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President unveils Rory Gallagher commemorative coin

The coin is the first in a series of three honouring modern Irish musicians

Staff Reporter

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Staff Reporter

Special €15 coin honours Ballyshannon Rocker Rory Gallagher

The new coin officially marks the 70th anniversary of Gallagher’s birth at the Rock Hospital in Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, in 1948, where he spent his early years before the family moved to Cork.

President Michael D  Higgins has unveiled a new commemorative coin in honour of the legendary Donegal-born guitarist Rory Gallagher.

Rory was born in the appropriately named Rock Hospital, Ballyshannon in 1948.

The unveiling event took place in Áras an Uachtaráin yesterday. Central Bank Governor Philip R. Lane presented the Rory Gallagher silver coin to President Higgins.

Rory Gallagher’s brother, Dónal Gallagher, a regular visitor to Ballyshannon over many years and coin designer Michael Guilfoyle will also be presented with a coin.

The coin, produced by the Central Bank of Ireland, is the first in a series of three honouring modern Irish musicians. It will be followed by a Phil Lynott coin in 2019 and a Luke Kelly coin in 2020.

The annual Rory Gallagher International Festival draws thousands of fans and music lovers to the banks of the Erne in Ballyshannon every June Bank holiday.

The Legal tender coin with €15 face value to be sold at €60 each as only 3,000 copies being minted.

Speaking at the event President Higgins said:

“In our time, I would ask what better symbol could we find for our creative, artistic, freedom-loving country than an image of one of our most iconic musicians, Rory Gallagher? I am so pleased that the Central Bank, assisted by the Numismatic Advisory Committee and spurred on by members of the public, decided to honour and commemorate Rory in this way.

“Rory Gallagher was born in Ballyshannon in County Donegal, although I know that Cork people often try to claim him because his family moved down. Indeed, you can find a statue of Rory in Ballyshannon and you can find one just off St. Patrick’s Street, just as you can find a street named after Rory in Dublin. I know that it is intended to erect another statute outside Ulster Hall in Belfast, which is so appropriate given Rory’s long association with a venue to which he brought light, hope and the blues during the darkest days of the Troubles.

“Rory began his career, like so many musicians in the 1960s, as part of the showbands which toured the ballrooms of Ireland. They were a representative of the vibrant culture of the 1960s, when so many Irish people were hungry for knowledge of the world, for new books, new music, new culture, new experiences. Each of the members of Impact, Rory’s showband, were expected to adopt the style of one of their heroes. Rory Gallagher chose Chuck Berry, who drew on the deep tradition of African-American music to become one of the pioneers of rock and roll. Rory would later star and record with Chuck Berry. I believe that there is a wonderful YouTube clip of Rory performing a cover of Nadine on the German TV show Rockpalast in 1982.

"Rory enjoyed success in Ireland and internationally with Taste, a blues band he formed in 1965, with whom he recorded three albums, and later with Gerry McAvoy and Wilgar Campbell, with whom he performed under the name ‘Rory Gallagher’, a reflection of the following he had gained amongst rock and roll fans across the world. Already by the 1970s he was being hailed as the best guitarist in the world.

"Those who were fortunate to attend his gigs during the 1970s and 1980s can attest to the vitality and vibrancy of those concerts, as well as his sheer talent and excellence on the guitar. Indeed, so complete was his mastery it is now impossible to mention the Fender Stratocaster without thinking of Rory Gallagher.

"Rory was not only popular for his ability – though he was one of the greatest musicians of his age. As all who knew him will tell you, he was warm, generous, kind and compassionate – indeed so much so that he belied all the stereotypes of the ‘rock star’. At concerts, he was never distant but was always glad to be among those attending, before and after."