Evening of song and memories as Tuam pays tribute to Padraig

Date Published: {J}

By Declan Tierney

A group of singers assembled outside the Town Hall in Tuam on Friday evening, when under the strict guidance of Leo Moran of The Sawdoctors, they gave a rendition of West of the Gates, which is something of a local anthem.

That particular song, like more than a hundred others, was penned by Padraig Stevens who was being honoured with a civic reception for his contribution to the music industry in Tuam.

Artists like Mike Scott of the Waterboys, Matt Keane, Seán Tyrrell and of course The Saw Doctors (he was one of the original members) have recorded his songs over the years, while he has also released two albums of his own, which have achieved cult status.

He managed Tuam punk band Blaze X during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s and famously secured them a support gig to U2 at Leisureland in 1980. Many who attended the concert insist that Blaze X outshone U2 that night as they received an encore, which was a rare occurrence for a support band. They also supported Horslips at the height of their career, as well as The Radiators.

Padraig was never one for the limelight but takes a great amount of pride in the fact that his material has been recorded by other artists – and even younger bands in Tuam like The Coonics and The Ralphs have been influenced by his songwriting.

While his father Pa Stevens is a native, Padraig was born in Sligo where his mother was teaching but came to Tuam in the 1960s and it was not long before he teamed up with Frankie Carroll, Noel Connolly and Frankie Keane to establish a rock group called The Problems.

He played the drums mainly but also was an accomplished guitarist. He played left handed but as left handed guitars were hard to find at the time, he used to restring a right-handed guitar and play it upside down.

The members of the Problems eventually went their separate ways and Padraig spent some time in England before returning and getting involved in the local music scene. He noticed a group of lads who he believed had a special talent. These included Davy Carton, Paul Cunniffe, Jarlath Keating and Paul Ralph who went on to become Blaze X.

They had reasonable success with the single Some Hope, which received considerable national airplay, but they were very popular live and played mainly original material. They did a live version of I Uesta Lover in the local scout hall – there is still a recording of this available – and Padraig Stevens had a big hand in modifying the song for The Saw Doctors. It then went on to become one of the biggest selling singles in this country.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.