by Paddy Walsh
On Saturday morning, the ten o’clock mass in St Eunan’s Cathedral was specially dedicated to the newly arrived nonagenarian, Dan McTeague, and his spouse, Bernie, who, as celebrant Fr Kevin Gillespie quipped, “had been putting up with him all these years!.”
The massed Cathedral choirs, conducted by Frank Breslin, provided a selection of hymns throughout until Dan was invited to join them from the congregation for the final offering “A Time for all Good Things” – his voice adding considerably, as it always does, to the occasion.
A voice that had spent “many, many years praising God” through song, as Mons Gillespie indicated.
And after he and his family, friends and fellow choir members embraced at the conclusion of the mass, it was off to the McTeague home in Glencar for the party of all parties and an extensive selection of pastries and cakes and other tasty edibles.
And out of the oven, hot buttered scones which could have been warmed by the atmosphere alone.
The birthday greetings were endless – the 90 year old taking it all in his stride and sharing some moments from his life to date.
Back in the singing sixties Dan was accompanied on a tour of the United States by fellow entertainers, Jo McGlinchey, Maureen Hegarty, and Fr. Tommy Doherty – a visit to help raise funding for the proposed new Doe Chapel in Creeslough.
“We played fourteen concerts in all around the States and all of it was organised by Irish emigrants.” Including the one in Chicago where Market Square native, John Boyle, made the arrangements.
“All we had to do was turn up and sing.”
And perform the quartet did, raising, Dan believes, in the region of 20,000 dollars to go towards the new chapel in Creeslough.”We had a great time. Ah, those were the days,” he reflects.
“Did you ever see the film ‘The Towering Inferno?”, Dan enquires of the group gathered around him in the kitchen.
A few nods of heads affirm that they had, prompting the man of the moment to reveal: “Well, I sang in the hotel where some of the scenes were filmed.”
The hotel in question was the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco where the Donegal contingent performed as part of their tour in the sixties.
“The hotel had its own orchestra and the conductor gave me a long playing record to take home with me. And I still have it somewhere,’ Dan points to the sitting room and a stack of L.P.’s closeted together on the shelf.
“Wait til I show you this,” Dan rises and heads to the sitting room only to be waylaid there for some time for a rendering of ‘Happy Birthday’ and a few other musical offerings.
Eventually he returns, bearing a small and time-worn card with the heading over a short item: ‘Dan’s our Winner’.
What he had won was a competition organised by ‘Carlsberg’ where entrants picked their best ever European football eleven. Footballing experts had picked the selection beforehand and Dan was one who correctly chose nine of the players.
‘We got a trip to Wembley for the prize and were treated like royalty. And I got shaking hands with the great Stanley Matthews. I’ve a photo of me standing beside him.” In the presence of greatness though Stanley may not have been aware of it!
Then it was back to the sing-song where ‘The West’s Awake’ and other renditions displayed that tenor voice in all its richness with a well tuned backing choir to help the party along.
“Where’s Bernie? This is a special song for Bernie,” he declares before his good wife is ushered out from the kitchen where she has been engaging with family and other guests.
And with that Dan breaks into a rendering of a song that is older than himself, ‘Silver Threads Among the Gold”.
“A special song for Bernie” he declares and the couple lock eyes and hearts while he performs it.
“Love is always young and fair;
What to us is silver hair,
Faded cheeks or steps grown slow,
To the hearts that beat below.
Since I kissed you, mine alone,
You have never older grown….”