Special €15 coin honours late guitar great Rory Gallagher

Legal tender coin with €15 face value to be sold at €60 each as only 3,000 copies being minted

He may have offered some salutary advice on money in Bankers Blues back in 1972, but little could guitarist Rory Gallagher have predicted he would one day end up as legal tender – with the Central Bank of Ireland about to issue a commemorative coin in his honour.

The first in a series of coins, entitled Modern Irish Musicians, the €15 sterling silver coin features an image of Gallagher, designed by Welsh artist Michael Guilfoyle, wielding his battered Fender Stratocaster.

Gallagher's brother Donal, the guardian of the guitarist's legacy, said news of the coin came as a surprise but that he was delighted the Central Bank will honour his brother in this way. The coin is being launched on Monday at Áras an Uachtaráin by President Michael D Higgins.

“It came completely out of the blue – Count John McCormack had featured previously but it’s quite some honour to be the first contemporary musician, and it’s a fitting testament to Rory’s legacy – and of course as a family we are honoured that President Michael D Higgins is hosting the event.”


‘Lost in admiration’

A keen fan of Gallagher, President Higgins has spoken of him as “an iconic figure”. Earlier this year at a function to honour Gallagher at Fender’s Irish HQ, he said he was “lost in admiration” for the musician, who sold millions of albums before his death in London in 1995 at the age of just 47.

During a visit to the CIT Cork School of Music in 2012, President Higgins recalled his days as a Hot Press columnist and how he had a treasured photograph in his office at the Áras of Gallagher playing with Thin Lizzy's Phil Lynott at Punchestown in 1982.

The new coin officially marks the 70th anniversary of Gallagher's birth at the Rock Hospital in Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, in 1948, where he spent his early years before the family moved to Cork.

Donal Gallagher said: "The image that Michael Guilfoyle [did] is a composite sketch based on a vinyl album 'Live in Europe' that Rory recorded in 1972 – the engraving is quite intricate to get this 3-D effect, to show how well worn Rory's Stratocaster was set against the grooves of a vinyl LP, but he's done an amazing job."

Although the coin is legal tender with a value of €15, the Central Bank is charging €60 for copies as they are only minting 3,000 coins and expect they will quickly become a collector’s favourite.

This is the first in a series of three such coins, the others to feature Phil Lynott and Luke Kelly of the Dubliners.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times