The Dubliners capped a fine night for the Irish at this year’s BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, accepting a lifetime achievement award and ending the night in style.
The veteran Irish band received a message of praise from the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, for their contribution to Irish culture, which had raised the band to the level of “ambassadors” for the whole nation.
And the Young Folk Award went to the band Ioscaid, a group of youngsters from the counties of Down, Armagh, Tyrone and Derry.
John Sheahan, from The Dubliners, said: “It has been a great night for the Irish. It is wonderful and a real honour to receive this award and get that message from the President. He’s a lovely guy and we didn’t know about it.”
The climax of last night’s award ceremony, broadcast live on Radio 2 from The Lowry in Salford, came with The Dubliners singing Dirty Old Town, a traditional folk standard, written by Ewan MacColl, about the city of Salford.
Sheahan, who said the award was for the band’s “first 50 years in the business”, added: “There is something special about that, it came from this immediate area and Ewan MacColl was such a talented writer we have recorded lots of his songs.”
American Pie singer Don McLean also performed live and also received a lifetime achievement award.
He said: “I thank the BBC for thinking of me and honouring me with this award.
“The UK audience has been among the most loyal for over 40 years and without them certainly I wouldn’t be considered for this honour, so I thank the BBC and I thank the British public.”
Hosted by Mike Harding, the awards, now in its 13th year, aimed to celebrate the UK’s vibrant folk scene – currently undergoing a resurgence.
The night in part belonged to June Tabor and Oysterband who picked up four awards for Best Album, Best Traditional Track, Best Group, while June was crowned Folk Singer of the Year.
Tim Edey picked up two awards, Musician of the Year and with Brendan Power the gong for Best Duo.
For the first time the Best Original Song prize was given to two winners, with Bella Hardy’s The Herring Girl and Steve Tilston’s The Reckoning sharing the honours.
The Home Service, whose Live 1986 album was released in 2011 following the discovery of a 25-year old tape, were named as Best Live Act.
Special recognition went to Ian Campbell and Bill Leader who were honoured with the Good Tradition Award which pays tribute to those who keep traditional folk music alive.
Malcolm Taylor OBE, Director of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at the English Folk Dance and Song Society was recognised for his 30 years of service as the recipient of the Roots Award.
Celebrities who were on presenting duty on the night included singer-songwriter Ralph McTell, Billy Elliot playwright Lee Hall, Coronation Street’s Kate Ford (Tracy Barlow), comedians Ed Byrne and Jeremy Hardy and BBC broadcasters Stuart Maconie and Paul Gambaccini.
Highlights of the show will be available on the BBC Red Button for seven days after the award ceremony.