As I often mention at my quizzes, when playing any one of his wonderful songs, he was the man with the most unfortunate initials, Val Doonican, has died.
He crooned well with songs like Memories Are Made of This and If The Whole World Stopped Loving, he did novelty songs well like Delaney’s Donkey and Paddy McGinty’s Goat, he had his own television shows, which, at its peak, attracted 19 million viewers and his album, Val Doonican, Rocks, But Gently had the dubious distinction of knocking the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band off the number one spot in 1967.
Val was born Michael Valentine Doonican in February 1927 in Waterford, Ireland into a musical family and was the youngest of seven children. He went on to appear on Irish radio as well as on Waterford’s first ever television broadcast before moving to England in 1951 where he joined vocal group the Four Ramblers before embarking on a solo career.
The Four Ramblers’ biggest claim to fame was that they once supported Anthony Newley on tour. Newley had his own dance troupe one of which included Lynette Rae who Val took a shine to, so Newley officially introduced them and they married in the early sixties.
In 1963 he secured a slot on Sunday Night at the Palladium and as a result, the BBC’s head of light entertainment, Bill Cotton, offered him his own TV series which lasted for 22 years during which he recorded 25 Christmas Specials that commanded similar viewing figures to that of Morecambe and Wise and The Two Ronnies. But Val never used to like watching himself, He told The Express in 2013, “They became something of a national institution but I couldn’t bear to watch. It felt embarrassing seeing myself. We’d sit as a family enjoying ourselves but as soon as my show started, I’d nip off to another room.”
He was a very down-to-earth character who never took fame for granted nor seriously. He had a string of hit singles in the 1960s and early 70s including Walk Tall, The Special Years, What Would I Be which became his biggest hit making number two and his cover of Bob Lind’s Elusive Butterfly matched Bob’s chart position of number four. His last hit was Heaven Is My Woman’s Love in 1973.
Val, who was friends with the late comedian Dave Allen, retired in 2009 and passed away in his sleep on the evening of Wednesday 1st July. He is survived by his first love, Lynn and his two children Sarah and Fiona.
I certainly remember from my childhood watching his shows, they were very special years.