What happened when the ‘boys were back in town’?

IT was a night that Enniskillen would never forget.

It was also a night that saw Fermanagh’s youth would be air guitarists overnight, where the RUC searched in vain for drugs and how one of Ireland’s most famous rockers was booted out of a local tea-shop.

Thin Lizzy’s gig at Enniskillen’s Forum on April 3, 1980, has gone down in folklore. With the Co. Donegal town of Bundoran barring them from performing there two days earlier – thanks to a priest who objected to a church hall being used as a venue and who also wanted to keep Maundy Thursday sacrosanct – Phil Lynott and the boys were fired up to put on a show when they crossed the border.


Gerry Murphy is currently a spiritual life coach in Oakland, California having served as a priest there. But before he took his holy orders, the Enniskillen man went to the Forum to witness what he called, ‘a cultural watershed’.

He said: “It was that. The chants of ‘Liz-zee, Liz-zee, Liz-zee’ filled the dark hall, palpably electric with teenage anticipation. A portent of artistic significance our island town had not witnessed before. Thin Lizzy – our teenage rock idols – had dropped into town on the Irish leg of their 1980 World Tour.

“This was one not to miss. The air-guitar, head-banging days of the 1980s were in full swing. So to have Thin Lizzy, with charismatic frontman Phil Lynott, play live in our hometown – man, that was totally awesome!

“It started with a pyrotechnic fireball synchronised with the twang of a Gibson guitar chord, that engulfed the hall with a sonic boom, almost knocking us over in dazed surprise. The rock bonanza was ablaze on the shores of Lough Erne.

“When Lynott, the dark Irish enigma with Brazilian looks, stood leather clad, legs splayed, in that iconic rock star pose with his mirror-plated bass catching the spotlight, belting out “Rosalie,” “Jailbreak” and “The Boys Are Back in Town,” we were there – enthralled and transported to another dimension we could barely understand.”

Then-schoolboy, Blanaid McKinney, was also at the show. He added: “I was 18 and in my final year at Mount Lourdes. Two days before the concert, I had passed my driving test. On the evening of the gig, I packed about eight of my friends into my mother’s tiny Datsun car – wouldn’t be allowed now – and headed from Lisnaskea to the Forum.

“Thin Lizzy were at the height of their pomp in 1980. It was the first live gig I’d ever seen, but I’ve never forgotten it – it was an fantastic night. When they launched into ‘The Boys are Back in Town’, the crowd went utterly bananas. I still have my ticket proudly displayed on my kitchen noticeboard, as a reminder of happy times.”


Carroll O’Dolan of Enniskillen also recalls a tale from earlier that day when Lynott found himself no match for two old ladies.

He said: “The Tea Shop on Belmore Street was run by two stout women. Phil Lynott went in there around 4pm. He was chased out about 30 seconds later by same two women.

“The late Mrs O’ Doherty (of Butchers) went over and asked the ladies what had he said or done to so upset them?

“They were both very flustered and said they could not repeat what that young man had said. Despite repeated questioning and cajoling they never revealed Phil’s words and took their secret to the grave.”

The RUC also had a bee in their bonnet about Lynott and the band as they took the opportunity to bust them for drugs as they left town for the next gig in Antrim.

The band were carted off to the station at Enniskillen with the late rock journalist, Harry Doherty – who was there – revealing what happened next.

“Lizzy’s reputation for hard drugs as well as hard rock had preceded them,” he would write in Classic Rock magazine. “But word of an RUC bust had been leaked and the band were prepared.

“At the station, we were all questioned individually. Some of the band were stripped down to their underwear, but nothing was found.

“Later, I found that one of the entourage, a close friend of Phil’s, had dropped four grams of cocaine into a waste bin on the way in – and picked it up again on the way out.”

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The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 28 Belmore Street, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, BT74 6AA