Book marks 40th year of Macroom Mountain Dew Festival

Rory Gallagher, Van Morrison, Phil Lynott, Elvis Costello among past performers

From Barry Roche, Southern Correspondent in Macroom, Co Cork

It may have been almost a decade after Woodstock and the Isle of Wight but the Macroom Mountain Dew Festival marked a first introduction to rock festivals for thousands of Irish music fans and now that whole experience has been captured in a book about the pioneering event.

Macroom Mountain Dew - Memories of Ireland's First Rock Festival was written by Cork journalist, Roz Crowley to mark the 40th anniversary of the festival which kicked off on 17th June 1976 with a line up that included The Horslips, Julie Felix and Marianne Faithfull.

Over the next six years, the festival would flourish with artists such as Rory Gallagher, Van Morrison, Phil Lynott, Elvis Costello, Paul Brady, Lindisfarne, Wishbone Ash, The Chieftains, Mike Oldfield, Clannad, Freddie White, Christy Moore and The Undertones all playing Macroom.


According to local businessman, Martin Fitzgerald, described by Roz Crowley as "the driving force behind the festival", the idea for the festival came about when a group of enterprising young people in their 20s decided they needed to do something to put Macroom on the map.

“The town needed a bit of shake rattle and roll to tempt not just international investors but Irish people to rest there a bit long . . . a rock concert fitted the bill - it could profess to be Ireland’s first rock festival and the first open-air concert of that magnitude in the country,” he said.

According to Roz Crowley, the success of the first festival was really down to Marianne Faithfull as, although Julie Felix was popular, it was Marianne Faithfull who drew a crowd of 5,000 to the Dome - rented from the Rose of Tralee - and ensured the festival had a second coming in 1977.

“Marianne Faithfull saved the first festival and they all realised they had to have a star turn the next and they thought of Rory Gallagher for the second one and he made Macroom - it was Rory who put Macroom on the map with 20,000 people descending on this town of just 3,000 people.”

Rory's brother and manager, Donal Gallagher recalled travelling to Macroom to meet Martin Fitzgerald and plan the event.

He said: “We explored the idea of putting a big stage in the Castle grounds - the space was big enough to take 10,000 fans which we reckoned was a likely number to attend.

“Rory always had stage fright and was worried no one would turn up for the festival - there weren’t all that many advance ticket sales in those days to indicate how it would go. However Rory was thrilled with the concert, he felt it worked musically and agreed to do the following year too.”

Among the thousands of Gallagher fans -including huge numbers who came from Germany and the North - was a young Dublin teenager, David Evans, who would later go on to find fame himself as U2's "the Edge", but back then was just thrilled to be going to his first ever rock concert.

“I was about 15 at the time when my brother and myself went to the 1977 Mountain Dew Festival in Macroom. We got a back package ticket including the coach down and back. It was my first time going to a gig. All the best musicians were playing that day with Rory Gallagher,” he recalled.

The Edge is just one of 40 artists who performed at Macroom whose contributions feature in the book which also includes contributions from locals as well as visiting journalists such as Niall Stokes of Hot Press who recalled the excitement that greeted Rory Gallagher when he took the stage.

“Rory had a straw cowboy hat on. He bounded on the stage and from the moment he struck his first chord, the atmosphere was electric. . . it was a watershed, a moment which more than any other marked the changing of the guard - Rory was invited back to headline the festival in 1978.

"And in the same year, the Police headlined Ireland's second outdoor rock festival in Leixlip. We were all aware that this was a ground breaking event. . . Macroom had pioneered something that started to spread and before long Dublin had its own version at Dalymount Park. "

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times