Tuesday, 27 January 2009
Louis Walsh Names Mayo
Person of the Year
By Michael Cummins
maestro Louis Walsh from Kiltimagh is the Mayo Person of the
Year for 2009. He will be the guest of honour at the annual
dinner dance of the Mayo Association in Dublin on Friday
night, February 13, in the City West Hotel. He was nominated
by Kiltimagh IRD for the prestigious accolade.
The official announcement
was made at a ceremony in Dublin last night (Monday), hosted
by the Mayo Association in the city. The citation read:
“After protracted discussions, the judges finally decided on
a man who has reached the pinnacle of his chosen career. A
man who has conquered the tough world of show business and
has introduced a veritable who’s who of music stars, from
Eurovision winners Johnny Logan and Linda Martin in the ‘80s
to Boyzone, Westlife and Girls Aloud.
“His acts have sold
hundreds of millions of euro worth of CDs and tickets and
are recognised across the globe. He is a son of Kiltimagh
and retains strong roots in the area through his mother and
siblings and he is a regular contributor to numerous
charities, albeit quietly. He’s extremely proud of where he
comes from and will make a wonderful ambassador for Mayo.”
Kiltimagh kid who never forgot his roots
He may have amassed 28 number one
hits with various artists, but Louis Walsh is still as
hard-working as ever
IT was the early 1970s and Louis had just arrived in the
town. “Lithe and wiry with a crop of copper curls skimming
his forehead, casual in corded jacket and elephant flairs,”
was how Julie Boyd described him in New Spotlight magazine,
the bible of the showbiz circuit back then, under the
headline ‘The kid from Kiltimagh’. It was his first
introduction at national level to the Irish showbiz scene.
This week, Louis has been honoured by his home county with
the accolade of Mayo Person of the Year. Few can begrudge
the honour to one of Mayo’s most famous sons.
One of a family of ten
born to Maureen (nee Healy) and the late Frank Walsh,
Michael Louis Walsh grew up in a family that had roots in
both the town and country. His father Frank supplied milk
from the farm to neighbours in Kiltimagh while the family
also knew tragedy and heartbreak at an early age with the
death of their daughter Catherine at the age of three and
Louis got his first taste
for the music from Pete Browne who lived across the road.
Pete had his own band which was popular in the western
circuit. A number of the band went on to form the Royal
Blues and Louis was later to become very friendly with Andy
Creighton, their manager in Claremorris, and Frank and
Vincent Gill from nearby Murneen who were part of the
original band. During the time the Gill brothers operated
the Blues Inn pub in D’Alton Street, Claremorris, Louis
helped out there during the summer holidays, clearly in awe
of the showband scene of the era. The first group he took
under his wing while still a teenager in Kiltimagh was local
pop outfit, Time Machine.
He was 19 when he headed
off to Dublin where he got his first break in the city with
Tommy Hayden Enterprises. Tommy Hayden’s office had four
bands at the time, The Nevada, Buckshot, Lyttle People and
The Ventures. Louis was quick to learn the ropes. In an
interview back then, Louis recalled how he had been road
manager with the New Blues which featured a number of Mayo
musicians. “I was responsible for their welfare on the road,
transportation and equipment. I set up their gear before a
gig and dismantled it afterwards, packing the wagon. I
travelled to nearly every town in Ireland as their aide.”
He came to major
prominence when he took over the diary for Eurovision winner
Johnny Logan in 1980 and also for Linda Martin and Chips. By
now, Louis was making his mark. But not everything was
working out for him and he had some major failures as well
as big success. That’s showbiz.
It was perhaps his role
in promoting Boyzone to the top of the UK charts and turning
them into a major international boy band act in the 1990s
that copper-fastened his growing reputation on the circuit.
He spotted a niche in the market, originally created by the
Bay City Rollers in the 1970s, and he went after it. Later
came Westlife and the rest is history.
These days, apart from
guiding Westlife, Louis is synonymous with The X Factor, the
British music talent contest for aspiring singers. He serves
as one of the three adjudicators. It goes out on the ITV
network in the UK and TV3 here in Ireland and is the biggest
television talent show in Europe. The final of the series
attracted in the region of 13 million viewers.
The submission by
Kiltimagh IRD, under the guidance of former Mayo Person of
the Year, Brian Mooney, states: “Louis is the most famous of
all Mayo people of modern times. Known internationally,
particularly among the younger generations who revere the
very ground he walks on, Louis Walsh has put Mayo and indeed
his native Kiltimagh on the world map.
“He has always been proud
to acknowledge his roots and his family, his native village
and county and this has served to heighten the profile of
the county of his birth in a very positive way. “Even in
good times, his profession is difficult. You are always in
the public eye. You are always in the eye of a predatory
media who wait eagerly for you to trip up. Then they pounce
and make a mockery of you. There is always the fear of being
taken out of context even when you utter something with the
best intentions possible. This is considerable pressure to
live your life under. But Louis has done so for many years,
constantly in the public eye.
“Louis is intensely
private in his dealings with families and in his support of
charities and community organisations.
“Louis Walsh is the undisputed king of the Irish pop scene.
He is the man behind some of the most successful bands in
pop history, masterminding the careers of Boyzone, Westlife,
Samantha Mumba, Girls Aloud and Shayne Ward. The fact that
he has achieved a staggering 28 number one hits is a
testament to his success and is one of the reasons why Louis
Walsh is one of the most respected names in the music
“Fame and success have
raised his profile to that of an international star but it
hasn’t changed his life. Beneath it all, Louis is still the
same hard-working Kiltimagh and Mayo man he always has been.
We genuinely feel that it is time that Louis Walsh was
honoured in his native place. We also feel that he will be a
very acceptable and popular winner and that he will be an
excellent ambassador for the Mayo Association and for his
native county during his tenure as Mayo Person of the Year.”
He is the fifth winner of
the title from the general Kiltimagh area. The first
recipient of the honour was the late William (Liam) O’Hora
(a brother of Vinnie in Treenagleragh). He was followed in
the 1970s by Tom Jordan, while Brian Mooney was the next to
be honoured with the title in the 1990s. In more recent
years, Mary Davis (nee Rooney) was presented with the award
for her role as the head of the World Special Olympics which
was hosted by Ireland five years ago. The kid from Kiltimagh
has indeed come a long way. Well done, Louis.
An honour long overdue
SINCE my days in national school in Cuiltybo, I’ve known the
Walsh family from Chapel Street, Kiltimagh. Part of my
summer holidays were spent in nearby Kiltimagh where my two
aunts, Kathleen Commins and Julia McTigue, had small pubs in
the town. Even though we were in the parish of Claremorris,
Kiltimagh was our town back then. It was just over three
miles down to Kiltimagh, across the Yellow River bridge and
on by Henry King’s and McNicholas’s. (Mai McNicholas is
mother of Westlife star, Shane Filan in Sligo). I even
helped my father walk the cattle along that road to the fair
in Kiltimagh in those far-off days.
I can hardly remember a
time that I did not know Frank and Maureen Walsh in Chapel
Street. They were lovely people and you always felt at home
in their company. Down at Mike Keane’s garage, Frank would
ramble in for a chat. How many were the times we talked
there over the years, easy talk about innocent times. Louis
was away in Dublin at that stage, involved with the bands.
“Some day he’ll get a right job!” his mother and father
would often say!
My days after secondary
school were spent with the Bank of Ireland but I too loved
the world of music and the bands. After leaving the bank, I
edited Entertainment News for some time, a showbiz magazine
owned by Tony Loughman from Castleblayney. It involved a
good many trips to Dublin and I often met Louis Walsh in
Tommy Hayden’s office in those times.
He was a typical Walsh,
always smiling and asking about some of the characters from
back home in Kiltimagh. Must admit, I never though back then
that Louis would scale the heights that fate had in store
for him. But he stuck at it and never got above his station.
Louis has his critics and detractors, but I will say one
thing without fear or favour ... there has never been a mean
streak in the Walsh family of Chapel Street. Salt of the
earth Mayo people with roots in Kiltimagh and Knock, a door
that I never need knock on, just walk in and make myself at
home with the lovely Maureen (Louis’ mother), surely one of
the nicest people you will ever meet on life’s journey.
Grandeur is a word that does not exist in her dictionary.
She is so rooted in the rural ethos of Mayo and so are her
And while the limelight
will be on Louis on February 13 in Dublin, one of the
biggest cheers of the night should be reserved for his
outstanding mother, the one and only Maureen. And if her
late husband Frank is watching from on high, he too can take
a bow. I, for one, am proud to call the Walsh family of
Kiltimagh friends since my schooldays. Well done, Louis, on
an honour long overdue.
The Mayo News,
The Fairgreen, Westport, Co. Mayo, Ireland.
Telephone: +98 25311 Fax: +98 26108 Email: