Walking the Wyre

Luke Kelly

Luke Kelly

One of the reasons I started up this blog was to document some of my musical memories, in the hope that others who were there at the time (and maybe those who were not!) will also find it of interest. Here, therefore, is an account of a sponsored walk by Fylde folkies in 1984, and also a video of an earlier walk that took place in 1972 and helped inspire it.

In January 1984, Luke Kelly, the great singer with The Dubliners, died after a long period of ill health following operations to remove a brain tumour. He was only 44 years old.

Following Luke’s death, a bunch of folkies from the Fylde went on a sponsored walk to raise money for the charity set up in his name, the Luke Kelly Brain Trust Fund.

I still have a copy of the press photo taken as we set off on our 20 mile trek. Leading off are Jim Smith on guitar, Kevin Whelan on fiddle, myself – oh so young and slim! – on whistle, and Andy Murphy on guitar. Following behind I see Peter, Jutta Isenberg (organiser of the walk), Ross Campbell, and further back Dick Gillingham and Dave Pearce. Who else can you recognise? Help me put names to faces in the comments!


I can’t remember how much we raised, but it was an enjoyable (and exhausting!) event. We took a circular route, starting and ending up in Fleetwood via Shard Bridge and Knott End. It was a really sunny day, and the countryside was beautiful. I remember pausing for a few tunes and pints in a riverside pub somewhere along the route, I forget exactly where, but it was very welcome at that point in time!

I think our walk followed part of the same route as the famous Wyre Walk, which had taken place 12 years earlier and ended up being the precursor to the Fylde Folk Festival. I wasn’t on that earlier walk, as I was only eight years old in 1972, so my knowledge of it comes mainly through listening to people talk about it so fondly, even after all these years. It has become somewhat of a Fylde legend, passed down through generations of folkies, and was a definite inspiration for the walk we did for Luke Kelly in 1984.

Here is a video of the 1972 Wyre Walk. It is a lot of fun to watch, especially to see all those glimpses of younger incarnations of veteran Fylde folkies like Ian Gartside, as well as Alan and Christine Bell and their son Alistair as a tiny toddler. Also it’s very moving to see some of the lovely ones who have left us, including the narrator of the video, Brian Osborne, who was a member of the Taverner’s folk group and a good friend with whom I played quite a bit of music in the 1980s. Also, right at the end there is a fleeting glimpse of ‘Big’ Pete Rodger, also of the Taverners, not only ‘big’ in stature, but also a big personality and big hearted as well:


3 thoughts on “Walking the Wyre

  1. I heartily endorse your comment about seeing old friends, Brian, Pete & Alan. When I briefly returned in 1986 Pete & Brian kindly put a night on for me at the old Kings behind the bus station.
    Oh, I was one of the original walkers and attendee at the first festival.
    Thanks for the reshare.
    PS also on Facebook , come and say hello to the ‘political wing’. Lol.

    • I wonder if we met at the King’s Arms? In the mid-80s Blackpool Folk Club was based there in the room upstairs, and I was a regular at that time. Sadly, it’s been demolished now! Yet another car park in Blackpool town centre is in its place. Progress, eh?

      I will always miss Pete and especially Brian, who was one of the nicest people I have ever had the pleasure to know.

      It’s nice to meet an original Wyre Walker, I will indeed seek you out on Facebook! x

  2. Pingback: A Doxy’s Tale | The Long Note

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