By Eoin Kelleher
EVERY town in Ireland has its storytellers and special characters who give that place its unique flavour.
On Friday evening, well wishers packed the Cashel Palace Hotel’s Long Room, giving legendary barman Denis Heffernan a standing ovation following the launch of his CD of songs, Cashel My Home Town.
Denis has played host to Presidents, Royalty, and stars of screen and stage during his long career serving at the Guinness bar in the Cashel Palace - reputed to be where Arthur Guinness himself discovered the formula for the black stuff in the 18th century.
Denis’ knowledge of the ‘Palace’, and its rich and storied history, have captivated guests for decades. Since he first started winning singing awards back in the 50’s, Denis has always had a song and a story or two for the weary traveller who comes to the foot of the Rock of Cashel.
And music runs in the Heffernan family, Tipp FM’s Fran Curry told guests.
When he first heard Jonathan Grogan - Denis’ grandnephew and son of local retailer Tommy Grogan - sing, the hair “literally rose on the back of my neck.” Jonathan has a promising career in showbiz and “we’ll all soon be booking our tickets to the West End to see him on stage soon,” said Fran before Jonathon entertained guests with some beautiful renditions of modern classics. Cashel based singer songwriter Billy Bob O’Dwyer, and the Sorry Ass Blues Band, also supported Denis on the night with some traditional country tunes.
All proceeds from the E10 CD go to a cause close to Denis’ heart - the Mater Hospital. “It’s a special, special occasion,” said Denis. “It’s not about myself, and it’s not about the band, and it’s not about the music. It’s about the cause. It’s about the Mater Hospital.” The CD was produced by Sean Feery, with Fran Curry on piano.
Mayor of Cashel Maribel Wood paid tribute to Denis. “I thank Denis for inviting me to launch this very special CD which is dedicated to his late nephew Alan and will be used to help raise funds for research into Sudden Death Syndrome.”
“While Denis has said that the launch is not about himself, its about the cause, I cannot let the opportunity pass without giving him recognition as a wonderful ambassador for Cashel and Ireland, and its only fitting that this event is held in the Cashel Palace Hotel, an historic house, where he and his colleagues have befriended and entertained so many guests and visitors over the years.
“As you would say in Cashel, Denis hails from ‘old stock’, from a very supportive and respected family, where Josie his mother is loved and cherished by all.
“It’s a family steeped in old traditions, enjoying storytelling, music, song and dance, so its no surprise to me that he is launching this CD with its four songs, four family favourites, Cashel My Home Town, The Hills of Donegal, What a Wonderful World and Danny Boy.
“Loosing a loved one at anytime is difficult. Loosing one without warning and so young is a tragedy. Wondering why, what were the causes, is extremely hard and it can happen to anyone at anytime.
“We have no control so research into identifying the causes of Sudden Death Syndrome is very important both for the bereaved and also in finding preventative measures if possible.
“I know this gesture by Denis will be successful as he has many loyal friends and admirers and I congratulate him, Fran Curry for his piano accompliment and Sean Feery on the recording and production of the CD. Sean will be launching his own album on July 20th in aid of the Nagle Centre. Well done to everyone,” added Mayor Wood.