Tuesday, 18 April 2017 23:03

Val Doonican (Waterford): Irish Heritage Hall of Fame Inductee Featured

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Famous Son Of Ireland:  Singer Category:


Stardom And Fame For Famous Musical Son Of Waterford

Easy Going On Stage; Easy Listening, Radio & TV Listeners & Viewers Just Loved Irishman, Val Doonican


There are nice Irish singers and great Irish singers and whilst we enjoy listening to both types, there’s always a special one who really stands out.

One of Ireland’s greatest ever singers was also a great entertainer and that special mix cannot be applied to all great singers.


Val Doonican, born in Waterford City on 3rd February 1927 is indeed a Famous Son Of Ireland and he was also a singer that every home in Ireland throughout the 1960’s;70’s; and 80’s could identify with. Val was the youngest of eight children born to John and Agnes (nee Kavanagh) and the Wateford family were musically inclined.



Young Val played in his school band from the age of six and in 1941, when he was just fourteen, his father died. This necessitated leaving school and acquiring a job. He secured work fabricating steel and making orange and grapefruit boxes and his weekly wage helped his mum to maintain the household.


It was in Wexford he began pioneering his music with his friend, Bruce Clarke, and they had their first professional engagement as a duo in 1947. Courtown Harbor, Co. Wexford, was an Irish seaside port and it was here in the summer that Val got the music bug and gigging into his daily worklife.

He progressed to feature on Irish radio, sometimes with Clarke, and appeared in Waterford's first-ever television broadcast. At that time he was playing the drums and singing in an English band on a tour around Ireland.


His Irish personality on his own BBC TV shows made listening and watching him a delightful pleasure but most importantly his English audiences also wanted more and more of Val Doonican.

Sitting in his rocking chair and singing many melodies of Irish songs was a brave act to perform for any artist on an English stage and not too many Irish singers could get away with such a diary of Irish songs.


Val died on 1st July 2015 at age eighty eight and as a crooner, composer and traditional pop singer, unlike many famous singers, Val Doonican knew his music intimately, but this wasn’t known to many. His warm and very relaxed style endeared him to all age spectrums.


Val’s popular successes, especially in the United Kingdom, where he had five successive Top 10 albums in the 1960s, as well as several U.K. hit Singles that included "If the Whole World Stopped Lovin”;  “Walk Tall”; and “Elusive Butterfly" to mention just a few.


The Val Doonican Show, which featured his singing and incorporating a variety of special guests, had a long and successful run on BBC Television from 1965 to 1986 and Val won the Variety Club Of Great Britain BBC-TV Personality of the Year award three times.


Whilst many dates in Val’s life were very special, the year 1951 took him across the Irish sea and never again to come back home to his native Waterford to live out his life. He toured around England with the Four Ramblers initially and also appeared on BBC Radio Shows.


English based U.S.A. Air Force bases were places where many budding artists took their first musical steps and Val was a popular act with the American troops. When international artist, Anthony Newley, toured England, Val’s Four Ramblers were the support act and the boys also had a dancer, Lynette Rae, as part of their act.


Val and Lynette became an item and married in 1962. On the advice of Anthony Newley, who recognised his unique talent and voice, he quit the group to set up a solo career. Radio Shows took him to a much greater audience. He was later allocated his own Radio Show and also performed as a solo artist in concerts and cabaret.


A huge opportunity opened up when Val Parnell, an impresario, booked him to appear on BBC TV Show “Sunday Night At The London Palladium”.

The show had a multi million viewership and Val hit the jackpot big time as the producers offered him his own TV Show.


At their peak Val’s shows attracted audiences of over 19/20 million viewers. The shows featured his relaxed crooner style, sitting in a rocking chair, often sporting popular Irish style cardigans/jumpers.

The BBC were so overwhelmed with Val’s public appeal, they decided to publish a book “Val Doonican Tells The Adventures Of O’Rafferty”. This was 1969.


Val Doonican and Lynette Rae had two daughters, Sarah and Fiona. Life for the Waterford entertainer/singer reached a summit and he announced his retirement in 1990 but legendary international performers never retire and in 2009 Val was still on stage.


Leisure for Val as a keen golfer was an escape from the limelight and as a talented watercolour painter, this was another escape from his music. He was also known to cook up a nice dish to further endorse his all round talents.


In June 2011, the Mayoral office of Waterford decided to grant their Famous Son “The Freedom Of Waterford City” and this honour really signified that the Val Doonican legacy would live on forever in Waterford City.


Val Doonican died at a nursing home in Buckinghamshire on the evening of 1st July 2015, aged eighty eight. His death was unexpected, as he hadn’t been ill. He just passed away peacefully and quietly on English soil at a nursing home in Buckinghanshire.


Gone was an Irishman who loved his native soil so dearly. He sang about Ireland all around the globe and now our Irish Heritage website @ www.scorboardmemories.com welcomes the incorporation of Val Doonican into our All Ireland Hall Of Fame Gallery as a Famous Musical Son Of Ireland.

Happy reading to all our browsers around the world.


Derry JF Doody


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