Life’s not fair, that remark often heard when someone dies seemingly well before his life’s journey nears its supposedly natural completion. And it appears perfectly appropriate for someone like Sean Dynes, the founder of the Jolly Tinkermen, who passed away just over nineteen years ago in just his 50th year.
The late and very much lamented Sean Dynes was born back in 1943 into a family in Irish Street which was steeped in a love of Irish culture, traditions and music.
And, comprising The Jolly Tinkermen along with a number of equally passionate and talented musicians from the town of Dungannon and its immediate hinterland, the son of local barber John Dynes, was to go on and make a significant mark in the music business in his hometown and much further afield.
Sean, easygoing and proud of his roots and his home environment, was to play a huge part in developing his personality because he grew up listening to the many local characters who frequented the barber’s shop which occupied the ground floor of the family home - and he loved listening to patrons and callers exchanging stories and song in the busy little premises.
Indeed, when Sean’s father passed to his eternal reward the business was run by his uncle, Leo McMenemy, who trained the young man is his late father’s craft.
During Sean’s formative years a couple of local tinsmiths, Barney and Paddy Joe Heaney, carried on their business at the rear of the Irish Street barber’s shop. Barney, later plying his trade in the former ‘Back Pens’ and who now still lives in the Ardbeg home he shared with his late wife Mary (nee Toner), was also well-known for his rendition of traditional songs and stories.
Like other family members, Sean would have frequented Barney’s workplace, listening to folk legens being recounted and sings being sung. Indeed, Sean’s mother, Lila, always claimed that this was the beginning of her son’s lifelong love of traditional music. And, as the saying goes, mother knows best!
In his late teens and not yet recognised as a performer, Sean began to accompany Norman Hobson, a highly-talented fiddle-player in sessions in the Maghery Hotel. Here traditional musicians gathered in abundance, their numbers including local greats such as Sarah Ann O’Neill and her borther Geordie Hanna and many more, all of whom exercised a strong influence on Sean’s interest in song and story.
On a few occasions, Sean himself sang and soon he began to be recognised as a talented performer and, from this point, Sean taught himself to play guitar and not long afterwards he formed the local group called The Jolly Tinkermen.
The original members were Sean, Norman Hobson, accomplished White City fiddle-player Peter Sherry, all-Ireland champion banjo-player Sean McCluskey and splendid accrodian player from Cookstown, Patsy McDonald.
In the early 1970s and now joined by Gerry Timlin, the group had gained fame as a very popular young outfit who were being given spots on local radio and television and were in great demand much further afield than their Dungannon base.
Indeed, long before this, as far back as 1963 I believe, Sean and the Tinkermen had signed their first recording contract with a guy called Leslie Mann of Page One Records, the album in question being Irish And Proud Of It.
I’m sorry to divert from the main storyline, but I was fortunate to work for more than ten years with the very same Leslie Mann, the Glengormley man telling me many tales of his work with artists from county Tyrone - initially as Northern Ireland manager of Phillips Recotrds, during which time his biggest signing was the late Eileen Donaghy. In 1977 when I became sports editor of the East Antrim Times in Larne, the genial Leslie was an advertising sales representative with the paper.
Back to The Tinkermen, however, and that album was a huge success for them and it led to even greater acclaim throughout Ireland and abroad. They began touring extensively, this culminating in a highly successful tour of North America and Canada in 1971, this followed by further recording success with Jim Gough at the Outlet Studios when they recorded their second LP, entitled Ourselves Alone.
Due to work and family commitments, Sean temporarily stopped singing with The Tinkermen but he was asked to record once mor with Outlet. And he obliged, this time with his first solo LP, Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shores in 1978, which became instantly popular, so much so that even today the songs from this are being re-introduced on CDs. Another solo album followed, Tyrone Amongst The Bushes recorded in 1981.
Having been a civil servant for many years, Sean eventually ran a very successful school of motoring. But his singing career continued to flourish alongside this, with regular spots in clubs, comcerts and on the local pub scene.
As an extension of his entertainment career, Sean was given the opportunity to host his own traditional music spot with Big M radio station and, being an accomplished actor as well, he was involved with the drama group during the 1980s, whilst one of his musical achievements was as one of the founders of the St.Patrick’s Church folk group - with the original group re-formed in 1986 when joined by Sean’s cousin, Austin Hughes, on guitar and vocals.
Another aspect of his boundless talent was witnessed a short time before his death when he turned his hand to writing short stories about some of the characters and events from the Dungannon area. Two of these - Nickname And No Name and A Different Drum - were instantly accepted for publication in the local community newspaper of the day About Town.
Following a short illness, Sean’s death in May of 1993 brought a tremendous sense of loss, not only to his wife Sheila, mother Lila and children Emer, Barry and Bronagh and his brothers and sisters but also to the entire traditional music fraternity in Dungannon and the country at large.