Stevie G: Farewell to Cathal Coughlan, a Cork music legend 

He was one of Cork’s all-time greatest music artists, and will be missed, says Stevie G in his Downtown column 
Stevie G: Farewell to Cathal Coughlan, a Cork music legend 

Cathal Coughlan, the former Microdisney and Fatima Mansions, frontman died peacefully after a long illness.

By the time you read this most music fans will have seen some of the glowing tributes to one of Cork’s all time greatest music artists, Cathal Coughlan, who, sadly, died last week. The death was announced on Monday, after the former Microdisney and Fatima Mansions frontman died peacefully after a long illness.

There are many better placed than I to have paid tribute to Cathal, and his heyday came well before my time, but I was always aware of his status in Cork and elsewhere. He was widely respected here and abroad, where he spent most of his life, but I was around for many of his triumphant returns in later years, and his new music was still amazing.

Microdisney and later Fatima Mansions were legendary groups, who never quite achieved the commercial success they deserved, and this was often the case with local acts in the ’80s and ’90s.

There’s a lot of more inferior groups far more successful today, but that’s life I guess, and in some ways it was fitting that a writer of such barbed beauty was truly only appreciated by those who dug a little deeper than the top 40. He was too uncompromising to be a stooge in this most harshest of industries, and he always made provocative music right up until the end. His ability as a songwriter was unquestionable, and he left behind a pretty vast catalogue of songs from the ’80s right up to this present day, his latest releases being warmly welcomed by fans and critics alike.

I spoke to lots of music fans from Cork and beyond in the last few days about Cathal, and it’s evident that nearly everyone looked up to him greatly.

As a kid in the ’80s, I was always aware that there was a sense that in Cork you needed to escape to make it. Microdisney were gone early, and while the dreams of those who left didn’t always work out, their particular legacy is deep. I remember as a kid hearing ‘Town to Town’ on the radio, and being very proud at the rare occurrence that one of our own groups was being played. It remains a classic pop song.

At the time there was hardly much Irish music other than U2 on. I also remember reading Hot Press, in the early ’90s and being proud of the fact that Fatima Mansions were such a critical favourite among their readers.

Cathal Coughlan, RIP.
Cathal Coughlan, RIP.

By this time myself and many of my friends were making our way in music, and the tide had changed, and Cork was a place with much more confidence. Cathal was long gone from his hometown but he still had a hold on many here.

The swagger and originality of those great bands of the ’80s always fascinated me though, and Cathal now joins two other great Cork frontmen who died too soon, Finbarr Donnelly and Mick Lynch.

He too will be sadly missed.

I’ll speak in more detail about Live at the Marquee in the next few weeks but it’s great to have big shows back in Cork. It’s been a few years since we’ve had them, and bar the recent shows by Ed Sheeran, we’ve been starved of anything that more than a few hundred people could attend. This summer both Live at the Marquee and Independent Park are back on the agenda and there will be some big names coming to both.

Of interest in particular to readers of this column is the visit of DeadMau5, and it’s always good to see big name electronic acts touching down in Cork. Similarly, the legendary Orbital are part of a stacked line-up that includes Kerri Chandler, Fish Go Deep, Denis Sulta, Brame & Hamo, and yours truly.

Orbital have had a huge following here for years and have visited many times, while Kerri Chandler practically has the freedom of the city at this stage.

The same could be said for local legends Fish go Deep, while Denis Sulta and Brame & Hamo are huge acts in dance music. It’s also great to see the Pet Shop Boys on the line-up, this show will be amazing.

There isn’t any hip-hop on the line-up this year and as usual it’s mostly established acts who dominate proceedings.

Nile Rodgers and Chic are legends of dance music (and pioneers of hip-hop) and regular visitors here now, and the likes of Simply Red and Crowded House will also evoke lots of nostalgia and big crowds, while the younger guns such as Olivia Rodrigo and Tom Grennan are visiting too.

It’s good to have it back.

The likes of Simply Red and Crowded House will also draw lots of nostalgia and big crowds, while the younger guns such as Olivia Rodrigo and Tom Grennan are visiting too. It’s good to have it back!

  • Live at the Marquee starts tomorrow (Friday, May 27).

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