“ALL SOUL’S NIGHT” 1969
A long time ago, in the late sixties, a happy group of close friends and myself, would meet for drinks and the craic, every Monday night in the Barge, on Charlemount Bridge, in Dublin.
There were five of us in all, just out of our teens, and ready to take on the world, and the great adventures of a life that lay head.
We were all, bar one, musicians and singers, all on the very, far outer fringes, of showbusiness, but biding our time for the big break and the fame, that was sure to come, sooner or later, we hoped.
Let me introduce this, happy bunch to you,
Jamie Colbert and myself.
Frank, lived in a house, with his mother somewhere in the inner city.
He played saxophone in a band, with the unlikely name of, The Rainbow Showband, who were doing quite well in the many dance halls scattered around the country at that time.
Frank, who thought of himself as a bit of a genius on the sax, with his ability to play “Blue Train” as good as his idol, John Coltrane, at least in his own mind, that is.
We told him, although he was good, he was far from being that good.
But this did nothing to dampen his opinion of himself, and we didn’t make too much of it.
He was a bit crazy at times, in a funny sort of way, and once he was spotted walking, in his bare feet, through the Sally Gap in the Dublin mountains at three o’clock, in the morning, playing the afore mentioned “Blue Train” on the saxophone.
Jamie Colbert, from, Crumlin, played dobro in a Bluegrass band, called The Blue Kentucky Ramblers and spoke with a bad imitation of a Good ole’ Boys” accent.
He was only twenty, but already he was beginning to lose his hair, and as he was a big boy, none of us ever mentioned it, and to cover up his embarrassment, he wore a Vladimir Lenin, peaked cap.
He had the dubious distinction of having been born on a ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, while his parents were on their way home from America and therefore, could only claim the nationality of the ship’s registration.
We had no scruples in calling him “The Man from God Knows Where”
But he said he had no problem with that, as it could have been worse, he could have been born on the North Side, which he thought was hilarious, but as we told him , could scupper the chances of the Blue Kentucky Ramblers of ever playing in Clontarf Castle.
Patrick Kelly was neither a singer nor a musician.
On a chance meeting in the pub one night, he introduced himself, and asked, if he could join us, for the company.?
He was an introverted, sort of guy and never contributed much to the conversation.
But we all liked him, and he was accepted into the group straight away, because he was a nice guy, and had a car, which could come in useful in the future.
We were no fools!
He came from a broken home in Ringsend and his upbringing had been tough, but he now lived in his own flat in Rathmines and had left all that life behind him.
Because of his unhappy situation at home and his lack of education, he left school at fourteen, and for a long time could neither read nor write, so I felt rather protective of him.
One night, Frank, who could have a bit of a mean streak in him, and who sometimes let it get the better of him, started picking on him.
“What do you do, Pat?” he grumbled. “You don’t seem to have any ambition, you have to be ambitious , like me, to get anywhere in life.
You got to get organised and get out there and do something positive, like learn to play a musical instrument or something.
You could at least learn to play the mouthorgan”.
Pat paused for a second, then said,
“I can play chess,”
You could hear a pin drop, in the silence that followed.
“ You can play chess?” we all said, in disbelief
“ Yeh, since I was ten”.
“And, who thought you to play chess, for God’s sake”?
“ But you hate your Dad”
“Yeh, but I love chess.”
Then there was Josh Mulhaire.
Josh was born in New York, of Irish parents, and owned, a black pre-war Gibson guitar, sang and wrote his own songs and played gigs, in the many folk clubs in Dublin at that time.
Josh was a gentle, easy going, person and one of the kindest, most loyal people, you could ever hope to meet, never a bad word was ever said about Josh.
He once sang in the Bitter End Folk Club, in Greenwich Village, New York, where the folk revival began in the late fifties.
He also had the enviable distinction of having once met Bob Dylan.
Unlike a lot of folk groups and singers at that time, who, for some reason, wore suits, Josh always wore Denim jackets, jeans and “Boots of Spanish Leather”, as Dylan sang.
Although we were all around the same age, Josh was more experienced than us, and indeed, had once made, a demo recording, of his own songs, for one of the big recording companies in the States, and, although nothing ever came of it, we all looked up to him.
And then there was me.
Although I loved to sing, more than anything in the world, I had no musical training of any kind, I just wanted to sing because it made me happy, and it came easy to me.
When my school days ended,
I got a job as an apprentice plumber, but on my first day, I left before midday, I could not see myself doing that for the rest of my life.
After a year of wandering around, from job to job, I landed a job in an advertising agency, which was, interesting for a while.
Then one morning, I realised I was getting bored with that, and left, again before noon.
I wanted to be free to express myself through singing.
So, I bought myself a battered old, second-hand, Levin guitar, learned three chords, and a couple of folk songs and low and behold, after a bit of practice in my bedroom at home, I began to get the hang of it.
Then one night after a couple of drinks, to give me Dutch Courage, I found myself singing in a Folk Club called the “Coffee Cup” near Christchurch Cathedral, and that was that, I was away.
I eventually built up a small following around the clubs and pubs of Dublin and wrote a few songs of my own.
I even once auditioned for a recording contract, for the PYE record label, alas! to no avail.
The A&R man suggested I come back in a few years when I was more mature and had a better repertoire.
It was hard going, but it was better than working, and after all, this was what I wanted to do, and I was happy.
In time I began to achieve, some small amount of success in the business and began to make a bit of money.
At last, things were looking up.
Now that we have become acquainted, I would like to continue with the main, not so happy story.
One Halloween night, in nineteen, sixty, nine, we met in the Barge, as we always did on a Monday night.
At closing time, Pat suggested, we all go back to his flat, to lengthen the night with a few more beers, and maybe a whiskey or two. just for the craic.
It was the same routine every Monday night, it never changed, and apart from Pat, and as we all still lived at home, of course, we selfishly agreed.
So, we loaded up with carry outs, and all slightly intoxicated, made our way out of the pub.
In those days, because there was so little traffic about, you could park wherever you wanted too.
Pat, who knew I hated walking, would, always park his, much loved, banger, by the canal, or as close to the pub as possible.
As we were piling into the car, in high spirits and good hummer , Frank, who was standing at the back door of the car, suddenly said, “You know something lads, tonight is “All Souls Night”, the night when the lost souls of the restless dead, leave their grave’s and wander the Earth in search of other lost souls”
We all looked at him, and I said,” Good man, Frank , you always manage to say, the wrong thing, at the wrong time”.
But little did I know, then, that he what he said, was not too far from the truth, and tonight, was going to be our last night together.
Eventually, we arrived at Pat’s pad, and soon forgot Frank’s weird utterance.
We settled down to a night of craic, and light-hearted slagging.
We drank our beers and a couple of sups of the “Hard Stuff” for we were “The Boys.”!
Around three o’ clock, in the morning, as the effect of the beers and whisky were beginning to wear off, we began to grow tired, and began to sober up, we decided to call it a day, and make for home
Then, Frank suddenly, jumped to his feet and said “Lad’s, before we go, and seeing as this is Halloween, why don’t we have a séance, just for the laugh and to finish off the night”.
I didn’t think it was a good idea.
I had heard about, séances, and they are
not a good thing to mess about with.
” As Sam Goldwin, once said, “Include me out” I said to him.
I should have left it at that.
But after some fairly, intense persuasion, by the others, I relented, “O.K. Count me in” I said with some trepidation.
But on hindsight, due to what happened later, I should never have changed my mind agree to take part.
And would live to regret it.
Frank, who was the instigator of the whole damned idea, took over the proceedings and began to explain the nuts and bolts, of a seance.
I will not attempt to do the same, and have it on my conscience, just in case, some over sensitive and vulnerable person, was ever tempted to try it.
For it is an unhealthy way to have a bit fun.
For the whole crazy idea was, to try and get in touch with the spirits on the other side of the light.
I said to Frank,“ Keep it simple”
So, he went on to explain.
” We all sit around a table, and spread out the letters of the alphabet, the words “Yes and No “ and a set of numbers, from One to Ten.
Then, with an upturned glass in the centre, of the table, you place a finger on top of the glass, barely touching it.
We try and conjure up the spirits, by speaking to them and inviting them to communicate with us”
We switched off the light, and lite some candles, to help create some sort of ghostly atmosphere.
As it was Ron’s idea, he started by saying,
“ If there is a spirit in the room?
Please try and contact us, we mean you no harm.”
As we all expected, with great relief, nothing happened.
He repeated this over and over, for about ten minutes, still nothing happened
“ For God’s, sake, Frank, we should stop this now ,this is bad Karma “I pleaded vainly.
But just as I spoke, the glass started to vibrate and move, slowly at first, then faster and faster, in a frenzy around the table.
The room grew as cold as an iceberg, and we could see our breath in the light of the candles.
We sat in terror, as the glass circled around, and around, then, suddenly it moved to the numbers.
One at a time it numbered off, 1… 7….3….3 then, smashed into pieces on the table.
We all jumped up, in terror, knocking over our chairs, in our hurry to leave the damn table, and what was now, quickly becoming a terrifying experiment.
All except Josh, who had not moved, he just sat there, grey in the face, tears running down his cheeks and his whole body, shacking out of control.
I looked at him, in shock, and sudden concern, and asked, “ Are you all right, Josh,
What’s the matter” ?
He looked at me and I saw a terrifying, sadness, in his eyes.
Then he said, through trembling lips “The number 1...7…3...3, was the flight number of the plane that crashed, ten years ago, killing my parents”
A terrible weight, fell upon my shoulders, when the enormity of his words, set in, and I knew then, for certain, that the whole, event of the evening was, morally wrong
Then he slowly stood up, put on his coat, and in silence, walked to the door, and out into the night.
We never saw Josh, again.
Shortly after that, a changed and subdued group of young men, also left the flat, without a word spoken, or a goodnight to each other.
I also left, and began to walk down Rathmines road, with head bowed and shoulders stooped, the events of the night weighing heavy on my shaken mind.
I made my way onto, Ranelagh Road.
There was no one about at that time of night, the children, who had been out, “Trick or Treating”, earlier, in the evening were long, tucked up safely, in their bed’s and asleep.
I walked on, oblivious to the rain that was beginning to fall, and a cold wind was spinning the fallen, autumn leaves around in circles, on the road.
I was lost in my dark thoughts when suddenly, I heard footsteps walking behind me.
As far as I was aware, I was, the only person walking the street that night, so out of simple curiosity, I turned to see who was there, but the street was empty.
I walked on, but, again, I heard the footsteps and realised in alarm that someone was following me, but on looking around again, saw no one there.
I quickened my pace, but so did the footsteps.
I now began to get really frightened and started to run, but so did the footsteps that, now seem to be gaining on me.
I ran up the Milltown Road, in overpowering terror, but the footsteps were still following me with every ghastly step
Almost out of breath, now, I eventually reached the safety of my parent’s house in Milltown, and as I fumbled with my keys, to open the front door, the footsteps stopped, and I felt something, unholy, standing behind me, as frosty fingers, ran down my spine.
At last, I succeeded in opening the door and in panic, ran up the stairs, to the safety of my room.
I stood, in terror, listening to the silence.
There was not a sound to be heard in the infernal darkness, the footsteps had gone,,,,, or so I thought.
Later, as I settled down to whatever kind of troubled sleep, I may find, a terrible, crippling, black depression descended on me.
I never felt such dread, or total despair, as in my head, a host of demons and fallen angels danced behind my sleepless eyes, and I knew, that whatever corrupt and foul being, that, followed me home that night, had penetrated my heart and soul had settled there within.
And has haunted me every day and night, of my suffering existence.
Down the years, I have sought the help of many, wise, medical men, to rid me of this terrible burden ,but, to no avail.
And, what of my friends? You may ask. What happened to them after that, unholy Halloween, night, in Nineteen, Sixty, Nine ?
Well, the Rainbow Showband, eventually broke up, due to changing tastes in music and the falling off of the fans.
Frank, went to England and lost his soul, playing , Country and Western, music, on the eternal and soul-destroying circuit of, Irish Pubs, around London.
A long way from John Coltrane. He never returned to Ireland.
I was told, by those who knew him, that he had purposely, left his saxophone on the train to London.
Sadly, Frank, passed away in his middle years, from some illness, the doctors could not explain.
Patrick, did not return to Ringsend, but left his flat, the following morning, leaving behind all his possession’s, and went to live with his sister.
He never leaves the house, now, and since that dreadful night, never played chess, again.
As for Jamie and the Blue Kentucky Ramblers
Like Frank and the Rainbow Showband, times had changed, there was no longer a place, for Blue Grass and the Good ole Boys.
Jamie, ironically, went live in the north side, found Jesus, and became, a Born-again Christian.
His hair is long gone, as is his, Vladimir
As I said before, I never saw Josh Butler again.
I found out later, he had sold his Gibson and gone back to the United States.
Time past, then one day I happened to meet someone who, knew him in the States.
I asked him what Josh was doing now?
He looked at me and asked “ Did you not know? Sadly, Josh was killed in an automobile accident some years ago.
Seemingly, while driving on the New Jersey Turn Pyke, one wet night, he lost control of the car and crashed into the back of a Semi- Truck.
He died instantly.
When the police and emergency crews arrived and removed his body from the wreck, one of the witnesses, said, they were sure they had seen another person in the car with him, sitting in the front, passenger seat.
But on searching the wreck, the police, told the witnesses, they must have been mistaken as there was no second body, found in the car.”
I struggled on, through one, unchanging day, after another.
I turned my back on show business, and I never married.
I now, live alone, in a one-bedroom flat, over a Chip Shop, in Gardiner Street, and at night spend my time, wandering the streets of Dublin.