The Chieftains and our Chess Kings

Thirty years ago Ireland’s legendary traditional band the Chieftains celebrated their 21st Birthday with a sell-out concert at the then-new National Concert Hall. All proceeds from the programme sales were passed on to the Irish Braille Chess Association, members of Vision Sports Ireland, to fund the Irish team who were setting out for the 1984 Braille Chess Olympiad.

Philip Doyle, who has represented Ireland at Chess Olympiad since 1980, sent us on some terrific material to mark the 30th Anniversary of what was a major year in Irish Braille Chess. Included here is a photo of Philip playing the late Michael Keane at the Lord Edward pub in Dublin to mark the launch of the Chieftains 21st Birthday Party. The Chieftains lead man Paddy Maloney may have worked with Sir Paul McCartney, Mike Oldfield, Kate Bush and many more but in February 1984 he sat down with our own legends: the Irish Braille Chess Association.

Philip sent us an extract from a first-class book on the Chieftains by John Glatt. Now, this really sets the mood of the occasion:

On February 12th, 1984, the Chieftains celebrated their 21st birthday with a special Champaign concert at Dublin’s National Concert Hall.

Ex-Chieftain’s, Michael Tubridy and Sean Potts were reunited with their old bandmates for the sold-out concert, which was also a fundraiser to send an Irish team to the Blind Chess Olympics in New Jersey.

There was also a tinge of sadness, as the Chieftains played The march of the King of Laois, in memory of their old friend, Luke Kelly of the Dubliners, who had recently died.

The grand finale of the evening saw a rousing medley of jigs and reels, where the Chieftains were joined on stage by set dancers and drummers and pipers from the Rathcoole Pipe Band.

From the stage, the victorious Chieftains, toasted the audience with Champaign, as a huge birthday cake bearing the words Congratulations Chieftains, 21 years in show business, was carried on to the stage.

As Paddy Maloney blew out the candles with the bellows from his Uilleann pipes, he seemed to have achieved his lifelong dream of helping to preserve traditional music for future generations to come.

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