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Christy Dignam leaves this Crazy World

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There was an air of sadness around killarney on Tuesday evening when the sad but inevitable news that Aslan lead singer Christy Dignam had passed away after a battle with cancer.

RIP Christy Dignam Aslan much loved in Killarney. Pictured here performing an impromptu gig on Plunkett St during is visit in August 2018 catching up with his friend Liam O’Connor. Picture Marie Carroll-O’Sullivan

Christy Dignam Aslan pictured singing his massive hit “Crazy World” on visiting Killarney and catching up with his friend Liam O’Connor August 2018 on Plunkett Street. Picture Marie Carroll-O’Sullivan

Christy Dignam Aslan pictured singing his massive hit “Crazy World” on visiting Killarney and catching up with his friend Liam O’Connor August 2018 on Plunkett Street. Picture Marie Carroll-O’Sullivan

Christy Dignam Aslan pictured singing his massive hit “Crazy World” on visiting Killarney and catching up with his friend Liam O’Connor August 2018 on Plunkett Street. Picture Marie Carroll-O’Sullivan

Words: Eamonn Fitzgerald Photos: Marie Carroll-O'Sullivan. 

The Dubliner had a massive affinity with Killarney, Aslan’s countless sell out gigs were a testament to his popularity in this part of the world.

Who can forget his impromptu gig on Plunkett St when he and local accordion legend Liam O’Connor entertained locals and tourist alike during the summer of 2018.

Earlier the same year O’Connor invited Dignam to be guest of honour at his annual St Brendan’s College concert in the school's chapel.

Fittingly, there is a strong Killarney connection to another local secondary school.

Killarney Advertiser sports journalist and now retired Community College principal Eamonn Fitzgerald was one of Christy’s teachers during his stint as a teacher in Dublin in the late 1960s.

Here Eamonn recalls his early days with the prodigious musician.

FINGLAS 1967

I was very fortunate that my first appointment as a teacher in 1967 was in St Fergal’s boy’s national school, Finglas one of the most socially deprived areas in Dublin making the news for all the wrong reasons.

Sure, there were some hard chaws, gougers, gurriers and the no one wants me brigade, but there were also raw uncut diamonds which sparkled when hope beckoned.

Christy Dignam was one of those young boys a mere 10-year-old. I had the good fortune to teach him in fourth class in 1967 and in fifth class for the Confo(Confirmation).

Those two years started a lifelong friendship.

He was quiet, gentle and mysterious, no good at soccer, or the GAAH (GAA). “I’ll leave that to you’se Kerrymen”, but he was respectful, sharp, bright and appreciative of ‘mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí’ .

He was full of humanity and always stood by Finglas. What a wonderful voice enhanced by his Belcanto training. He could reach those highest notes going through the scale. Pop, rock, or John McCormack classics were in his repertoire.

Over the years he recounted so many vignettes of delightful days in national school. He loved stories as a key to learning and communicating.

’You must know your audience and interpret the real meaning behind ‘How can I protect you in this Crazy World? Isn’t that what teaching is all about, as well,” he said.

The same goes for the impromptu free performance of that hit and ‘The Green Fields of France’ on Plunkett Street along with his great friend Liam O’Connor on accordion. That was at 2.00 am. Some great singing some years ago.

FUN

He loved school because it was fun. “I never went on the bounce or did a runner, from your classes.” he said so often, but secondary school was a disaster for him.

“Bleeding Latin and Greek for Finglas, Bejaysus.”

He confided in later life on the abuse by a neighbour, “When I was just a chissler,six years of age. I was tempted by the sweets. Bleeding, brutal bastard.”

He said that set him on the heroin downfall and, cocaine was widespread in America when he was on tour. He recalled being kicked out of Aslan, should have been thrown out by his wife Kathryn as well, but she stuck by him especially during his long illnesses.

“I can’t say I am a Holy Joe, but I know what spirituality is and it stood by me when I went as a hermit to the great Budda in Thailand.”

“Youse know that Jesus fell three times; I fell nine times, fought and fought amyloidosis. That’s what I was singing in ‘The man who stayed alive’.... dada dum .. asking myself can I once again cheat death."

“I am alive when I’m singing,”

No self-pity, but hanging on to see his daughter Keira - an outstanding singer in her own right and just some more time with his grandchildren.

“I love the buzz of entertainment live action interpreting every song and wooing the audiences.

“Youse gave me my first prize ever for spelling the word ‘embalm’ correctly. My prize was a long white pencil and written on it was ‘a present from New York’. Yourself and Mr Gleeson (Mick) were in America with the Kerry team. The buzz and chant of my classmates, 42 or was it 43 in that prefab?”

“ Ger up owre dat Christy…Digo,digo,digo. That was magic, that was buzz. Me ma was so proud of me that she invited all the auld wanes in for a gander at the prize. She would not allow me to pare it but displayed it on the mantlepiece. Ma and Da were chuffed. “

“Youse also showed us the trick of how to spell ‘separate’ correctly. Unless there is a rat in the middle it is wrong. Sep… a rat…e. Remember the day we were so good for the cigire that you gave us ecker [homework] off for the weekend. Small things matter.”

Thanks for all the memories, Christy, the chats, teas, craic, frank discussions, decency, honesty and appreciation.

You told me how and why you wrote your songs ‘This is’ and ‘Crazy World’. When you arrived at the Gates on Tuesday afternoon, you already had the lyrics and the melody for ‘Hello Christy you’ve arrived, at long last."

Comhbhrón o chroí, to Kathryn, Kiera, and grandchildren Cian, Ava, Jake and indeed Joe Jewell, lead guitarist with Aslan and a classmate of Christy in St Fergal’s , Finglas.

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Kerry v Cork match day parking

  Kerry take on Cork in the first round of the Munster Championship at Fitzgerald Stadium on Saturday. This glamour tie always attracts a huge crowd and Cork fans will […]

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Kerry take on Cork in the first round of the Munster Championship at Fitzgerald Stadium on Saturday.

This glamour tie always attracts a huge crowd and Cork fans will travel in their droves from the Rebel County.

As a result there will be parking restrictions and traffic disruptions in the town on Saturday afternoon.

“Please be aware that the town will be bustling with activity, and traffic congestion is expected. Some parking areas may reach capacity, so we recommend allowing extra time for your journey,” said a Garda spokesperson.

Parking will be available in the following areas near the stadium: New Street, The Glebe car park, Fair Hill car park, High Street, Rock Road car park and the Lewis Road car park.

Parking in the vicinity of Fitzgerald Stadium is reserved for residents with parking passes only.

For a full preview of the match turn to our Sports section on page 54

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Win tickets for Taylor Swift and support Palestine

Killarney For Palestine is raffling two tickets to a Taylor Swift concert in Edinburgh. The group is raising funds for the Halaq family who are known to Kerry Friends of […]

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Killarney For Palestine is raffling two tickets to a Taylor Swift concert in Edinburgh.

The group is raising funds for the Halaq family who are known to Kerry Friends of Palestine and who are currently displaced in tents in the Gaza Strip.

Their homes were destroyed in the city of Khan Younis by Israeli airstrikes.

“It currently costs between €5,000 and €6,000 per person to be evacuated from Gaza,” said Susan Larkin of Killarney For Palestine.

To be in with a chance of winning the tickets for the June 8 concert all you have to do is make a donation via the gofundme link below.

A minimum €5.00 donation ensures entry to the draw which will be made on April 24.

Link: https://www.gofundme.com/f/hx5ahx-help-my-children

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