Published June 26th, 1992 Photograph by Pat Langan
They’re not who you might expect to see settling down to afternoon tea in the Shelbourne Hotel, this collection of extravagantly beardy men. They are, of course, The Dubliners – better known for settling down to a pint, and then another and, well, the rest is history.
Sadly, given the announcement of John Sheahan’s retirement at the end of last year, and following a rambunctious final appearance on Jools Holland’s New Year’s Eve Hootenanny on BBC2, the band is now history as well.
The Dubliners as a brand, however, looks set to continue, with current members Seán Cannon, Patsy Watchorn, Gerry O’Connor and Eamon Campbell hinting that they’ll play on as a “Spirit of the Dubliners” quartet for the foreseeable future.
Campbell is pictured here with Sheahan, Barney McKenna, Eamonn Campbell and Ronnie Drew, at the start of a 1992 tour to promote the double album Thirty Years a-Greying. Why the Shelbourne was chosen as a venue is anyone’s guess – but those curtains, arches and Fleur de Lys wallpaper do provide a suitably theatrical backdrop for a band which, through half a century of recording, touring, censorship, adulation and plenty more besides, including the deaths of Luke Kelly and Bobby Lynch, was never far from a drama of one kind or another.
In our photo it’s Drew – on the far right – who looks the most dapper of this particular quartet, his pale suit, spotted tie, jewellery and glasses lending unusual gravitas to his famously unruly appearance.
His fingers, spread out on his lap, suggest that he’s trying out some tune or other, an impression reinforced by the sight of Sheahan, seated opposite, his hand to his ear as if listening intently.
Campbell is also responding to whatever has been said – or sung – although Barney McKenna, somewhat slumped to Sheahan’s left and dressed in funereal black, appears to be either daydreaming or half-asleep.
A founder member of the group in 1962, McKenna died suddenly in April 2011.
Drew retired in 1996, and died after a long illness in 2008.