Veteran musician, songwriter and broadcaster Leo Maguire talks about his early life growing up in Dublin's Liberties, his operatic training under the great Vincent O'Brien, and promoting new and old Irish music on his long-running radio show on RTÉ.(1981)
Leo Maguire jokes about how he wrote his famous song "Dublin Saunter" in a little over an hour under serious pressure from the veteran stage actor, Noel Purcell. Noel had been asked by Martin Walton to record a programme which contained new and original Irish material for RTÉ Radio. Leo and Noel were both born on the fringes of Dublin's Liberties and the song reflects how Maguire felt about Dublin's city centre, a sentiment echoed by Purcell whose only request upon hearing the song was to "put it in a drunken man's key".
The Liberties that Maguire was born into was a thriving but rather failing community. It was a warm place with plenty of employment supplied by the two breweries and a leather industry which was on the decline. He was educated by the Irish Christian Brothers on Capel Street where he received a superior musical education through their system of employing coral teachers. He later became a pupil of Vincent O'Brien who convinced him to start a career in Opera and it was down to this advice that he spent a number of years singing with the Dublin Operatic Society travelling the length and breadth of the country.
Maguire was a prolific composer, writing over 100 songs, the most famous of them being "The Whistling Gypsy" which he wrote for Joe Lynch. The song was recorded in 1952 and gained popularity across the country by airplay on the Walton's Programme on Radio Éireann, which was also established that year.
Maguire had some previous experience of broadcasting with the hospital trust's nightly programme before he became the host of the Walton Programme. The programme was the brainchild of Martin Walton and it was his ambition to try to encourage the composition of new songs and the revival of old Irish songs, whether in Gaelic or in English. In 1924 Walton established the Dublin College of Music and also opened Walton’s Music Shop. Martin Walton died in 1981, he was eighty years old.
The Walton's Programme stayed on the air for over 30 years until its cancellation in 1980 which signalled the end of an era for many of their loyal listeners.
Produced by Dick Warner. (First Broadcast on the 3rd of Jan, 1981)