Pat Campell recording his version of 'Grace'

VIDEO: Ex-FÁS manager records 1916 song in tribute to his father

While life in lockdown has its challenges, it can also present some unexpected opportunities, as Pat Campbell discovered.

In recent months Pat, who is well-known in the Athlone area having managed FÁS locally for many years, was approached by a friend and studio owner in Sligo who invited him to record 'Grace', the folk song made famous by Jim McCann and others.

Pat duly delivered a lovely rendition of the poignant ballad, which was inspired by Grace Gifford's marriage to Joseph Plunkett in the hours before Plunkett was executed as one of the leaders of the 1916 Rising.

His recording of the song has since been released on CD, and a video of it, which includes historical images reflecting the context of the song, was uploaded to YouTube.

"This was something I wouldn't ordinarily have done, only we had all this time on our hands," Pat told the Westmeath Independent.

He dedicated his recording of the song to his late father, John Campbell, a Dublin man who was born in April 1916, the month of the Easter Rising. Pat explained that his Dad had bought him his first guitar when he was 14 or 15 years old.

"My Dad liked to sing, but he never recorded anything or never played an instrument. At that time, there was a big interest in opera music among the ordinary people of Dublin.

"If there was a house gathering, or at Christmas time, my Dad used to sing a few pieces that John McCormack would have sang. He would have always encouraged me to sing, probably because he didn't have the same opportunities

"I felt that (with this recording of 'Grace') he would have appreciated that I had gotten to do something that he wouldn't have been able to do in his time."

Pat, who is chairperson of the Athlone Community Taskforce, retired from FÁS in 2010. Married to Jeanette, a retired nurse, he divides his time between Athlone and the village of Cloonacool in Sligo.

Musically, Pat has been involved with Sligo Musical Society and the Athlone Choral Society over the years.

Playing at a regular Thursday night session in a pub in Sligo, he got to know Chris Stapleton, a talented musician and the proprietor of Ox Mountain Studios in Cloonacool.

The recording of 'Grace' was made at Chris' studios, and Pat was justifiably happy with the result.

"I was quite surprised. It's the accompanying music that helps it," he said, modestly.

"I would never see myself as a professional performer, or someone who would perform for money. This is purely a hobby."

A small number of the CDs were made, for distribution to family and friends. The video of Pat's recording of 'Grace' can be viewed here:

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