Songwriters honoured for WWI ballad

The late Sam Starrett
The late Sam Starrett

A song penned by three north west musicians that recalls the human tragedy of the First World War has been named folk song of the year by BBC Radio Devon.

Written by the late Sam Starrett, Richard Laird and Tracey McRory, ‘John Condon’, recounts the tale of a 14 year-old Waterford boy who was the youngest known soldier to die in the First World War.

The emotive ballad was named BBC Radio Devon’s folk programme’s song of the year, beating the likes of Richard Thompson and Paul Brady to the number one spot.

Now a local audience will have the chance to hear the song - and others inspired by World War One - at a concert to be held in the Playhouse on November 13.

The concert has been organised by Tracey McRory and Richard Laird and they are delighted that Richard Digance - host of the folk programme on Radio Devon - will be joining them for a special performance, his first ever on the island of Ireland.

Richard Laird says local music lovers can expect some exceptional performances.

“There will also be a host of other wonderful performers taking part - Sean Donnelly, Janet Dowd, the talented Eddie O’ Donnell and Marie Clarke. And there will be a very special performance of our song ‘Boys of the Island’ by Thornhill College Choir.”

Following a visit to the Battlefields of Flanders in 2002 the songwriters felt inspired by the tragic beauty that preserves the memories and secrets of a lost generation of young men to write an album ‘Boys of the Island’, which includes the song John Condon sung by Mary Dillon,

Since ‘John Condon’s’ release, the song has been recorded by a number of other artists: Niamh Parsons; Jerry Lynch; Flossie Malavialle and most recently, beautiful and emotive Co. Armagh singer Janet Dowd. It was Janet Dowd’s version that was named Number One by Radio Devon.

The Playhouse concert gets underway at 8pm on November 13. To book or for more information visit or telephone 71 268027.