The oldest wringer in town
THE TIMES WE LIVED IN:NO PRIZES FOR spotting Sonny Knowles, showband singer and man about town, dressed as his trademark debonair self in a smart suit and shoes shiny enough to pick up signals from deep space.
But why, rather than a microphone, is he brandishing what looks like an oversized saucepan lid – and peering into an ancient top-loader washing machine as if in search of missing prehistoric socks? Well – and we promise we’re not making this up – the photograph shows the prizewinners in the Oldest Servis Washing Machine in Ireland competition. On the left is Margaret Sweeney from Co Sligo. The woman standing next to her is Phil Sexton, from Co Cork.
“The oldest wringer in town,” proclaims our clever caption-writer.
It’s clear that the joke is aimed, not just at the winning machine – purchased by one Elizabeth McArdle from Dundalk, in 1949, for goodness’ sake, making it almost worthy of inclusion in a collection of historical household appliances at the National Museum of Ireland – but at the bould Sonny, who, over a 60-year career, was always as likely to tell a joke against himself as he was to burst into song.
He is still fondly remembered by many for his double entry in the 1966 Irish National Song Contest, scoring nul points with The Menace from Ennis and Chuaigh Mé Suas Don Chluiche Mór, and finishing – triumphantly – in equal 10th place with himself.
Despite two battles with cancer, he’s still singing, taking to the stage for occasional fundraisers, such as the concert he did recently to help raise money to buy new instruments for the Tallaght Youth Band. Never mind the washing machine: this man deserves a prize in his own right. He’ll be 80 next month. Happy birthday, Sonny Knowles.
Published on December 11th, 1990 Photograph by Matt Kavanagh