Ireland's 'Messenger Boys'Commemorated
Worldwide In Song and Verse By Kerryman Christie
The Kingdom of Kerry and the town of Tralee was the native birthplace of an Irishman who emigrated to London to search for a livelihood in 1960.
His educational toolbox on leaving Tralee was extremely sparse simply because he left primary school before the advent of his 12th birthday and went out to work as a ‘Messenger Boy’ in his local town.
This was a popular choice of work in the 1950’s for young boys who opted out of school with little knowledge of their ABC’s.
Every town in Ireland had their fair quota of ‘Messenger Boys’ who delivered groceries in all weathers on messenger bicycles with a large basket positioned in front of the handlebars.
Christie probably didn’t realise at that time that he possessed a unique musical genius.
The music in Tralee of the 1950’s was primarily Irish ballads and he took his first musical steps at just six years old when a local man made Christie a dummy guitar out of a tea chest.
The road to stardom was about to begin and Christie, with his musical air, began strumming his new 'instrument' and producing his own sound to the amazement of his family and friends.
Living an impoverished life in Tralee and staring in to a life of long and great toil, he decided to seek his fortune and a new life in London when aged just fifteen.
That journey was complicated as Christie was unable to read or write due a severe dyslexia impairment. His dyslexia condition did not impair his ability to compose songs and lyrics and during his early years in London he began working on building sites as a labourer and later would become an accomplished painter and decorator.
It was this type of work that later in his life began to torment Christie and would result in his early death at just sixty two years old. Working on sites with much asbestos content was not seen as a major problem in the 20th century but in modern years scientific research proved that asbestos was a very dangerous building component.
As the years progressed for Christie in London he brought his musical talents to pubs all over England at week-ends and earned a token amount for his gigs. These were tough and insecure times for Christie and his young family but his trademark was his unique and melodious voice and his ability to compose music and songs whilst working at his trade or taking a stroll around his neighbourhood.
Famous songs of Christie include ‘Roll Back The Years’; Don’t Forget Your Shovel’ a song famously recorded by Christy Moore; ‘All The Lies That You Told Me’ a song that made Frances Black one of Ireland’s most renowned female singers; ‘ I Am A Star’ and many more famous compositions.
A song composed by Christie that took him back to his Tralee roots ‘Messenger Boy’ became his own national anthem and endeared him to legions of fans around the globe.
His first venture into a recording studio was in 1972 when he recorded his first album ‘The Green Album’ whilst still working at his day job. The new release made little impact and Christie would spend another twenty years toiling with his paint brushes to support his family.
In 1992 Christie was persuaded to go back to the recording studio and this time he did so with great confidence when some influential people in the music business recognised he had a really special talent.
‘The Rehearsel’ album was the catalyst that jettisoned the Tralee artist to national and international stardom and he claimed a triple platinum award for this release.
He followed up with two more albums, ‘A Year In The Life’ and ‘Box’ and both became huge hits.
His new found popularity and status made a huge impression on music lovers worldwide and the Tralee born singer, who was still unable to read or write, discovered that despite this impediment, he was appearing on major television shows and in major concert halls to huge acclaim.
At the pinnacle of his career the dormant cancer began to surface from asbestos inhalation and now Christie had a new and life threatening challenge. Despite his terminal illness the popular Irish singer continued with his work as an international singer and songwriter but alas in a London hospice on the 11th December 2007, Christie Hennessy succumbed to the cancer.
Gone was an Irishman who left a huge message for people with learning difficulties throughout the world.
Don’t allow your deficiency to hinder your mind and soul – keep right on to the end of the road and that is precisely what the Famous Son of Tralee did right through to his own end.
Christie is Ireland’s most famous ‘Messenger Boy’ and that long lost service work by Irish boys will never be forgotten in the annals of Irish history and Christie Hennessy’s song ensured the rightful remembrance of this noble service.
Christie Hennessy born 1945 - died 2007
A monument in Tralee to the famous Kerryman is a proud testament to the musical genius of Christie Hennessy.
By Derry JF Doody