East Antrim man Joe backs calls for Rory Gallagher statue

Rory Gallagher pictured at a seminar in the YMCA Wellington Place just before his gig in the Ulster Hall in 1979.  INLT 33-688-CON
Rory Gallagher pictured at a seminar in the YMCA Wellington Place just before his gig in the Ulster Hall in 1979. INLT 33-688-CON

Plans to erect a statue of legendary Irish blues guitarist Rory Gallagher have been given the thumbs up by east Antrim man Joe Cohen.

Gallagher, who sold more than 30 million albums worldwide in his career, was a huge crowd pleaser among Northern Ireland’s rock fans in the 1970s. For a time he lived in Derry, before moving on to Cork.

The soft-spoken rocker, characterised by his flowing locks and trademark working man stage clothes, was a self taught virtuoso who forged a musical revolution in his native land, shunning the traps of fame and stardom yet becoming a universally acclaimed international folk hero.

And long-time fan Joe, who lives in Newtownabbey and had the pleasure of interviewing the Gallagher at a seminar in 1979, has given his full support to a plan that could see the famous musician immortalised in a bronze statue outside the Ulster Hall in Belfast.

Joe said: “Rory Gallagher was one of the few artists who came to Belfast throughout our blackest days, when Northern Ireland was convulsed with brutal sectarian hatred, he united both sides of the community divide to sell-out concerts at The Ulster Hall,

“In recognition, I am delighted to hear that plans are well under way to have a bronze statue erected outside the Ulster Hall between June, 2015 and January, 2016.”

The project has been taken up by The Wilgar Rock and Blues Festival who staged a three-day event at Dundella Football Club on Wilgar Street recently. The Pat McManus Band, Rab McCullough and Friends, Flash Harry and Rob Strong and many more big names headlined the bill.

Event Director Gordon Floyd added: “Some of the proceeds generated at the event will go to the Rory Gallagher Statue Fund; Rory was instrumental in the evolution of the rock and blues genre and his influence is still felt today and his talent celebrated the world over.

“We believe that his fan base in Northern Ireland should be able to commemorate his life with the addition to a statue in Belfast.”

Gallagher is commemorated throughout Ireland, with a bronze statue in Ballyshannon where he was born, a sculpture in Cork where the local theatre is named after him, a mounted guitar in Dublin, a plaque in Belfast and his famously battered paint stripped Sunburst Strat has been marketed by Fender in a tribute model. There is a Rue Rory Gallagher in Paris, an annual festival in Ireland and tribute concerts held around the world.