The Songman, Tommy Sands

I just finished reading Tommy Sands’ book, The Songman: A Journey in Irish Music. I enjoyed it immensely. Tommy has been a friend for thirty years now but there is much in the book that I never knew about him. He is a fascinating man and he has had an amazing life. He is a gentle and positive presence wherever he goes and no one who meets him is ever the same afterwards. He has a way of looking at the world that I wish I could hang on to but I’m just a bit too cynical. Part of the delight of reading the book is seeing the world through Tommy’s eyes and having some of his enthusiasm rub off on you. It makes you feel like you should and could do more to make the world a better place.

It also brought back some great memories of Tommy and his brother Colum. When I was living in Carrick-on-Suir back in the late 70s, the Sands brothers would come down for a visit every now and then. They would play a gig in Waterford at the Granville Hotel on a Friday night and at our place, Tinvane Hotel on Saturday night. I usually went with them to Waterford where the concert was inevitably followed by that session that went on ‘til the wee hours. One such night, actually it was about 5:00 AM on a winter’s morning, we were driving back to Carrick and just a couple of miles outside Waterford we came along by Granagh Castle which was situated on a wide sweeping bend in the river Suir. A gigantic daffodil-colored moon was floating right on the broadest part of the river and it stopped us in our tracks. It was stunning. We pulled the van over to the side of the road and got out to appreciate it fully before it changed as it surely would. We had some drink taken, as they say in Ireland, but we were reasonably sober. We just knew how fortunate we were to experience such an amazing sight when the rest of the county was fast asleep. We saw distant car lights approaching and bemoaned the fact that these other nighttime travelers were driving in the wrong direction to see the amazing sight. But Tommy, being a man of action, stepped out into the road and flagged the car down. There were two wary men in the car and they were a bit hesitant about rolling down the window. However they could not understand what Tommy was saying until curiosity prevailed and the window opened a few inches.

“Have you seen the moon?” asked Tommy, pointing towards the river behind them. “Look! Look at the moon, isn’t it fantastic?” The two guys were hardly awake and didn’t seem to care a damn for the moon. Colum and I walked over to plead the case but the car suddenly screeched off leaving traces of black rubber on the frosty road.

We were mulling over what might have made them so unfriendly when it occurred to me. There had been several reports in the local papers about the IRA training in the locality of Mooncoin, which was just up the road. I have no doubt that being flagged down by three guys, two of who had distinctive Northern accents, and asking them if they had seen the moon must have seemed like some IRA set-up.

That story didn’t make it into the book but many great stories did. It is called The Songman: A Journey in Irish Music and it is published by the Lilliput Press in Dublin. It is available from Amazon.com.