The 12-Step Guide To Becoming More Like Luke Kelly

The 12-Step Guide To Becoming More Like Luke Kelly

A national treasure and music icon, Luke Kelly transcended folk music into something different. For 24 years, Kelly filled hoards of Irish people worldwide with a sense of purpose - be it simply in music or their sense of national pride.

But how can we be more like him?

1) Keep growing a beard like you don't give a damn

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The only place to start.

2) Cultivate your Irish 'fro


This kid knows what's up. Eat your crusts, take a trip to Peter Mark - just do what you can.

3) Don an Aran jumper to your next session


You can knit one using your own beard hair.

4) Get hired as an oil barrel cleaner or vacuum salesman on your J1

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Kelly moved to the UK in 1958, aged 17. After getting fired from a building site for asking for a raise, Kelly's odd jobs included a stint flogging hoovers and hotel cellerman, before moving on to scrape the bottom of oil barrels.

5) Read James Joyce's book of short stories, Dubliners


The Dubliners' band name wasn't as straightforward as it seems. Kelly suggested the title having been inspired by a book of short stories of the same name, written by James Joyce. The book largely dealt with Ireland's search for a national identity and purpose - which would later be greatly reflected in both Kelly and The Dubliners' own music.

Many of the characters in Dubliners later appear in minor capacities in Joyce's Ulysses.

6) Play King Herod in a stage production of Jesus Christ Superstar

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Kelly produced a then surprisingly stellar performance in 1973's performance at the Gaiety Theatre, his rehearsals for which can be seen on Youtube.

7) Take up a keen interest in politics


In the height of the troubles, Kelly and The Dubliners made a conscious effort to curb their airing of rebel songs in concert. Kelly was also keenly interested in communism, for which his bandmates - Ronnie Drew in particular - often took the mick out of him.

One of Drew’s favourite Kelly stories involved a Dublin pub scene, when a drunk man declared to Kelly, “If I had a gun, I’d join the IRA.”

To which Kelly replied,

“If you had a gun, you’d pawn it.”

8) Hang a signed photograph of yourself in Bono's bathroom


Fun fact about Bono: He has a signed Luke Kelly photograph in his jacks.

9) Have a world famous poet request you sing one of his or her poems


It was Patrick Kavanagh himself who approached Kelly in the Bailey pub and asked that he sing the poem 'On Raglan Road,' (which is set to the tune of old Irish air 'The Dawning of the Day').

10) Request that your gravestone read, "Luke Kelly - Dubliner"


Let's be honest, that would be a bit morbidly creepy, but - as posthumous homages go - Kelly's epitaph is strangely epic. The Dubliner is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.

11) Outsell U2's latest live DVD at Christmas

21 years after Kelly's death, Michael Feeney Callan's documentary, Luke Kelly: The Performer, outsold U2's Vertigo: Live From Chicago during the festive season in 2005, and into early 2006. You can check out the trailer above.

12) Have every Irish pub in the Mediterranean named in your honour


Is it just me or is every Irish bar in Cyprus and Greece named after Luke Kelly? At the very least, every Irish pub in the world has a picture of Kelly or The Dubliners. And with good reason.

Gavan Casey
Article written by
Former handwriting champion. Was violently bitten by a pelican at Fota Wildlife Park in 2001.

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