Philomena Begley, known as the Queen of Country Music of Ireland, has made a firm impression on the Irish, British and European markets. She is the fourth of eight children. Philomena had a typical Irish upbringing with a love of country music. This had been instilled in her from an early age. It also encouraged her mother to sing while her father was playing accordion. Philomena was inspired by Hank Williams. As a child she earned ten shillings (75 cents) singing a duet with another girl at Clarrie Hayden’s Traveling Show.
She was working at Fishers Hat Factory in Cookstown and Tyrone County during the day. Philomena joined the Old Cross Ceili Band to take her time at night. She got a husband (a member of the band) in the process. Then she cut her first album, My Little Son (1968). Two more records were published under the Old Cross banner, Old Ardboe and The Box It Came In. None of them made an impact on the Irish Charts.
At this time (1970-71), the band signed with Dublin-based promoter Nelius O’Connell. This reflected the increasing success of Country music in Ireland, the band’s name was quickly changed to Country Flavor. The line-up included John O’Neill (accordion), Kevin Casey (drums), Michael McNally (RIP-guitar), Philomena Begley (vocals), Pat Hamill (fiddle), Dan O’Hara (RIP-guitar/vocals), Brian McNally (RIP-bass), Tom Quinn (keyboards).
Riding the crest of the new country wave in Ireland, the band began to have a greater influence. In 1971, the band set up the Irish Top 10 with Here Now, Gone Tomorrow and Never Again, and they were on their way. Over the next few years, the band has experienced rising success, but as often happens on the showband circuit, success has also caused problems.
Shift in the air
Around 1974, there was a shift in the air again. The band left Nelius O’Connell and signed under Tony Loughman with the rising Top Rank Organization. The band lineup underwent wholesale changes, with only Dan O’Hara and Tom Quinn remaining in the previous band. The new name of the band was the Ramblin’ Men. This band will last 10 years and have a lot of Irish hits. Among them were Ramblin’ Man, a cover of Blanket on the Ground (which Philomena took to No. 5, although Billie Jo Spears only took the original to No. 11), Wait a Little Longer, Once Around the Dance Floor and Whiskey Drinkin’ You.
Duet Success for Philomena Begley
There have also been duet successes with Ray Lynam of the Hillbillies, like You’re the One I Can’t Live Without and My Elusive Dreams. In addition, two albums were released by the pair. More recently, Philomena Begley played with the up-and-coming Irish singer Mick Flavin, celebrating a single success with ‘Til A Tear Becomes a Rose and cutting an album with him, In Harmony. Among her many notable albums is Country, Scots and Irish, in which she mixed songs from or about the two nations..
United States visit
Philomena Begley first visited the United States in 1977, appearing in Boston, New York and Chicago. Her impact was such that the following year, while visiting Nashville, Porter Wagoner invited her to guest on the Grand Ole Opry. In addition, he also produced several singles and albums recorded in his Fireside Studios in Nashville, including Philomena’s Country. Philomena has also appeared on the International Show at Fan Fair. She was also a regular performer at the prestigious Wembley Country Music Festival in England and has also been in demand over the years to support American Country acts whenever they played Britain and Ireland; among these have been Don Williams and Glen Campbell.
Ritz Records and Philomena Begley
In January 1984, Philomena signed with Ritz Records, Ireland’s premier country label, and released a series of albums. In addition, K-Tel released her collection, The Best of Philomena Begley, and it achieved Platinum status. Philomena has also toured extensively as the top of the bill in country clubs, both in her native Ireland, and across the UK. Philomena has also expanded into European dates and in October 1992, Philomena participated in a two-hour special on the satellite radio program, Quality Europe FM, whose potential audience was 150 million people. There was a tremendous response, with phone requests from all over the continent to hear her material. Philomena has appeared extensively on Irish TV, has made a live video and received numerous awards for her achievements.
European Gold Star Award
During 1983 she received the European Gold Star Award in Holland. Perhaps the most significant accolade was the British Country Music Association award in November 1992 in recognition of Philomena Begley’s contribution to the development of country music in Britain. Philomena Begley’s success is in large part due to her ability to handle a wide range of material, whether it be original songs or covers given the Begley treatment. She’s been in the business for over 30 years and retirement is still far from the horizon. When she’s not touring or recording, Philomena relaxes on her family farm.
She has a Facebook page here.