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Memorial gig’s reeling in the years

October 16, 2012 • Local, News, Victoria,

Highland Paddy were a regular feature on the Melbourne Irish music scene of the 80s and 90s. (Pic: Supplied)

A host of Irish bands are getting together for a memorial concert in Melbourne’s Celtic Club.

A number of the bands that enjoyed huge popularity in the ’80s and ’90s will be appearing at a reunion concert on Saturday, to mark ten years since the death of well-known musician Dan O’Connell.

Dan arrived in Australia with his wife, Mary, and his three sons, Allan, Jason and Ross, in June 1986.

Before emigrating, he played in a number of successful bands in Cork, and it was only natural that he would find his rhythm in Australia.

Dan and his younger brother Kieran formed a band, Highland Paddy, with Pat McKernan, Fran O’Conor and Ken Maher completing the line-up.

“Highland Paddy were, without a doubt, one of the best Irish bands in Australia at the time,” Kieran O’Connell told the Irish Echo.

“We travelled all over Australia, before the days when bands went everywhere. We all had good fun and it was a nice time.”

The brothers later went on to own and manage Father Flannigan’s Irish Pub in Collingwood, Melbourne.

The bar, which was also known as The Altar, became a hub for Irish musicians, with music playing a key role in its success.

Sadly, Dan O’Connell passed away on October 20, 2002, after a short battle with cancer, aged 51.

Family and friends decided to organise a reunion concert for his 10-year anniversary, and when they contacted other bands, they jumped on the chance to take part.

“We all played in the heyday of Irish music in Australia in the ’80s and ’90s. We all knew each other and we’re all friends. We decided to come together for a happy occasion rather than meeting at funerals all the time,” Mr O’Connell explained.

“Highland Paddy will be there. It’s the original line-up, obviously without my brother, but his son Allan is taking his place. He is a musician and he’s going to fill in his dad’s spot on the night.”

Other bands appearing at the event include Seldom Sober, Cooney’s Brew, Shanakee, Fitzgerald Family, and other special guests.

There will be a huge raffle with lots of great prizes up for grabs, many of which have been generously donated by businesses.

All profits on the night will be donated to Very Special Kids, a charity that supports families through their experience of caring for children with life-threatening illnesses.

“Dan was always very keen on charities for children, so that’s why Mary, his wife, has chosen to donate to Very Special Kids,” Mr O’Connell said.

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