When you’re in Mullingar, there’s no getting away from the town’s most famous son – and we’re not talking about Niall Horan – you’ll pass his statue, you’ll go over his bridge, you might stop in at his pub for a sandwich.
It’s ten years since Joe Dolan died, but Mullingar is making sure his memory is kept alive. On Wednesday, The Ryan Tubridy Show pulled the roadcaster into Co Westmeath’s capital and met up with Joe’s brother, Ben and Ben’s two sons, Adrian and Ray. Regular listeners will know that Ryan has a love-hate relationship with public statues: when he doesn’t like them, he really doesn’t like them. The Joe Dolan statue in Mullingar got a rare thumbs-up from him, though:
"It’s a good statue. Sometimes we don’t get statues right here."
Ray told Ryan that he and Ben had a hand in the statue’s development. It was made by a sculptor named Carl Payne in Stoke, England, and every couple of weeks Ray and Ben would travel to his garage to take a look at a clay version of the statue and give the sculptor their impressions. The first time they visited the sculptor’s garage, they started talking about how little things about the statue weren’t right – the stance was wrong, and Joe wouldn’t have looked that way:
"So your man says to us, yeah, no problem, here. And he gave us both a little scraper and says, will you go over there and just do what you think."
Ray and Ben would make alterations, then the sculptor would tell them to leave it with them. And this went on for a while, until all three were happy with it. But the emotional response the two men had the first time they saw the statue was unexpected:
"It was only six months after Joe dying and here this fella opens the door of the garage and the statue… It was a shock."
Ben told Ryan about the day, 10 years ago, that he lost his brother. Joe had a brain haemorrhage and was on life support in the hospital. The whole family was there, but Ben felt especially responsible when the doctors asked if they should leave the life support on, or turn it off.
"When they said that he wasn’t going to make it, you know it was, it really was a tough one."
Adrian and Ray both grew up with Joe’s music and both went on to play in his band. The band toured extensively, but one trip, in particular, caught Ryan’s interest: Russia. Ben told how the Russian ambassador had been at a show in Dublin, returned home and found that people in the then-Soviet Russia knew Joe’s music. Ben described what sounds like a terrific tour, culminating in the tale of Roche, T, which needs to be listened to in order to get the full effect.
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Orchestrated Vol 2, a new album of Joe Dolan’s recordings, featuring accompaniment from the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, has just been released. Hear the full discussion with the Dolans, as well as the rest of The Ryan Tubridy Show here.