Home » Dency’s swansong as Callan mourns

Dency’s swansong as Callan mourns

by John Fitzgerald

A great singing voice fell silent when Denis Walsh of Mellows Park, Callan, better known as Dency, said goodbye. 

He passed away peacefully on May 17 at St Luke’s General Hospital. He was in his eighties. 

For decades he blazed trail as a popular local entertainer. He had performed at charity functions since 1951 and livened up many a journey for Callan folk heading to All-Ireland hurling finals.

Nolan’s bus was the place to be when Dency sang his hurling songs. 

Many believed his performances were better than the Royal Albert Hall as Jackie or Eddie drove the bus and our very own tenor lifted the spirits of fans en route to a Clash of the Ash.

I wrote about Dency in the 2004 book Callan through the Mists of Time, recalling his exploits, and in particular the events of April 1999, a tense and fretful month for Callan as Dency announced he was to end his long singing career.

He revealed to a disbelieving group of tipplers in the Cosy Inn that a performance at a Search for a Star final the following month would be his last public appearance as a singer of traditional and operatic songs. 

He had entered hundreds of competitions over five decades, winning an impressive 38. 

But, owing to ill health, he felt obliged to give his vocal chords a rest.

He decision to retire coincided with his well-deserved selection to represent Mill Street’s Cosy Inn in the second round of the Smithwick’s Singing Pubs on May 6, 1999 at  Springhill Court Hotel. 

I spoke to Dency before the show. He looked back with a mixture of nostalgia and pride. 

His happiest memories included the night he sang alongside the great Ruby Murray. 

It was on stage of the old cinema in Callan. The softly-softly girl, he called Ruby, referring to her sweet voice.


She took Dency to her heart, praising his interpretation and rendition of classical hymns and Irish ballads. 

She told her Callan audience that Dency had more captivating charm than Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind.

 “Ruby and I made up a dream duet,” Dency joked.

He also took part in the Vic Loving Show when it came to Callan. 

He almost put Vic and her professional entourage in the shade with his own performance, though the visiting celebrity was gracious enough to acknowledge that Dency was a great entertainer.

“Dennis is a man after my own heart,” Vic enthused, pinning a single red rose on Dency’s lapel. 

In the 60s and 70s, locals happily joined in the chorus when Dency sang on hurling bus trips. 

He always kicked off a singsong with the Rose of Mooncoin, to which he famously added his own line: Where the thrush ate the robin and the three balls of twine. 

By the time fans got to Croke Park they were well and truly psyched up for a game.

An admirer of Dency’s recalled an occasion that underlines the esteem in which he was held locally. 

In 1989, a big number of Callan men were on a restoration scheme at Tullamaine Graveyard when Jack Condon called for silence.

There was somebody about to sing on Radio Kilkenny. It was Dency. 

Everybody downed tools. Shovels were abandoned, trowels were dropped and sprongs were put to one side. 

Billhooks were stopped from slashing at a forest of weeds, and the men using them froze when the work supervisor emitted a loud hush. 

The engine of a growling chainsaw being used to cut down a tree suddenly cut out. 

The sound of silence swamped the ancient cemetery. 

The frowning supervisor broke into a beaming smile at the prospect of hearing her favourite tenor perform. 


Workers gathered around a tiny transistor radio mounted on a wall at the entrance to the graveyard. 

They started to cheer as broadcaster Sue Nunn announced that their pal and fellow worker was about to sing. 

The excited supervisor cried hush, lads, he’s on. 

A familiar voice began to rise, swelling by the second to a heart-fluttering crescendo. 

The strains of the Holy City aka Jerusalem pierced the calm of a hot summer’s day.

A pal of Dency’s said it reminded him of a scene from The Shawshank Redemption, in which a group of workers reacted in a similar way when an Italian soprano was heard over a public address. 

Tullamaine toilers were tongue-tied, overwhelmed, and transmogrified by the sweet tones of their mate. 

Given his popularity, one could appreciate the near panic that greeted his retirement declaration. 

A coach was hired to bring locals to Springhill to hear what many feared would be his Dency’s swansong.

Dozens of fans from Callan and neighbouring districts pleaded with him to re-think his decision to retire. 

Candles were lit in the parish church. Prayers winged their way to Heaven, beseeching the Almighty to intervene. 

The prayers were answered.

 Dency agreed to postpone his retirement. He continued to entertain, right up to a few weeks ago when illness interjected.

Dency has now passed through the gates of a celestial home from home that he honoured in song.

He was pre-deceased by his parents Martin and Brigid, brothers Sonny and Jim, his sister Margaret. 

He is missed by his loving family, nieces and nephews, grand nieces, grand nephews, relatives, neighbours and friends, especially Ann and Roland Komar and Bosco and Elaine Bryan.

Related Articles