|Verbatim report of the
official speeches at the City Hotel, Derry, prior to the unveiling of
the Josef Locke sculpture.
Mayor Gearoid Ó hÉara
It's my job to open these proceedings, and I'd like to welcome you all here, a very distinguished group of people. And I think it's very fitting that when we come to commemorate the memory of Joe Locke, a son of the city who was an ambassador on the world stage for almost 50 years, it's very important we come together, and it's very heartening. And I'm sure for Carmel and Yvette it's very heartening to see a such turnout of distinguished Derry folk.
There are people here, I understand, who played with Joe Locke and performed with him over many years, and it's very nice that you've come here. So I'd like to thank the people of the city who have turned out, as well as guests who have travelled from further afield, and I understand there are people from as far afield as Scotland and beyond who have come just for the event.
In just paying tribute to the person who was behind this whole initiative we have Michael Sheerin here, who has campaigned for two and a half years to bring this day about, and I think that we owe him a debt of gratitude in the city because it is very fitting that as we approach what would have been the 88th birthday of Joe that we unveil a monument in such a public place, and such a prominent place in the city to acknowledge his achievements to the music and the cultural life of this city. So thank you Michael for all your efforts. Michael has tortured everybody for the last two and a half years, and not only that, but he managed to talk Phil Coulter into hosting a benefit in the Millennium Forum last August, and I'd like to thank Phil because that was the major part of the fund raising to fund this sculpture.
And I'd also like to thank Maurice Harron and Terry Quigley who were involved in designing the sculpture, and the Codetta choir, musical director Donald Doherty - and this is one of the finest choral groups I believe on the island - and look forward to hearing them perform three of Josef Locke's songs.
It's an historic day for the city. It's an important day for the city, and there are other people here who are going to speak more knowledgably about Josef Locke, but thank you all for coming along. I know Carmel and Yvette are anxious to get out and see the sculpture, and so are the rest of us, so thank you for coming.
It's very heartening to hear Codetta carrying on the tradition which produced Josef Locke and so many other great musicians. Yesterday there was the launch of the Jazz Festival in the city, and today is this wonderful event. And it's very heart warming for someone like myself who doesn't live in the city any more to come back and see the music is as alive as it ever was and it is of the calibre of Codetta, and I'd just like to pay tribute to that. Well done.
Now, as the Mayor said, this is all Michael Sheerin's fault! He used the word he 'tortured' everybody, and that's a pretty good description, because for months, if not years, I felt like Dr Richard Kimble in The Fugitive. Because every time the phone rang, it seemed to me it was Michael Sheerin, or every time a fax came through it was Michael Sheerin, then it was emails from Michael Sheerin, and when I couldn't get away with ignoring those, he enlisted John Hume to put the bite on me, so by a pincer movement they prevailed upon me to do a concert in the Forum last year.
I was actually delighted to be able to do it, because I think it's important for us. We think of ourselves as a city of song; we think of ourselves as having that great tradition of music and rightly so, and we should all be very proud of it. Add I think it's right that we should celebrate it, and it's right that we should celebrate the work of someone like Josef Locke.
At one time, the three most popular Irish tenors in the world, Michael O'Duffy, Patrick O'Hagan and Josef Locke all came from Derry. There was one famous occasion called A Night of a Thousand Stars, some of you may be old enough to remember it in the Guildhall, and again, it was Father Joseph Carlin who put the bite on me at that stage to be part of that.
He had assembled a cast of the three tenors which I've just mentioned, and Dana, and Majella Brady who's here, Wee Willy Doherty, James McCafferty, many people of fond memory, sadly no longer with us. And when I arrived, Joseph Carlin said to me 'Right, you're job is just introduce them, and work out the running order.'
I thought 'God Almighty, I've got three Irish tenors...' But you know what, there was no contest because with big Joe, he was the kind of guy who just dominated the stage. And it's something in this day and age... just to put Josef Locke in context: in this day and age stars are manufactured overnight. It's just a product of the way television and video and MTV etc is, that stars expect to be born in a matter of days, or weeks, or months.
In Joe's time, it was an entirely different process. Joe spent a long, long time learning his craft, learning his trade, learning about stagecraft and learning that the voice, the talent is only the first stage, the first move. After that there's so many other things necessary.
I'm very delighted to be here today at the unveiling of the sculpture to our great Derry man, Josef Locke. And I always remember the first time I met him. I was a child, and I was astonished to learn what his first job was. He was a great friend of my uncle, whose name was also John Hume who had a fowl store in Abbey Street. And Josef Locke the famous singer came back to Derry, and the first place he went to was the fowl store in Abbey Street, and I was a wee fellow in those days doing messages for my uncle. And what did Josef say when he came in - 'I have to do my first job again. I have to pluck a fowl'. And he went in and plucked a chicken, and that's the first time I met him.
I'm delighted to be here; congratulations to Terry Quigley who designed the sculpture, and Maurice Harron who was so impressed by the design that he used his enormous talents to produce the sculpture. And we thank you both for your work.
Many performers fill this city with their arts and go out from this city and bring their talents to the world. And so it is very good that we in this city, so rich with such talent and creativity are here today to at last unveil this sculpture as a celebration of the life and work of one of our great musicians, Josef Locke.
We also thank Michael Sheerin for his enthusiasm, for his vision and for his hard work in bringing this about. In raising the money to produce this sculpture Michael was pushing at an open door.
Michael asked me to phone Phil Coulter to ask him to play at a fund-raising concert. Phil immediately agreed and took time from his busy schedule to help, and help very well.
There are a large number of sponsors who donated money for this sculpture and they are listed in your brochures and we must thank all of them for their generosity.
Derry people wanted to help, because we delight obviously in the music of Josef Locke and we're so proud of the fact that he grew up here in this city. He was one of us.
As a very young man he went out into the world. He joined the Irish guards at the age of 16, telling lies about his age, and in the late 30s he returned to Ireland and it was at that time he decided to bring his singing career further, and became a famous singer. He took his singing onto an international stage; he sang beautifully, and the world loved him as a singer. He brought the music we grew up with, the ballads of the people of Ireland, onto an international stage.
His music is his legacy and a permanent monument to his life. It is his gift to everyone who heard, and who still hears his song. And so it is right that we in this city should do something for him, and to honour his memory with this sculpture.
So today Josef, we celebrate your music, we love your voice, and we are very proud of you.
I wish to thank the people who arrived here today for the celebration, to the Codetta Choir, to Donald Doherty, you're a pleasure to listen to. Always were and always will be. I have to say to Phil Coulter and John Hume, two great friends they are, thank you very much. I couldn't thank both of you enough. And I couldn't thank my sponsors, and our Mayor, enough. Thank you.
I received a fax: 'I am very sorry I can't be with you all to celebrate the man with the song in his heart. With admiration and congratulations on this project. Seamus Heaney. I had a call late last night from Dana she apologised for not being here because of a film going on in Galway. She said she wishes all the best and she was delighted to see a man of such talent being given such a great honour in the city we love so well.
Sorry to say someone can't be with us today because his leg is playing him up. Pat Ramsey. But Carmel Locke would like to present him with a token of gratitude for all the hard work he did behind the telephone. And I must thank him because Phil, it wasn't I who phoned you. It was Pat Ramsey. I used everybody! But I got there.
(An engraved Waterford Crystal vase is presented to Pat's daughter Nicola Ramsey, by Carmel Locke. And Carmel presents a Waterford piece to Michael praising Michael for his 'tireless' work).