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Benny McKay

Born in Newry February '43 to a family much steeped in our culture and sport. My dad was a founder member of Newry Shamrock's G.F.C. and a large influence on my upbringing.

I enjoyed many successful years at the hill walking, as well as football and hurling where along with my good friend, the late Sean Hollywood, we laid down many wonderful and enduring memories. We encountered and joined the civil rights movement in the sixties and like Don Quixote we had a tilt at the windmills of life.

In the early seventies I joined the folk scene with Crubeen and found a conduit for my interests in Irish music. A three week tour of France in early '73 almost wrecked my liver and Irish-French relations. In late October we toured England with the legendary Dominic Behan and discovered the indigenous talent of the Behan family. Toured Brittany in '74 where the French customs confiscated a sizeable collection of our LPs.

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'74 saw the release of our LP 'Songs of the Irish people' on our own Clanrye Label and we followed that up with a single featuring my peace poem 'My Home Town' and Dominic Behan's song 'Hope'. In '76 we released a LP on the EMI Label called 'The Eagles Whistle' and in '78 Tony McAuley produced our last LP for CBS Records simply entitled 'Crubeen'.

crubeen.jpg In late '75 we did a winter tour of Paris, with concerts in universities, theatres and gaols. In '76 along with Christy Moore and Joe Burke we highlighted at the all Ireland Fleadh Ceol in Buncrana. Television on RTE's Dermot O'Brien Show and BBC's As I Roved Out helped to increase our standing, and tours of America and Canada gave us international acclaim.

During the 80's we still plied our trade up and down the country and the oil boom led us to the Shetland Islands for a unique series of concerts. In late '89 we lifted up the Iron Curtain with a historic visit to Russia and the honour of opening up the first privately owned pub in Estonia.  The 90's saw our work rate decrease, but we still continue to play those special gigs even to the present day.

I have worked in the Water Service all my life serving the people and have enjoyed the unique qualities of the South Down and South Armagh areas.

I took advantage of an early retirement scheme in '93 and turned my hand to local radio - 'Sunshine' and 'Clanrye FM'. This added a new dimension and perspective to my life, and gave me plenty of time to converse and write. I helped to found a local branch of U.3.A. for retired people in the Newry area and increased my love affair with the mountain ranges of Louth, Down and Armagh with a walking club called 'The Last of the Summer Wine.' I visited ancient and archaeological sites all round Ireland with archaeologist Neill McCooey. We learned to understand and appreciate the highly coloured tapestry, beauty, and diversity of our culture.

The rawness of Behan, the subtlety of Kavanagh and the bluntness of Heaney open many doors to the mind. I am satisfied in my life as I take the opportunities to meander and wander throughout the world in contentment and idyllic bliss.

Contributed February 2008

Writing poetry is another hobby of Benny's, let me share some with you:

Lament for the Boats return to Newry Canal

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In Memory of a very dear friend

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