Irish Singer Hugo Duncan Radio Interview
My next guest is a gentleman who started out in April of 1971 and has covered many songs and many miles and uh has sang to thousands upon thousands of people, a gentleman who's not alone. singer and entertainer but also in the more later years a radio presenter I'm delighted to say hello to the wee man from Strabane himself Hugo Duncan. Hugo how are you, how are you doing right now, too bad at all. Nice to nice to catch up with you Hugo you're still going after all these years you know jerry I, I'm like an old antique now at the moment but I'm still going thank God and I get the biggest buzz out of it that I ever got out of it because it keeps us going through this this uh today you know we're moving through it all and we're we're pandemic sorry when we're going through it all and we're trying our best to keep people happy indeed and you're well done doing uh all of that i mean it was it was an incredible start to a career i mean you you started off with the tall man in 1971 and then you recorded the the iconic hit and it was a huge huge success the song Dear God. That's right you know do you know what I played for and played with the way back in the in the in the 70s and 1970s 69 70. about you might have known them going back a year ago the melody aces thank you's band and in youtube Stuart only direction and David Coyle was the lead singer and Shea Hutchinson who was a great country singer he was there as well and I played that bass guitar with them for a while and sang as well and it just went on from there and then I got an audition with that peel McCann God rest his soul, he died there recently, and pew got me an audition for the for the for the tall men but they weren't the tall man at that time they were Frankie McGrady's old band the polka dots so I got the addiction with some and I went for the edition and there was a bit of a sort of a disagreement at the end of the whole a lot of it not with me but with Pio and the manager and the manager was going to be great Hughes and with khan hinds was involved at one stage and and Danny Curley was there as well.
But what happened was they said i was a good enough singer but it was too small because Brendan Boyer was six foot. Brian Cole was six foot. All the singers were all six foot and here was me five foot nothing right ,so repeal stowed the guards and Peter says what are you looking for now he didn't put him as nice as I'm putting it but he didn't say he said what are you looking for are you looking for a singer or a male model yes so I got the job through the help of pop you got me the job in the back right excellent stuff uh I mean, from that like you you know you never looked back you were you were very very fortunate to record the song dear God I was you know and there was a song that marvel had recorded it Brendan Shine had recorded it. Lots of people have recorded and was just a new face I was only 20 on the 26th of March I was mine on the second April the same year and uh you know my mom died that year as well so i was a one-parent family so it worked out very everything just worked out at the same time and it left but I was never on my own and I didn't have because my wife June was always there with me as well and then we had another, Suzanne in 71 and we just kept on going and I was very lucky and very fortunate that I recorded the stuff and the stuff worked well and had a good band behind me good motion behind me.
But we didn't realize what we were doing you know I was young for 21 years of age and stars in the eyes and and no brain there at all you know what in a way and uh but thanks be to God and his holy Mother I got rid of it and and I enjoyed it very well indeed that was excellent. I mean it would on I mean you you have worked right through from then in music and you know and singing i mean you you've recorded uh one thing that you you've you have recorded a huge amount of albums over the years. I have, I was very lucky I went to outlet records in uh 1982-83 now I was was riffs and release records and rip strikers and the whole lot up until uh I'm not rips with release up until uh the mid 70s and then I tell them the fortune that a lot of entertainers fell on was I got a fondness for drinks and i took a third drink at the time and I started doing myself no favours.
But thanks be to God I caught myself on after I would say was it the 28th of December 1983 I took my last drink and the first day sober was the 29th of December 1983 and thanks for the God and his holy Mother again I haven't drank since. well done well done that's uh you know that that that does take some going and then because I hadn't done anybody any harm the only person that done harmed you was myself uh a lot of people give me a second chance, and it's good when you get a second chance when you get it you make the best you can.
But and thank God I've been working since very thick and thin and I had me ups and my downs but I'm there and what we struggled on and thank God it worked for us indeed it certainly did it handsomely worked for you and also something that you've done for many many years is that you've um you've done a huge amount of charity work I have been on a great field Charlie work as a matter of fact I'm away tomorrow again to a place called sinfield and then I'm going to fall on Saturday to another place called Tedion county but you know i always maintained what you do for charity you're given one hand but you get it back in the other and it's not a one-way system and you know god's good yeah and and and I have been very fortunate I've got a daughter and my daughter too over the last number of years, three years ago and she had a big operation for cancer but thanks pretty god she's doing great now and she got a a good a good scan and a good result the last time so it's all good and you know we had our ups and downs i went through our team myself as far as uh the business and was concerned and uh you know it you have to just watch everything you do and and and try and keep going but it's not easy no it's not it's not it can be you know life can throw some rather tough uh tough curveballs at you at times oh it doesn't like i haven't seen one there too you know everything comes towards you and then you realize that as long as you've got your health you've got everything and when your family's got their health you're like i am very lucky I'm blessed with four lovely grandchildren.
I've got three girls and a boy and then my daughter Suzanne so I'm very very lucky that God was good to me in a lot of ways and you know at times didn't deserve it you know because when you're young when you're going about you you think that you're infallible you think you're you could walk through walls but you can't you need somebody to lean on all the time indeed indeed that's uh that is uh so true and then how did it come about uh thank you uh we did to the the radio broadcaster working for the B.B.C. well you know I started off during the private sessions and don't go up I don't know him for a while I did a donny gold community radio and I did the one and Letterkenny and one and one krannert and I was doing them all the time and then I got the opportunity to go in one time in in the mid 70s late 70s to standing for a great radio presenter called Donald Dougherty he was going to weigh in five weeks holidays so i would then and I stood in front of the B.B.C. and then they brought me back to do a 50-minute show once a week and then i went up to a 15-minute show on two occasions a week and then we just kept on going in and out and then i know now I've got a study program and i've got a Sunday program and we kept on going and going and in 1998 I started off uh on the fifth of October I think it was October September and I started off there with a job for six months.
So I did it for six months and I thought it was gone at the end of it because I had no academic qualifications I was a man on there and uh I didn't I had had no uh fluent speech or nothing at all but i tried to do it and i got it for six months and now over 20 years later i'm still doing it yet well done well done excellent stuff you know fantastic achievement people you know tribute you go for you like from the from the days of starting off like in the tall bed uh you know yeah what i have to say to i was very lucky I've got uh three girls who work with me all the time two weeks sir and i have uh joe murphy I've got Mary, Mark, and I've got Julian who comes in there two attempts and the three of them are there but i remember Joe was put on to me as my producer and he took him in as my producer and with me having no academic qualifications at all I was finding it very difficult to read big long pages and stuff.
I didn't actually read them. I skipped over the whole that one and I remember one day in berlin for about six months and I got to know Joe fairly well, and I knew she was a decent person so i have to say to joe one day what is that word there and joe said the media says there was Joe was Olivia who had uh degrees she was a French like a language teacher an aries language teacher and an English language teacher she had all these degrees and she was at queen's university so I said there isn't joe would you mind tell me what that word is there which is i think that word there means stamp collection but she used she she knew quite well what it was but she said i think it means stamp collecting and it's called philately so she wrote it out for me and she wrote it phonetically from me and then what happened there because she was so nice she didn't turn around and say are you stupid are you this is that you're gone she said to me that's what I think it is so I went back again here and i went back again here so I started to actually learn to read at,
I was 40 odd years of age and started to learn to read, wow if you don't answer the person the right way if a young person comes and asks you or a grandson or a son or a daughter or a grandson or a granddaughter come and ask you a question ask them with respect because as you give them the wrong answer they might never ask another question or learn another thing indeed so it's very very true and you you always kept sort of developing yourself and uh you know improving yourself along the way have you seen my figure you know well developed well i did that i like i love recording i love singing i have a new album out this year at one out uh uh 18 months or two years before that and unfortunately the one we brought out last Christmas. It didn't get the same uh push because of the covert and all that uh but uh I'm very lucky we keep on going and I get a lot of I do a lot of comparing I do a lot of concerts and guest spots at concerts and then the younger ones coming on now like Nathan and Derek Ryan and Mike Denver and Jimmy Buckley all these ones uh you know they give all the old people a chance to as well so we're we're actually creating work for each other.
We're working out there we're singing and and and it's just nice to get out and enjoy it indeed so is it just that's one thing with the I think that that's one of the main major casualties indeed of the pandemic uh where uh you know the the music and the performing arts has been affected incredibly badly well you see Jerry we were the first to come out and we'll be definitely the last to go back in again and i remember the first the last night that i played i was over in uh the royal theatre in Glasgow Brendan Shine, Dominic Kerwin, Mary Duff, Jean Fitzpatrick, Barry Kirwan and the whole elephants were there and we were singing over there and that was my last night professionally singing on the 13th of march and no professional works and said and you know it's a big loss to you at the same time even though I'm walking at the same time as a presenter but I love getting out at night I'm I have uh I'm an ambassador that make people smile and I enjoy that I go on stage and I just kill a quick buzzer of myself and i really I said you know it's like losing a limb i go out some weakness here because over the last 10 months now nearly i have been working uh from uh home here where i'm sitting now at the moment looking at the wee wonder here uh at home and uh i belong to the studio here it was actually a study i had before that but now it's Mr Bond studio for the B.B.C. I got it but we're down there and we do it and uh it's like a big community station where we walk right through Northern Ireland and further freely get calls in from America Australia, Europe all over there and England Scotland and Wales I'm very lucky and they just stick to it and it's very light-hearted there's no seriousness about it you know the program is for the people and I've found a lot of people over the last um over the last 10 months have turned your radio because we are as radio presenters we are getting a grit a great opportunity to go into people's homes and you know people take us in there and probably there are people sitting in their homes every day that we are the only guests they have coming under the house we're the only voice coming into that house to them.
So they take a a great interest in you and you become more of a personal friend than a radio presenter and you know I think radio over the last 10 months of any if anything happened it's got stronger indeed so yes definitely yeah that would be my my feeling as well I've spoken to a number of other people with the exact same thing you know what it's it's it's really it's it's it's streaming really like radio as in streaming and all that and it's interesting actually that uh the likes of netflix amazon youtube all of those have increased uh dramatically as well since all of the all of the lockdown and the thing that i miss most enjoy the whole lot is when I was going out when we were doing our outside we did outside broadcast and we could have had shows on in every uh part of northern ireland you know different countries all around the place in northern Ireland and we had all the different artists we had all the artists foster now we had Brendan Shine we had Nathan Carter, the whole that came out and sang with us and that's just to mention a few all the the the the mainstream artists come out and performed on a roadside broadcast but unfortunately over the last 10 months over this year we haven't got out at all and it's so sad because people love getting out it was like a community event because uh radio Ulster is another station that brings people together and music company music is always any kind of music at all has always brought people together and you know it's sad we've lost that for now but please God will get back to doing it again indeed so that's the thing you know I'd say it has it's it's that it has as you said you know the live performing and performing arts so the first thing out and uh indeed unfortunately will be the last thing back but the thing I think everybody's got to remember Hugo is that you know we we all will be back all the secrets you see i always maintain it's like uh i always say you have to look i came through very difficult times myself and you know talking about my daughter being sick and myself going through different problems but especially this time of year.
It's very black it's very dark, because of the the short days and the long nights and what happens is you get very discard and loneliness is another thing it says and and you know people don't have to be sitting on their own to be lonely you know you get people working in big offices you get people working all maybe all over the place and different big enterprises but the fact is when you're on your own you could have one problem bothering you and that puts you into a little loneliness so you have to get out there and keep it going and i always say every day when I'm doing the program here if you're going out late at night I say that I'd literally afternoon and you're gonna come back and you live on your own always leave a wee light in the house because i had a godmother god bless her she's passed away now but she used to always say if you've got a light on the house you have always somebody with you so i always tell people if you're going out now and they're going to come back in the dark to leave a wee light on and they're not coming into an early dark house because I find when i was going through about our time at night i kept a wee light on my bedroom and that kept me focusing on different shadows in the wall instead of lying in a darkness and not even thinking about anything so there's always that be light of hope you know you have to pray for that wee bit of hope and hopes that they say hope begins when you look out of a darkness and see a light indeed a great positive your thoughts on something which you know is very very positive for to you know to get out there and have a nose at the moment everybody needs all the positivity of the account they can't surely you have you know there's people in there on their own and they could be going through illness they could be completely deaf and danger you wouldn't know what they're gonna say because of family members who are maybe going astray or maybe you know going the wrong way and it's very hard for people to keep focused but.
I hope and an old prayer now and then just do any harm either and you know uh hope hope is if you haven't got hope you've got nothing it's it's very true it's very true we you said there about prayer would you say that you know your religion or Christianity is important to you okay I'm gonna say something I think might believe this but I work four days a week here at home and the four day I start at a half one and I link up with B.B.C. around about 11 o'clock or so and make sure everything's going and everything's right but before that I would go out to a mass every morning come back and again and then do my program then and it's not because I'm religious because I probably will the biggest sinner listen to this really of the night you know I'd be probably the the biggest sinner but uh it's my way of having my own being beaten with the man I want to meet with you like know right so I go out there and when I came off the drink when I came off as an alcoholic years ago I used to go every day too as well not to sit in a a church or a chapel to pray pray pray pray pray repel the prayer just to sit and have a chat to so many even if you're you see the great thing about chatting yourself Jerry the boy your chat is no smarter than you are.
So I chatted with myself all the time too and trying to look at a positive view yes yes that's a that's uh absolutely superb it's a you know superb way of a a special way of you know looking at it and a superb way of especially of living i think you know you know and having continually having the positivity well that's what it's all about and you have to get out there I am possible i get up this morning before about a half five or so i get up this morning and I was leaving the house after uh getting a shirt and all that you know a bowl of cornflakes and heading out the road and and then i travelled 90 miles to work and uh I got up to work in good enough time i wasn't work uh about a half eight quarter to nine and then I got five programs together. I did today's program i did a monday Tuesday Wednesday and Thursday's program and then uh Mary and Mack take the hole out and joe takes the hole out of it and then we leave it and another engineer comes and puts all that into the computer and we've got each day down for each day next week and i do the program uh down here at home as i said and it's wonderful technology now because I'm sitting here at home and there's about five or six people in Belfast and there's other people different parts of Belfast there who are tuned early work in the program and they all just help us out and we all work together good crack and I got home the night there after leaving a half six this morning I was home about 20 past seven tonight right it's a pretty pretty long day I'll have to say well it's only once a week right okay okay that probably takes the day it takes the sting out of us.
But then again you're used to that you're used to long hours how could you see each other there was times out of their car and sold the cork and go back again and then vote down it doesn't like snipe until back again and you're coming up and then you're used to the long journeys there was a time i was doing 60 or 70 000 by the year I remember just after this this this this code that started that i filled my car one Saturday and i went back the next Saturday I'm not thinking to fill it up again and she was still full that never happened for for 50 years yes yes indeed I can well I cannot believe it I guess I would have filled my car up at least three or four times a week yes yes well you're doing that doing the long months Hugo listen fair play to you for doing you know for doing it all out for a you know a great positive attitude and and you know for all the uh all the good you do all the uh the charity work uh that you've done and the helping out that you do uh for the the community listen it's been lovely to uh to catch up with you lovely to chat to you listen to yourself and your family uh you know stay safe stay healthy unless I'm looking forward to uh as soon as it's safe to do so i can see you on a stage somewhere where along the way yeah i have a couple of models there and i always say to go with your guts training because you know we are not saying they're going to do the right thing and always talk to somebody never keep yourself bottled up or worried off talk to people i can do it all so I let give them a good advice now and then now that they know everything but always talk to somebody even young people if there's anybody or anything boring and always chat to somebody and another thing which is very popular and you're uh and very positive and you've done it and I have done it and we hope everybody else can do it get a job you like because if you do a job you like your week's five days shorter exactly Hugo great motto thanks a million for speaking to me god bless you guys thank you. [ Interview done during the Covid ]
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