Statue of rock icon Rory Gallagher unveiled


ROCK GUITARIST Rory Gallagher always wanted to play in his birthplace at the height of his fame but never got the chance.

He was even prepared to play free at the non-rock Ballyshannon Folk Festival but he wasn’t invited.

His brother Donal revealed his secret wish yesterday before a life-sized bronze statue of Rory was unveiled in Ballyshannon, Co Donegal.

The statue unveiled in the town centre last night at the beginning of a five-day Rory Gallagher International Tribute Festival was sculpted by David Annand at his Edinburgh studio. Thousands of Gallagher fans from across the world are expected to flock to the town for a celebration by 25 tribute bands.

Gallagher left Ballyshannon at the age of three when his family moved to Derry and then Cork. He died from liver transplant complications in June 1995 aged 47, having only occasionally returned to his birth place.

His younger brother Donal, recalled one of Rory’s rare visits when he took time off from a concert appearance in Sligo 40km away. The brothers were accompanied by their mother who was recognised by Ballyshannon people although few identified Rory.

“He was quite intrigued. He loved it. I remember he saw a poster for the Ballyshannon Folk Festival and he said the one thing he would love if they had asked him to play at it,” said Donal Gallagher.

“I said I could make a phone call and he said, ‘No, No’. It’s just if they had asked him he would have done it for them. He never played the Ballyshannon Folk Festival, sadly.”

Now the nine-year-old Rory festival is probably bigger than the folk festival. Donal Gallagher also recalled a monument sculpted by Rory’s childhood friend in Cork, Geraldine Creedon, a sister of RTÉ broadcaster John. It was sculpted within a year of his death. “It’s a much more abstract piece, essentially because my mother at the time couldn’t cope with the idea of Rory being cast in stone or bronze. She just couldn’t face the idea of looking at Rory’s image.”

Rory Gallagher, awarded a posthumous Freedom of Ballyshannon by the council two years ago, was regarded as one of the world’s great blues ‘n’ rock guitarists and sold 30 million albums with Taste and then his own Rory Gallagher Band. Festival details can be followed on the website