It was a scene that the Council chamber in Clonmel’s Town Hall has never witnessed in its long and illustrious history, as a chart-topping pop band played acoustic versions of some of their hits while the Mayor Darren Ryan hummed along to the music.
The occasion was the civic reception held on Saturday evening for Clonmelman Paul Walsh, the television presenter and frontman with the band Royseven.
Family and friends gathered with members of the Borough Council at the Town Hall to pay tribute to someone who the Mayor said had excelled in the music and entertainment industry.
Clonmel was a town that nurtured and respected performance and talent, said Paul Walsh. He hoped that the Mayor and the Councillors, and those who followed in their footsteps, would continue to be equally supportive of the arts into the future.
The town had given him much more than he had ever given it, including a head full of fantastic memories and some amazing family and friends.
As one of a generation of performers to come from the town he said he had grown up in a golden age of creativity in Clonmel. He was 15 when he was “bullied” by his friend Andrew Kennedy into joining a band called Elmer Fudd, which later became Swerve and was one of several rock and pop bands performing in the town at the time.
Banna Chluain Meala was the musical backbone of Clonmel and one of his very few musical regrets was not joining the youth marching band, although he was delighted to see that it was still as vibrant and relevant as ever.
In his youth he had joined Mary Cummins’ Gable Youth Theatre Group. He said that Mary (who died recently) was a drama teacher, animal lover, a writer and a friend, and someone who was talented, free-spirited, bohemian and generous.
“She gave everything of herself so that we as teenagers could find ourselves. Her loss to the community is immeasurable but we’re lucky to be able to say that she was our teacher, mentor and friend”.
Paul was pleased that Clonmel, as a town that nurtured and respected performance and talent, was home to the annual Junction Festival; it had some promising young bands including Broken Glass on Broadway and Superblondes; and a venue such as O’Keeffe’s that brought bands to the town.
Mayor Darren Ryan recalled that Paul had grown up in Gortmalogue, the youngest of seven children of Sylvia and the late Vincent Walsh, and had also lived in Parnell Street for many years.
He attended Ss Peter and Paul’s Primary School and the High School and had the privilege of serving with Mary Cummins, a great lady whom the town had lost recently, in the Gable Youth Theatre Group. He had starred in a number of musicals with St. Mary’s Choral Society and his first band was Swerve.
The Mayor said that Paul had worked as a physiotherapist in London at the Charing Cross Hospital, the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and with Chelsea Football Club. When he returned to Ireland he joined the band Jove and then Royseven.
In 2004 Royseven became the first unsigned band to headline the Olympia in Dublin and the following year they signed to the Universal label. Their first single was Older and television appearances soon followed on Tubridy Tonight and The Late Late Show.
The band released their first album, The Art of Insincerity in 2006 and won a Meteor Music award the following year.
Last year the Mayor said the people of the country acknowledged their talent by voting their chart-topping single We Should Be Lovers – taken from their second album You Say We Say - as the Song of the Year.
They played support to acts including Bryan Adams, Duran Duran and Westlife, and their music had been played on The Voice UK and at the BAFTA awards, while they had also performed on The Voice show in Ireland.
Paul Walsh was also well-known as a presenter on the Two Tube show on RTE 2, as well as a radio presenter. He served as an ambassador with Headstrong, the National Centre for Youth Mental Health, and if he wasn’t busy enough he was also studying English and History at UCD.
The Mayor said he felt a great sense of pride the previous night when he was at The Marquee in Cork, when Royseven supported The Coronas, when thousands of people sang their songs.
Paul and Royseven had visited Banna Chluain Meala at their hall in Mick Delahunty Square earlier on Saturday and the Mayor said that Paul always returned to Clonmel to support any local organisations or help in any way that he could.
Tributes were also paid by Cllrs. Siobhan Ambrose, Richie Molloy, Brian O’Donnell and Gabrielle Egan.
When the formalities had concluded Royseven played acoustic versions of their hits We Should Be Lovers and No Romance. They’ll return to the town for two gigs at O’Keeffe’s on Friday, July 6th at the beginning of the annual Junction Festival.