Limerick musician Aidan Clohessy hits the right chord

Eugene Phelan

Reporter:

Eugene Phelan

Aidan Clohessy: 'Everyone should dance a dance with someone they love or sing a song with someone they love'. Picture: Adrian Butler
ON July 18, 2007 the family of well know Limerick singer song writer Aidan Clohessy were called to his bedside at the Regional Hospital in Dooradoyle, and advised to say their goodbyes.

ON July 18, 2007 the family of well know Limerick singer song writer Aidan Clohessy were called to his bedside at the Regional Hospital in Dooradoyle, and advised to say their goodbyes.

Aidan had throat cancer and had serious complication after his operation of July 2 and doctors felt he had little chance of survival.

His wife Grainne and children, Kate, Sarah and Jack feared the worst as the doctors felt there was no more they could do.

But Aidan is made of sterner stuff.

To be diagnosed with cancer is everyone’s nightmare. But when you are a professional singer and you are diagnosed with cancer of the throat it is even more difficult to accept.

Aidan survived, but lost his voice and could no longer sing and generate an income.

But remarkably this Christmas he has, despite this devastating blow, brought out a new CD with outstanding vocalist Karen Fitzgerald, with all proceeds going to local charities.

Aidan speaks with the use of a prosthesis along with a breathing technique taught to him while in hospital.

His promising singing career is over, but he can still play the guitar and write songs.

“I just want to say thanks to Karen, who is brilliant and had given life to my song with her unique voice,” explains the 52-year-old, who was born and raised in Lifford Gardens, South Circular Road, Limerick and now lives in Corbally.

His courage is remarkable. Despite all his traumas and troubles he has now brought out a CD to raise money for cancer and other local charities.

He has written the lyrics of the five songs with passion, humour and understanding of how fortunate he is to be alive and seeing things in a totally different perspective, learning to laugh, appreciate his family and love music again.

His first song is titled Before I Go which he explained is about mental notes of things he had not done. He was thinking about these in the hospital bed as he fell in and out of consciousness and felt he was dying.

“Before I Go were the words that came to mind every time I woke. As the days turned into weeks and the weeks to months it became obvious that I would survive after all. Much, much later when I finally got around to finishing the song, it remained clear that everyone should dance a dance with someone they love or sing a song with someone they love. One day it just may be too late.”

He also quite fittingly has a song about his wife Grainne, who “has been to hell and back with me” for the past 30 years. He added in a note on the CD cover: “I’m sure that without her, my life would have ended long ago. She fought when I could not ... stamping her feet and shaking her fists at surgeons, shouting ‘Fix him, fix him, fix him.’ Without her they might not have succeeded.”

Aidan worked in construction for many years, before getting a break in the music business when he was asked to perform a regular spot at Durty Nellys.

This was at a time when you could hardly get in the door of the still popular pub at Bunratty with tourists and locals alike, drinking and singing to their hearts content.

Then he got an even bigger break – a record contract – and he started performing seven nights a week touring Ireland with his five piece band. His dream had come true.

It started to get better and better playing on a Wednesday night in the Crafton Plaza, Dublin in front of 2,000 patrons, at a gig that also included David Essex.

“We were the first Irish band to play – it was a huge gig for us, you know. There were 2,000 people on a Wednesday night, so that was brilliant. That was really the night we thought, ‘Yes we have made it.’”

But in 2003 the expense of having to earn enough for five band members each week took its toll on them and they split up, with Aidan returning to construction and playing the odd weekend gig.

It was while singing at a family birthday party late in 2005 that Aidan noticed his voice had started to deteriorate. He put it down to laryngitis, not uncommon among singers.

A visit to his local GP found that he had something in his gland that would have to be removed. The operation was in December 2005. Cancerous cells were found and he had to have immediate treatment.

Aidan ended up having radiotherapy, and after a month’s intensive treatment was given the all clear. But in June 2006 it was back with a vengeance – this time a tumour on his vocal cord. He was scheduled to have a partial laryngectomy, but during the operation they discovered the situation was much worse than they thought as they found several more tumours, meaning he would have to have a total laryngectomy.

He returned on July 1 for surgery and after spending a few days in the intensive care unit complications set in. The family were called and told to expect the worst. Aidan eventually pulled through but had a very tough time – not only physically, with his weight going down to eight stone, but also psychologically. It was a dark time in his life.

But he is back and his life routine has changed. No drink, no smoking, no rubbish food. It’s now golf and a healthy lifestyle – and his love of music is back.

Aidan’s CD is on sale at Larkins Pub, Parteen; Pascals Bar, Corbally; The Corbally Bar (O’Driscoll’s); Anthony O’Dwyers, Wolfe Tone Street; Brendan O’Brien’s, Roches Street; The Black Swan, Annacotty and Fairview Rangers Football Club.