Sandie Jones pictured with Michael O’Connor at the Starland Ballroom, Ballyhaunis, in April 1974.

Remembering the late Sandie Jones one year on

Tribute by Michael O'Connor

IT got little to no coverage in media circles at the time of her sad passing.

Like in so many instances, she was now a yesterday's person, having been off the radar for a long number of years due to the fact she emigrated to the Middle East and in latter years resided in the US State of Colorado.

Sandie came onto the national spotlight as lead vocalist of Dublin-based showband The Royal Earls.

They were regular stage performers at the Wednesday night dances held in The Gaiety Ballroom, Islandeady.

Their luxury white coloured Ford Transit would roll into the forecourt of the Lone Star Service Station, Newantrim Street, Castlebar, during the years 1969-1971, where I was an employee at the time.

I got to know Sandie and her band colleagues very much on a personal level and I became a fan of her singing talents.

Her musical career got even greater recognition in early 1972 when she was asked to join Cork City's Dixies Showband, a very high profile band that achieved numerous successes both at home and abroad, including the Las Vegas cabaret scene.

By now Brendan O'Brien, labelled as Ireland's Buddy Holly, and unrivalled funnyman drummer Joe McCarthy had both departed from the Dixies at this stage to form and front an exciting new band, Stage 2.

Replacement Sandie and Joe O'Toole co-shared as lead vocalists. It was a challenge they relished.

Sandie, who had won the 1972 National Song Contest, was now about to represent Ireland that year in the Eurovision finals held in Edinburgh, Scotland. The song, which came 10th in the result placings, was entitled ‘Ceol an Ghrá’ - for her and The Dixies, it reached number one in the Irish Music Charts in March 1972.

It was the first time in Ireland's participation at Eurovision level that the entry song was in the native language.

Though it began in 1957, Butch Moore was the first to represent our country in the 1965 contest in Naples, Italy, with the song ‘Walking the Streets in the Rain’, and it came sixth in the contest.

In 1974, Sandie was fronting her own band, The Boyfriends, which included in the line-up Pat Lynch, formerly frontman with The Orchards at the 1970 Castlebar International Song Contest.

Sandie Jones, backed by her band The Royal Earls, performed in the pop section with a song entitled ‘Let Me Know’ and she was fondly remembered for her soft spoken voice and consistent pleasant manner.

In her later years, she had to battle with health problems and personal trauma and she sadly passed away on Wednesday, September 18, 2019, a day shy of her 68th birthday.

Her body was cremated and her ashes brought back to her native Ireland where they were interred following funeral Mass at her local parish church in Dublin back in March.

May she rest in peace.

(Michael O'Connor is a music historian)

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