In the mid 1960s, when I was about six or seven years old, my grandmother – on my mother’s side - gave up the house where she’d lived since before World War II and came to live with me and my parents. My grandfather had died in the 1950s before I was born, and I’d never known my father’s parents so Nana, as I called her, was my only grandparent.
If you’re only going to have one grandparent then Nana was a great one to have. She would have been in her early 70s then but was always active. She liked to bake, which meant that there were always cakes and pies and scones and other delights, and she was always up for a game of dominoes or cards to amuse a bored small boy. In the evenings she would often be out at various clubs and functions for senior citizens. The exception being when the man whose record appears above was on TV.
Those of you who weren’t around in Britain in the 1960s and 70s may not have heard of Michael Valentine Doonican (Val for short), but he was a big star. A purveyor of what we would now call ‘middle of the road’ pop, Val had his own TV show. He would sing twee Irish folk songs about ‘Paddy McGinty’s Goat’ or ‘Delaney’s Donkey’ with a twinkle in his eye, and always finish with a gentle ballad sung from the comfort of his rocking chair and golfing sweater.
Nana loved Val and would never miss his shows. We also therefore had a number of his records in the house, including the 7-inch, 45 RPM EP (two tracks to each side) that you see above. It was with some excitement then that we learned that Val Doonican was coming to town, our town, to open a new supermarket.
Whether it was a Saturday or it was during the school holidays I can’t remember. I do remember taking the bus with Nana, the record safely stowed in her handbag, to see the great man. There was quite a crowd. Val stood on a small dais, made a speech, cracked a few gags and cut the ribbon. He was then about to be whisked off with the mayor to some civic reception.
At this point Nana – who was only about five foot nothing, but feisty with it – fought her way to the front of the crowd brandishing the record and asked him to sign it. This he did with a flourish and that twinkle in the eye, and was gone. Nana’s record was now elevated to the status of treasured possession.
Nana died in the 1980s at the grand old age of 90. The record passed to my parents and subsequently to me. It hasn’t been played for probably 40 years, I don’t own a turntable anymore so I couldn’t even if I wanted to.
It languishes in the cupboard beneath my CD player, unseen, mostly unthought of. Doonican himself died in 2015 so, being signed, it probably has some modest worth on eBay, even though the corners of the sleeve are a bit dog-eared and the signature itself is a bit faded.
But… It’s Nana’s record, it has a story attached, and somehow I don’t think an eBay purchaser could ignore it with quite the same emotional attachment.