Sting traces Irish roots to Monaghan workhouse

Singer in Dublin to promote musical ‘The Last Ship’, due here next year

Sting at Dublin docklands to promote ‘The Last Ship’ musical, which opens on June 4th in the Bord Gáis Theatre. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Sting at Dublin docklands to promote ‘The Last Ship’ musical, which opens on June 4th in the Bord Gáis Theatre. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Singer Sting has said he can trace his roots back to a workhouse, in Co Monaghan.

Speaking in Dublin on Tuesday, he said he took part in a genealogy show in America which led him back to Ireland on a journey to discover his past.

“I knew part of my family was Irish, but I knew very little about them. I did one of these ’know your roots’ shows in America and they found this woman called Mary Murphy who died in a poorhouse in Co Monaghan,” he said.

“She had lots of children and one of them escaped and ended up in Newcastle and that’s my ancestor. I visited the place and I have to say that I was very moved and shocked. I was horrified really by the idea that people were punished for being poor.”

He said it was “like a concentration camp” to him and “very moving”.

“To go there and see how they lived, the men were separated from the women and the children separated from everybody else. I met some of my relatives in Co Monaghan that I didn’t even know about,” he added.

The Newcastle native, whose real name is Gordon Sumner, was in Dublin on Tuesday to promote his debut musical The Last Ship, which will come to Ireland next year.

The 66-year-old said he sees The Last Ship, a story inspired by his childhood in England, as his “real legacy” because it was so “personal” to him.

“I was born and raised, literally in the shadow of a shipyard. Often the end of my street was blocked with a big ship that would block out much of the light of the sun for much of the year. I would watch thousands of men walk down the hill to the shipyard every morning, and I’d watch the same men walk home.

Sting said his debut musical was also inspired by his 1991 album The Soul Cages. He said there are definite traces of Irish folk music in the score.

The musical, starring Jimmy Nail and directed by Lorne Campbell, first ran in the US in 2014 but has been re-worked for its UK and Irish run.

It will debut in Newcastle in March, before coming to Dublin’s Bord Gáis Energy Theatre from June 4th to 9th.