Get That Monster Off the Stage

the story of FINBARR DONNELLY and his bands Nun Attax, Five Go Down To the Sea? and Beethoven

an oral history by Paul McDermott

Paul McDermott
May 26, 2016 · 72 min read
Finbarr Donnelly 1962–1989. Photograph by Ciarán Ó Tuama.

Introduction

This oral history is a companion to Get That Monster Off the Stage, an audio documentary about Finbarr Donnelly and his bands Nun Attax, Five Go Down To the Sea? and Beethoven.

Get That Monster Off the Stage, produced by Paul McDermott

Documentary timeline

In December 1999 Cork’s Triskel Arts Centre hosted Cork Arc 1979–1999. As part of the weekend festival an hour long rough edit of Get That Monster Off the Stage played on a loop in one of the galleries accompanied by a selection of photographs by Ciarán Ó Tuama taken at the Downtown Kampus (at the Arcadia Ballroom).

Who’s who

Ricky Dineen — Nun Attax/Five Go Down to the Sea?/Beethoven

Part 1 — Cork

Chapter 1 — UFOs and John Peel

He had a very good record collection, and a very weird record collection as well, of stuff that I’d never heard of except maybe on John Peel — Ricky Dineen

Ricky Dineen — I met Donnelly around 1978. I actually met his brother first. I used to work in a chipper on Shandon Street. We had an interest in UFOs, Donnelly was interested in UFOs as well and he introduced me to Donnelly for that reason. Having met Donnelly then, he introduced me to this whole new world of punk rock, new wave or whatever you might call it at the time. At that time I had been listening to Status Quo, Pink Floyd and all that kinda thing. I thought that was cool, like, I thought that was great. He introduced me into the world of John Peel and alternative music. Many a night we spent trying to tune into BBC Radio 1, a very tough station to get, still is actually. We were listening to all these mad bands, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks and all these mad things altogether.

Nun Attax — Philip O’Connell (Bass), Ricky Dineen (Guitar), Finbarr Donnelly (Vocals), Keith ‘Smelly’ O’Connell (Drums). Photograph by Ciarán Ó Tuama.
Nun Attax — Philip, Smelly, Ricky, Donnelly. Photographed on Pearse Street in Dublin. Photograph by Colm Henry.
Nun Attax — Ricky Dineen (Guitar) and Finbarr Donnelly (Vocals). Photograph by Ciarán Ó Tuama.

Chapter 2 — Downtown Kampus at the Arcadia

Cork was a brilliant audience; they were really receptive to new things — Elvera Butler

Newspaper advert for U2 and Nun Attax at the Downtown Kampus, 24 November, 1979. Image taken from U2 The Early Dayz
Newspaper advert for The Only Ones and The Pretenders at the Downtown Kampus, Febuary 1979. Image taken from Elvera Butler’s Facebook photo album REEKUS GIGS.
Various newspaper adverts for Downtown Kampus gigs. Images taken from Elvera Butler’s Facebook photo album REEKUS GIGS.
The Cimarons (Winston Reedy pictured) live at the Downtown Kampus, 05 May, 1979. Photograph by Pat Galvin.
The Specials and The Beat ticket stub — 17 January 1981. Image by Paul McCarthy taken from the Facebook page Arcadia — UCC Downtown Kampus 1977–1981
Newspaper advert for The Special and The Beat, 17 January 1981. Image taken from Elvera Butler’s Facebook photo album REEKUS GIGS.
Newspaper advert for The Stranglers Raven Tour promoted by Pat Egan, 2 October 1979. Image taken from U2 The Early Dayz
Urban Blitz (pictured: Ber Murphy, vocals and Sean Linehan, guitar) live at the Downtown Kampus. Photograph by Pat Galvin.
Ticket stub — The Cure at the Downtown Kampus on their Faith tour, 23 May 1981. Image from Cure Concerts.
Newspaper advert for December 1980. Image taken from Elvera Butler’s Facebook photo album REEKUS GIGS.
Newspaper advert for Hawkwind’s gig at the Kampus, 15 Nov 1980. Image taken from Elvera Butler’s Facebook photo album REEKUS GIGS.
Newspaper advert for October 1980 gigs at the Downtown Kampus. Image by John Byrne.

Chapter 3 — Nun Attax

He turned out to be an extremely friendly person, which surprised me. In fact you couldn’t get rid of him really — Cathal Coughlan

.Nun Attax — Smelly, Giordaí, Philip, Donnelly, Ricky. Photograph by Ciarán Ó Tuama.
Nun Attax — ‘White Cortina’, on RTÉ’s Anything Goes, circa 1981
Donnelly on stage at the Downtown Kampus at the Arc. Photograph by Pat Galvin — “The camera got opened exposing part of the film, some pictures were totally destroyed, but happily not everything.”
February 1981 (Left) and October/November 1980 (Right): Newspaper adverts for Boddis at the Magnet on Pearse Street, Dublin. Images from John Byrne.
Mick Lynch and Pat Kelleher of Mean Features and Giordaí Ua Laoghaire and Cathal Coughlan of Micro Disney on stage at the Magnet, Pearse Street, Dublin, 28 February 1981.. Photographs by Nicky White.
Philip and Donnelly. Photograph by Ciarán Ó Tuama.
Nun Attax photographed near Ballinora GAA Hall, late 1979.
Nun Attax on stage at the Downtown Kampus at the Arc. Photograph by Ciarán Ó Tuama.
Nun Attax — ‘Reekus Sunfare’, on RTÉ’s Anything Goes, circa 1981
Nun Attax — photographs by Ciarán Ó Tuama.
No Country Cousins — Bill Graham in Hot Press, date unknown. Image from John Byrne.
Ticket stub for Metropole Hotel, Cork, 13 April 1980.
Nun Attax on stage at the Downtown Kampus at the Arc. Photograph by Pat Galvin.
Gavin Friday on Nun Attax from Vox No. 4, December 1980. Vox №4 can be viewed on Brand New Retro. Image from John Byrne.

Chapter 5 — Kaught at the Kampus

With a lot of justification a lot of people thought that they were going to become the next U2, a lot of people really did think that, in Dublin even — Cathal Coughlan

Various Artists — Kaught at the Kampus EP (1981, Reekus Records, 12'’ — RKS001) Image Paul McD.
The Cork Review — “Punk” Kaught at the Kampus reviewed by John MacMonagle, circa 1981. Image from John Byrne.
Newspaper advert for November 1980 gigs at the Downtown Kampus. Image by John Byrne.
Donnelly, photograph by Ciarán Ó Tuama.
Finbarr Donnelly pictured on an advert for the Kaught at the Kampus EP published in Vox magazine №5. Image from John Byrne.
Newspaper advert for JCR (Junior Common Room) TCD gig. Friday 28 November 1980. Image from John Byrne

Chapter 6— Arc finishes

It’s actually life just gone slightly beyond the bounds of plausibility and it seems surreal but it actually does happen — Conal Creedon

Finny Corcoran — There was the days of the early Arc where we had Micro Disney and Mean Features and Nun Attax and then the Arc finished and then there was a lull. I remember there was a nightclub called Gatsby’s that tried to get something going for a while and that collapsed. It’s always the same in local music scenes, there’s a venue and a scene and once the venue’s gone the scene is gone so that’s what really happened with Micro Disney and Nun Attax, when the Arc finished they had to go abroad because there was nothing for them here anymore either.

Newspaper advert for the last night of the Downtown Kampus — Saturday 30 may 1981. The Downtown Kampus at the Cork Arcadia ran from late ’77 to mid ’81. Image from John Byrne.
Newspaper advert for The Teardrop Explodes, 12 December 1981. Image taken from Elvera Butler’s Facebook photo album REEKUS GIGS.
Declan Lynch interviews Five Go Down to the Sea? for Hot Press magazine, circa 1984. Image from John Byrne.
Nun Attax on stage at the Downtown Kampus at the Arc. Photograph by Pat Galvin
Iron Fist in Velvet Glove — the story of Microdisney. Produced by Paul McDermott.

Chapter 7— Five Go Down to the Sea?

I had always wanted to play the bass and I never imagined that I would get to play in a band with the cello — Úna Ní Chanainn

Classified Advert from Vox magazine №6. Image from John Byrne.
Five Go Down to the Sea? — Michael Stack, Úna Ní Chanainn, Finbarr Donnelly, Ricky Dineen and Keith ‘Smelly’ O’Connell. Photograph by Ciarán Ó Tuama.
Finbarr Donnelly from newspaper article, publication unknown. Image from John Byrne.
Five Go Down to the Sea? live at The Bodega, Oliver Plunkett Street, Cork
Five Go Down to the Sea? ‘Wallaroo’ Old Blackrock Rd Cork, 1982. Photo by Ciarán Ó Tuama.
Five Go Down to the Sea? Donnelly, Úna, Stack, Ricky and Smelly
Five Go Down to the Sea? — St. Nicholas’ Church, Cove Street, Cork. Photograph by Ciarán Ó Tuama.
Taken from a Kabuki Records feature in Vox magazine №14 (1983). Image from John Byrne.
Five Go Down to the Sea? drawing by Michael Stack

Chapter 8— Knot a Fish

I remember Finbarr calling John Peel from a phone box trying to get him to play our record — Michael Stack

Five Go Down to the Sea? — Knot a Fish EP (1983, Kabuki Records, 7" — KAFIVE5) Image Paul McD.
A & B Side Labels for Knot a Fish EP. Image Paul McD.
Úna Ní Chanainn and Finbarr Donnelly in the studio in Headford, Co. Galway, 1983.
John Peel plays Five Go Down to the Sea?
Smelly in the studio in Headford, Co. Galway, 1983.
Five Go Down to the Sea? ‘Elephants For Fun and Profit’ taken from Knot A Fish 7"

Part 2 — London (is here)

The exodus to London/Rotherhithe/The Glee Club 12"/Abstract Records/The Living Room/Singing in Braille 12"/Creation Records/Beethoven/Him Goolie Goolie Man, Dem 12" and Setanta Records…

Further Listening

No Journeys End — the story of Michael O’Shea. Produced by Paul McDermott
Lights! Camel! Action! — the story of Stump. Produced by Paul McDermott for UCC 98.3FM.
Iron Fist in Velvet Glove — the story of Microdisney, produced by Paul McDermott.

Learn & Sing

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