MUSIC IN PROSPEROUS THROUGHOUT THE AGES
By Darren Brereton
Prosperous has been steeped in musical history for a very long time now. Even before the days of popular folk music and big dances, there were writers and musicians living in the village in the time of the 1798 Rebellion, just 18 years after the village was founded by Sir Robert Brooke. There are songs collected that are all about Prosperous and it’s surrounding areas and they are very well written considering at the time, most writers never had the chance or the money to attend school. Maybe it is a testament to the great musical culture the Irish are known for.
Many years following the rebellion, Prosperous was a charred remains of it’s former glory and beauty, so bad that in a book by Lewis circa 1837, it was described as “little more than a pile of ruins” until the village went through a slow rebuilding of sorts in the late 19th century. This rebuilding was focused in the old village part of the town otherwise known as Main Street where we have many thriving local businesses now such as the butchers, barbers, Londis, a Chinese takeaway and a hairdressers. Interestingly nearly all of that row of buildings are original buildings from 1780. The same goes for across the road and the Prosperous 1780 plaque which can be seen over the ICA hall, is the original plaque that was put there at the time. Also the areas around and close to the cross were slowly being developed. Schools, houses and farms were just a few of these things that began to appear during the rebuilding process.
During the many years of rebuilding and re-juvinating the village, many interesting characters came to live in Prosperous. Two that come to mind are Pat Dowling and my great- grandfather, Ernie “Pop” Price.
Pat Dowling was a friendly gentleman who opened up Dowlings Public House. It was known as the folk epicentre of Ireland one time. You can still hear the older generations from around Ireland, share their stories about nights out in Dowlings listening to famous Irish musicians and a who’s who of talented locals who played many sessions and gigs there. This went on for many years. Locals like Frank Burke and Ned Farrell were also at the forefront of this. Interestingly the general body and skeleton of the building has never changed and the only real changes were made inside. You had the calibre of Christy Moore, Donal Lunny, Liam O’Flynn and Andy Irvine playing there and then they would enjoy a much later session in Downings House after. Still to this day, many senior local people still reminisce about the many great Irish music sessions they witnessed and enjoyed. My grandfather Christy Brereton also took part in these sessions if he could find the time. Pat Dowling passed away in March of 1983 and some say when he died, so did the soul of Irish folk in Kildare. “Only God and himself knew all he gave,” said local curate Fr. Pat Dunny who voiced the views of all on Pat’s remarkable generosity not only to his family but to everyone who whom he came in contact.
One of the many Irish traditional music sessions in Dowlings. On the left is Frank Burke on the fiddle who still keeps this session alive every Friday in Larry's Lounge. The two ladies in the back from left to right are Peggy Fox and my grandmother Nancy Brereton. Next to them on the right are their husbands Sonny Fox and my grandfather, fiddler Christy Brereton. Nancy and Sonny are sister and brother. We are not fully certain who the rest are but we will find out their names eventually.
Ernie “Pop” Price was known as a pioneer of motion pictures beginning his career in 1916 when he travelled the country showing films in a tent. He opened up the villages first cinema in 1950, which was little more than a small galvanized shed powered by an old and loud generator which sat on it’s own trailor. In the 1960’s he opened up “The Ideal Hall”, now where the post office, chemist, Franks Takeaway and Gemini hairdressers are. This was when it was opened for dances as well as movie nights. The best of the best showbands and rock n roll bands played there for many years further cementing Prosperous village as a music capital in rural Ireland. He also played the fiddle himself and enjoyed his life until the grand old age of 80. Just to mention that even though his hall was based next to Dowlings, never once were they in competition with each other. They were great friends and actually worked together developing ideas on how to bring more people into the village with the use of music and culture and making it “the place to be”, which also helped other business such as Curryhills House Hotel on the Clane road, shops and other locally run businesses, an ethos that seems to be long forgotten in rural villages these days.
As the years moved on, the Ideal Hall was purchased and divided into units to facilitate new shops. It was renamed the Ideal Shopping Centre at the time. Dowling’s under new management was still hosting many showbands, country bands and crazy nights (games nights). From the 80’s into the 90’s it was still a very popular venue and known all around the country. Some residents here in their 30s and 40s will probably remember spending the nights of their first communions or confirmations, along with their parents, dancing to some of Ireland’s top showbands. A lot of people say that when the music stopped and it was turned into a nightclub, it was the final blow to the heart of the local music scene. However every business man or woman are free to do what they want with their business, the music scene in a local sense never seemed to reach it’s former glories until the early 2000’s where bands were reintroduced into the back lounge (now the restaurant) and every Monday there was an open mic night where local musicians would play together, have fun together, help out younger people and generally created a warm and welcoming atmosphere for both musicians and music fans alike. Even though this weekly session doesn’t happen anymore, it’s lasting effect can still be felt among the music community to this day. There was a music festival running from 2012 to 2018 every August which was a great success and brought in many people. Frank Burke and his crew still play a lively session in Larry's Lounge every Friday and also the first Tuesday of every month. The days of Prosperous being a music capital in Ireland are now just a distant memory. Hopefully in the future the taste for and love for traditional music comes back as strong as it used to be.
Ernie "Pop" Price and his grandsons. Sadly I never got to meet him. He passed away soon before I was born in 1984. He passed away at 80 years of age. Over the years I have heard many amazing and funny stories about him. From what I can take in, he seemed to have been a very popular character in the village. When he wasn't showing the latest movie or organising a dance, he loved a pint and a song in Dowlings. He worked very hard to provide for his family and that ethic is still in the DNA of the Price family to this day.
Every resident should be proud of the journey this village has went through and to think that here was once the epicentre of music and the place to be in rural Ireland many years ago is almost unthinkable these days.
Downings House is the place where Christy Moore recorded his album called “Prosperous”. It was recorded in a room underneath the house. During the recording sessions, musicians such as Andy Irvine (mandolin, mouth organ), Liam Óg O'Flynn (uilleann pipes, tin whistle) and Dónal Lunny (guitar, bouzouki) attended and recorded with Christy. These four musicians later gave themselves the name Planxty, making this album something of the first Planxty album in all but name. Other musicians included Kevin Conneff (later of The Chieftains) on bodhrán, Clive Collins on fiddle, and Dave Bland on concertina. The album takes its name from the house and town of Prosperous, County Kildare, where it was recorded by producer Bill Leader in the summer of 1971. Planxty, one the country’s greatest folk groups, were officially formed in January of 1972.
Right here in Prosperous!
Written by Darren Brereton
The Dandies were a very popular local band back in the late 60's and 1970's. They played at many dances, weddings and top pubs and cabaret lounges in their time. They went through several changes of personnel but this was the main core of the band. They were a band made up of the Brereton brothers and sisters. From left to right you can see Gerry (vocals), Helen (Vocals), John (Drums), Nicola (Guitar and Vocals), Chris (Accordion), Margaret (Keyboard and Vocals), and Vincent (Bass and Vocals). There were other members in the band over the years they were on the road. People such as Peter and Jas Gordon, John Donoghue and Terry Domican. Their father Christy was in the very first line up, or as our family call it, "The Dandies Version One."
Funeral of Pat Dowling, Prosperous
Leinster Leader 19 March 1983
‘Hard cases’ sobbed uncontrollably; singer Christy Moore was shattered, everywhere there was emotion last week when they buried Pat Dowling, the man who changed the face of Prosperous.
His pub, which became a musical mecca of Leinster and indeed drew patrons from all over Europe, was quiet as the church across the road was unable to hold the multitudes who came to pay their respects. Many were still there as the huge funeral cortege stretched for miles through the narrow country roads to the cemetery at Allen.
“Only God and himself knew all he gave,” said local curate Fr. Pat Dunny who voiced the views of all on Pat’s remarkable generosity not only to his family but to everyone who whom he came in contact. Quiet and unassuming, he never spoke of what motivated him to give without hesitation to individuals, clubs and other groups, whether it be cash donations, trophies, etc.
The local footballers formed a guard of honour, and barmen employed at the pub carried the coffin. At the graveyard it was shouldered by the tug o’war team. Well known Comhalas member Mick Crehan played a lament at the graveside.
It was nineteen years ago the Pat, then a barman at Carrolls in Allenwood, bought the tiny pub in Prosperous. He combined a philantrophic (sic) nature with a good business sense which saw it expand rapidly. It gave life to the local branch of Comhaltas and at one time there were few musicians of note who did not play at The well known Wednesday night sessions.
Photographs on the wall relive many memorable nights of impromptu sessions. Anyone was likely to turn up at Dowlings and they had the best of sound equipment on hand to provide entertainment that drew visitors from at home and abroad. Christy Moore and Donal Lunny were just two of the regulars there.
Pat’s one ambition had been to own his own pub and he put much of his life into running it. He was known to have taken only two holidays – both to the U.S.
The regular Wednesday night sessions continued at Dowlings up to last week. It is understood the pub will remain in the family – Pat himself was single – yet a family member said this week it would never be the same without its proprietor.
Priest and former priests from the parish and from surrounding parishes assisted at the funeral. The attendance included Deputies Paddy Power, Charlie McCreevy and Bernard Durkan. Chief mourners were his brothers, Jim, Arthur, Michael, Sean, Joe and Tom.
The funeral of Prosperous pub owner, Pat Dowling, who died in March 1983
Pat Dowling was always smiling and always a happy man. Here is a rare photo of the man himself.
The front of Dowlings. The front part of the pub has not changed since it was built. This was where some of Ireland's top folk and traditional players gathered for many memorable music sessions.
Pat Dowling and Christy Moore. They were very close friends and when Pat died, Christy was heart-broken.
Pat Dowling in his later days with Andy Irvine and Christy Moore. When the music sessions started in Dowlings, nobody could have guessed that it would have turned out as popular as it became. It was a mecca for the who's who of Irish folk and traditional music players.
Irish Music in Prosperous