a dozen were “as láthair” from school that afternoon. By the way, TLC referred to “tender, loving, care” and as far as I recall the band members were all followers of the Guru Maharaji, who claimed to be 15 years’ old and the supposed reincarnation of somebody or other. Years after his release from jail in Oregon for tax evasion, he was still claiming to be 15! The rumour at the time was that his collection of 79 Rolls Royce’s raised suspicions that led to his conviction!

Philip with Agnes Bernelle and Elvis Costello

Philip with Agnes Bernelle and Elvis Costello

Although he never said so, school didn’t hold Philip’s attention very much. I suspect he found it stifling. He had his sights set on greater things, even if he hadn’t quite worked out what those things were. We often slagged him about his girlfriend out in Sandymount, even though we knew very little about her. It was Agnes Bernelle, the German actress and singer, who was by then resident in Ireland. Because of their love of theatre and songs, Philip spent many afternoons in her house, rehearsing and collaborating, which came to fruition 4 or 5 years later when at only 20 years of age, he produced her debut album, “Bernelle on Brecht and.”, while she, a legend of stage and screen, was in her late 50’s. Imagine that! In those days, if he wasn’t out in Sandymount, he might be found in the Stadium. Horslips, and in particular, Eamonn Carr and Barry Devlin, were great supporters of Philip back then. They would send him postcards from their tours, especially in America, telling of their adventures and giving him encouragement. They always signed off their missives with the words “rock on, Philip”, followed by all their signatures. You don’t know how envious we all were, when he’d show them in class.  Worse, when Horslips returned home he’d be missing for two days, down at Stadium for the sound-check and hanging out with the band. I can clearly remember the polaroid photograph he showed the class of him on stage at the sound-check, throwing a shape while playing Barry Devlin’s green shamrock-shaped bass guitar.


I opted out of school in my final year, because I had gotten a job in L.M. Ericsson’s in Upper Mount St and next thing you know, Philip ended up working next door for an advertising company. It was obviously just a stopgap, because he soon ended up forming the Radiators From Space, who were Dublin’s first punk band of note. So many other bands who wore flairs one day and played the blues, changed their trousers to ankle chokers with rips in them and suddenly were calling themselves punk bands back then. But the Radiators were bonafide. Their debut, “T.V. Tube Heart” was excellent and well received except by one magazine, the N.M.E. Foolishly, someone there thought that their second single, “Enemies” was a criticism of them. But London was the place to be in those days and that’s where Philip went. He was working on a stall, selling records. Some would have thought, “well that’s a waste of a good education!” In fact, it was all part of his musical education, because it was the Rock On stall, which was renowned among music lovers and record collectors. That’s another thing that’s often overlooked, us youths back then, got the mailboat to Holyhead and then the train to London for the weekend, occasionally, just to visit the numerous record shops and stalls in and around Soho and if there was a decent band playing somewhere in Wardour St, even better. Rock On and Chiswick Records are indivisible and that’s no doubt how the Radiators recorded with them. Come to think of it, Phil Lynott even namedrops the Rock On stall in “The Rocker”, one of Thin Lizzy’s anthems. The connection there being that Ted Carroll co-owner of Chiswick, Rock On & Ace records, was formerly the Thin Lizzy’s manager.

Philip at Rock ON

 I won’t go on talking about the Radiator’s history, because I’m sure there are those, who know more and who could tell the tale better. But I often wonder what if? The release of the band’s second album,“Ghostown”, generally regarded as a classic, was delayed and didn’t appear in the shops for two years. Punk was a 100-yard dash, not a middle-distance race and with the delay, the momentum had stalled and who knows what might have been to the band, had the record been released a when it was actually recorded.

 Hammersmith Gorillas

The last time I saw Philip was in Moran’s Hotel, where the Hammersmith Gorilla’s were due to play. They were another band on Chiswick Record’s roster. Philip was there, dressed in a bright orange plastic mack, with matching plastic sandals and sunglasses, which oddly complimented the colour of his hair. The Gorilla’s never got to play, after all, because as far as I recall, Jesse Hector the three-piece band’s leader, had a meltdown on the mailboat and at the last minute, Full Circle, replaced them. Now there was a garage band! Made up of members of the 1960’s beat group, called The Greenbeats, they mashed the place up, like mad uncles dancing at a wedding! I only saw Philip as I left the gig and our greetings were brief, and little did I know that it was to be our last. In 2005, our class had a reunion, which occurred in the clubhouse of the school’s ground in Clontarf. Philip was “working” that night and couldn’t be there……………but he made sure we heard him, because across Dublin Bay in Lansdowne Rd he was on stage with the Radiators, belting out Television Screen, where they were special guests on the U2 gig. He phoned the reunion party to give his apologies for not being with us and swore he’d be at the next one.

So that’s my tuppence worth on Philip Ryan, who, later burst across the sky like a super nova as Philip Chevron. He was a mild-mannered seditionist, who laughed at authority and did things his own way and who was never “blinded by the sun”, or a shiny suit, for that matter. So, Philip, “dress yourself, and bless yourself, you’ve won the fight and go and celebrate tonight!”

Teenagers in love

Finally, writing this piece brings back so many memories of growing up at a fantastic time in Dublin, despite what our official chroniclers might tell you. It was one big party! This is all the more poignant for me, since tomorrow will be my 66th birthday and a week from now, it would’ve been Philip’s 66th, as well. But when I remember those times and in my mind’s ear I hear the Radiators blasting out Dion De Mucci’s “Why Must I Be a Teenager In Love”, I’m reminded that I‘m forever 18……………with 46 years’ experience, of course!

Yeah, “Rock On Philip!” 

Rock on Philipsra2Say A Song poster_C

All welcome to celebrate the life, art and legacy of Philip Chevron:


Images: Family photos courtesy Deborah Blacoe

Say a Song design : Stephen Averill

Other images: Radiators From Space archive and online sources.


A big thanks to Gerry Kavanagh for this wonderful memoir, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY !



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