Nestling against the ancient ruins of Howth Abbey, against a picturesque background of mountain and sea and overlooking the lovely fishing harbour and jewel-like islands of Lambay and Ireland's Eye, stands the Abbey Tavern, the home of the world-famous Abbey Tavern Singers.
The group was formed in 1962, when Mrs. Scott-Lennon, affectionately known to her many friends as Minnie, decided that musicians and balladeers, playing and singing traditional Irish airs in a relaxed sing-along manner would be popular with both the local Dublin residents and tourists. From the beginning the idea was immensely popular and within a short time the Abbey Tavern Singers were drawing crowds every night of the week except Sunday, filling to capacity the room (300 seat capacity) which had been specially built for them. Because of the over capacity crowds on weekends, the group alternates between the main room and a smaller room called the "Loft" where the cover photo was taken.
Early in 1966 Carlings Brewery Limited decided to film a series of television commercials for their international advertising campaign using on the spot filming techniques in the various nightspots, taverns and holiday resorts that sold their product, and the Abbey Tavern was the most recommended Irish location. The first filming was made of the Abbey Tavern Singers performing two of their most popular Irish rousers. One of the selections they recorded was "WE RE OFF TO DUBLIN IN THE GREEN" which was composed sometime after the 1916 uprising. The composing of this song which deals with the I.R.A. and the Rebellion has been attributed to several people and has been known under such titles as THE JOLLY PLOUGHBOY, THE MERRY PLOUGHBOY and GREEN ON GREEN. However, it is popularly known by the first line of the chorus, WE'RE OFF TO DUBLIN IN THE GREEN. This song, coupled with a famous Northern Ireland Orange selection, THE CAPTAIN OF THE GALLANT FORTY TWA', became so popular with television viewers that they were released on a 45 rpm record which has become a most popular hit.
While the selections on this album are not typical of a regular night at the Abbey Tavern, it features some of the popular up-tempo and humorous ballads that are regularly performed. A typical evening programme would include more instrumentals and solo ballads. An album of this type will be released later for those who wish to relive or experience an evening at the Abbey Tavern.
The personnel of the singers change from time to time as is common with every large group, but the spirit and friendliness remains constant and they treat each song as if it were for a command performance before a royal audience, yet with the relaxed informality of a country hoedown. The current members of the group as pictured on the front of this album starting from the upper left are MICHAEL O'CONNELL, who was born and raised in Dublin, has studied voice and sings traditional Irish songs exclusively; MARGARET MONKS, who is the featured female soloist on WE'RE OFF TO DUBLIN, is 22 and has lived and performed in Australia (five years) as well as in Dublin where she grew up; TESS NOLAN, who comes from Tipperary, sings mostly traditional love and tragic ballads and has performed widely on BBC radio, UTV and TV-Erin in Dublin; MICHAEL BROOKES is the wild redhead with the broad, broad, brogue, and at the tender age of 22 searches continually for traditional humorous ballads (this repertoire includes songs of Welsh and Scottish origin as well as Irish); BILL POWERS from Wexford County plays the banjo-mandolin which is tuned like a fiddle; TOMMY RICK who plays the uillean pipes, which is an improved bagpipe although it originates as far back as the seventeenth century; SEAMUS GALLAGHER is a traditional fiddler and shares duties with JOE O'LEARY who was not present the night the photo was taken; PJ (short for Paddy Joseph) DOWNES is the most popular rhythm man of the group playing the spoons. He hails from County Clare and is a wizard at the old art of playing rhythm with the spoons. He uses only Irish nickel-silver spoons to get the proper ring and goes through two spoons every three to four weeks. As far as is known, he is the only full-time performing spoon player in Ireland. Oddly enough he was discovered when, while in Dublin on his honeymoon he visited Abbey Tavern with his charming bride and did some "spooning" with the Abbey Tavern Singers.
That is the Abbey Tavern Singers and we know you are going to enjoy this fine performance of old traditional ballads.