IT IS the gift of a songwriter to put together a story that in lyrics and melody transcends time and place to transport us to a place of his/her making, often without us ever noticing the hand steering us along.
Songwriter Johnny Duhan does just that on a regular basis. One of his greatest achievements, the ballad ‘The Voyage’ relates a tale of life’s journey for a couple and their growing family. The inter-generational appeal to such ballads mean they will resonate with grandparents who recall their early married life with hope and devotion to one another, the same hope and devotion that they now see mirrored in their grandchildren’s eyes as they set out on that same journey.
In recent times, Johnny has utilised his talents to help raise very necessary funds for the St Vincent de Paul in Galway. His contribution, in song, aptly entitled ‘Part Of A Tribe’ has a wealth of Galway talent on its recording, friends and colleagues of Johnny who tell the story of ‘belonging’ to a tribe, denoting respect and dignity of a caring community. It is no coincidence either Galway is known as the City of Tribes. Respect is everything. It is the key to happiness. Without respect, there is no dignity, no foundation for one to reach their potential. Respect encourages growth of a person; it builds self-esteem, it can dictate our future.
Writing the song some 24 years ago or so, Johnny was reflecting on his particular stage in life, looking back through the years. He knew it would resonate with people as “everybody goes through trials in life and it’s almost like a desert sometimes, you enter into and don’t know how to get out of it”.
And, that is where SVP comes in. Johnny has visited its homeless centre in Dublin. His first visit, by chance rather than design, was as a young man while visiting the capital to a Rolling Stones concert. Together with a friend, he made the unwise decision to spend their B&B money on clothes – adding by way of explanation that “they were mods, at the time”. In turn, this meant they would spend the night outdoors.
Not unduly worried, with the innocence of youth on their side, they had not anticipated how bleak it would be on the streets. On settling down very uncomfortably in the unfamiliar terrain of the capital, they were relieved to be informed by a helpful passer-by that there was a SVP homeless shelter just around the corner. And off they went to its open door.
That experience, he admits was a real ‘eye-opener’; it caused him to subsequently write the song ‘100 miles’ which was the first of Johnny’s that Christy Moore recorded. Their professional relationship and friendship grew from that enriched by further contributions and collaborations through the decades.
Johnny visited the centre again – it made such an impression on him. Witnessing first-hand the incredible work it does, and continues to do, since his experience more than 50 years ago is testimony to its ‘doing something right’. The fact the need continues and, indeed, has grown rather significantly in recent times, shows how poverty does not discriminate, nor does it distinguish affecting all members of society from the very young to the very old and from a host of backgrounds.
Usually, indeed, the very young and the very old are the ones most adversely affected; they are powerless to do anything about the poverty trap in which they find themselves.
Johnny’s gift, The Claddagh Band’s CD, which sees the proceeds donated to SVP Galway is a way of giving back while making a real difference. It is a lovely Christmas gift, for those at home and abroad, with love from Galway enveloped in the image of a Claddagh ring which shows the heart held securely. We are told by novelist, Nicholas Sparks that “gifts of the heart can't be claimed by anyone except the giver” and what other ‘gift’ in today’s climate and during this season of goodwill, would be better than that.
To support SVP download The Claddagh Band’s ‘Part Of A Tribe’ from iTunes or other music sites or visit Johnny’s website www.johnnyduhan.com. The Claddagh Band is Dolores and Sean Keane, Sean Tyrrell, Eleanor Shanley, Mary McPartlan, Michelle Lally, Jan Nagle, Johnny Duhan, Mary Coughlan, Carl Hession, and Tony Maher (keyboards ) and Declan O’Donoghue (drums ).