My Dad was a big fan of Phil Coulter. He was at Queen’s at the same time as Phil and liked to tell us about the time Phil locked him and a bunch of other students in a room on the campus to rehearse them! As a boy, I went to hear Phil Coulter and his orchestra a number of times—in Craigavon Leisure Centre, in the Grand Opera House at least once—and his albums were staples of family car journeys. I enjoyed his arrangements of Irish folk songs and I still remember going to Matchett’s Music in Belfast one Saturday morning to get a copy of his piano book (which I still have, complete with pencilled-in letters on ‘The Town I Loved So Well’ under the ledger line bass notes that Anna and I hadn’t learned yet). Actually, it’s through Phil Coulter that I got to know most of the tunes in the first place. Definitely a big inspiration to me. I still have a couple of signed photos somewhere with him posing at the piano in a billowy white shirt 🙂
His songs were what particularly made an impression on me. He started his songwriting career at a run, penning a Eurovision winner and a one-point-off-the-top runner-up at a time when doing so meant that, (a) it was a good song, and (b) they were destined to be massive hits. Check out his website for more of his story—it’s very readable, clearly written by him, and filled with loads of stories about the amazing career he’s enjoyed.
I was prompted to write this today by one song in particular, though, ‘Scorn Not His Simplicity’. Written from Phil’s personal experience, this song was first introduced to the world by the wonderful Luke Kelly. Here’s a lovely, intimate recording from a Tallaght pub in 1974:
Today parents, teachers, pupils, Special Needs Assistants and others are taking to the street outside the Dáil here in Dublin to protest the cutting of funding for SNAs. Listen to this song and let your heart go out to them.