Val Doonican

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Val Doonican
Val Doonican 1971.jpg
Val Doonican in 1971.
Background information
Birth name Michael Valentine Doonican
Born (1927-02-03) 3 February 1927 (age 88)
Waterford, Ireland
Genres Traditional pop music
Years active 1951–2009
Labels Decca, Pye, Philips
Website Official website

Michael Valentine "Val" Doonican (born 3 February 1927) is an Irish singer, of traditional pop music and swing and is well known for his novelty stylised songs. From 1965 to 1986 he was a regular fixture on the BBC Television's schedule with The Val Doonican Show, which featured his own singing performances and a variety of guest artists. The TV shows were produced by Yvonne Littlewood. A notably relaxed crooner, Doonican had five successive Top 10 albums in the UK Albums Chart in the swinging sixties.[1]

Early life[edit]

Doonican was born in Waterford, Ireland, the youngest of the eight children of Agnes (née Kavanagh) and John Doonican. In 1941 when he was a teenager his father died, so he had to leave De La Salle College, Waterford, to get factory jobs fabricating steel and making orange and grapefruit boxes.[2] In the early days, legendary Dublin music magnate Sean Smyth toured with Val around Ireland. Smyth was a major player in the showband scene who was managing the Clipper Carltons at the time.

Singing career[edit]

Doonican was from a musical family and started performing in his hometown and in a summer season at Courtown Harbour. He was then featured on Irish radio and appeared in Waterford's first-ever television broadcast. Then he played the drums in a band on a tour through Ireland. In 1951 he moved to England to join The Four Ramblers, who toured and performed on BBC Radio shows broadcast from factories.

Val met dancer Lynnette Rae when both she and the Ramblers supported the late Anthony Newley on tour. Newley introduced them and for the first time in his life, Val fell in love. He and Lynn married in the early 1960s and now have two adult daughters, Sarah and Fiona, and two grandchildren, Bethany and Scott.[2]

Doonican sang with the group "The Four Ramblers" and had appeared regularly on BBC radio including 'The Raiders of the Range' series. Recognising his talent, Newley persuaded him to leave the singing group and go solo. Soon after his solo career started, he had his own radio show as well as performing in concerts and cabaret. In 1963 he was booked to appear on Sunday Night at the Palladium. As a result of this performance, Bill Cotton, then Assistant Head of Light Entertainment, offered him his own show on BBC Television, lasting for over 20 years. It featured his relaxed crooner style performance, sitting in a rocking chair, as well as a number of comic Irish songs, notably "Paddy McGinty's Goat", "Delaney's Donkey", and "O'Rafferty's Motor Car", on which he accompanied himself on acoustic guitar. Doonican's songs about O'Rafferty were popular enough for the BBC to publish a book, Val Doonican Tells The Adventures of O'Rafferty, which retold five of the tales, in 1969.[3] He often wore cardigans and jumpers, which became his trademark along with the rocking chairs from which he often performed. He was sometimes compared to American singer Perry Como, though he has claimed his main influence was Bing Crosby.[4] As it was a variety show, it gave a number of other performers early exposure, such as Dave Allen. On 31 December 1976, Doonican performed his hit song "What Would I Be" on BBC1's A Jubilee of Music, celebrating British pop music for Queen Elizabeth II's impending Silver Jubilee.

The Palladium performance also kick-started his recording career. Between 1964 and 1973 Doonican was rarely out of the UK Singles Chart, his greatest successes including the singles "Walk Tall", "The Special Years", "Elusive Butterfly", "What Would I Be", (on Decca) "If The Whole World Stopped Loving" (Pye), and "Morning" (Philips); and the albums 13 Lucky Shades of Val Doonican (Decca), and Val Doonican Rocks, But Gently (Pye) which reached Number 1 in the UK Albums Chart in 1967. After a spell with Philips records in the seventies he also recorded for RCA.[1] He also sang the theme song to the film Ring of Bright Water.

He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1970. Eamonn Andrews met him at the 18th green of the South Herts Golf Club as Doonican played a round of golf.[5]

In the United States, The Val Doonican Show aired on ABC Saturday nights at 8:30 p.m. (7:30 p.m. Central) from 5 June to 14 August 1971.[6] Regulars included Bernard Cribbins, Bob Todd, the Norman Maen Dancers, the Mike Sammes Singers, and Kenny Woodman's orchestra. Both American and British acts appeared on the show.

Current activities[edit]

Doonican lives in Buckinghamshire. He stopped performing in 2009[7] and enjoys spending his free time in Spain, where he has a second home. He is a keen golfer and a talented watercolour painter. Another hobby he enjoys is cooking. In June 2011 Val was recognised by the Mayor of Waterford, bestowing on him "The Freedom of the City".

In popular culture[edit]

  • He is cited as a member of the eclectic (and fictional) "orchestra" in The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band's recording, "The Intro and the Outro", credited "as himself".
  • He also has a great gift for telling humorous stories about his life and show business in general. As well as writing three very entertaining autobiographies he has produced another book, simply titled "The Stories of O'Rafferty".
  • Doonican's 1965 song, I'm Gonna Get There Somehow, currently[when?] appears in adverts for toy store Smyths.
  • Val's name has, since 2006, also been linked to the Barnsley comedy-folk band The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican.



Year Single Chart Positions
1964 "Walk Tall" 3 2 29
1965 "The Special Years" 7 2 71
"I'm Gonna Get There Somehow" 25 - -
1966 "Elusive Butterfly" 5 3 -
"What Would I Be" 2 3 26
1967 "If The Whole World Stopped Loving" 3 2 81
"Memories Are Made of This" 11 14 -
"Two Streets" 39 - -
1968 "You're The Only One" 37 - -
"Now" 43 - -
"If I Knew Then What I Know Now" 14 - -
1968 "Ring of Bright Waters" 48 - -
1970 "Too Many Times" - - 82
1971 "Ann" - - 95
1972 "Morning" 12 5 75
1973 "Heaven Is My Womans Love" 34 - -


  1. ^ a b Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 166. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  2. ^ a b "Val Doonican Biography". 3 February 1927. Retrieved 5 February 2013. 
  3. ^ General Publication (PDF). BBC Yearbook. 1969. p. 215. Retrieved 24 July 2014. (PDF)
  4. ^ Val Doonican: The Special Years
  5. ^ "This Is Your Life-Val Doonican". 6 May 1970. Retrieved 24 July 2014. 
  6. ^ "Programming" (PDF). Broadcasting. 29 March 1971. p. 76. Retrieved 24 July 2014. (PDF)
  7. ^ "The Val Doonican Website". Retrieved 5 February 2013. 
  • Val Doonican – Legends (BBC Four), December 2007
  • Brooks, T. and Marsh, E. The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows (1998)

External links[edit]