- 01 May 19
Mani is among those who’ve been honoured with a Made of Athy plaque. In an exclusive interview, the Stone Roses legend talks to Stuart Clark about the importance of his Irish roots, fellow son of Knockroe, Maganey, Johnny Marr, and those local lads done very good, Picture This.
Fair play to indie rock musician Mani. He hasn’t been talking much to media recently because he doesn’t want to have to go through all the Stone Roses are they/aren’t they? palaver for the gazillionth time. But when the bassplayer born Gary Mounfield hears we want to talk to him about the recent unveiling of his ‘Made In Athy’ plaque, he’s straight on the blower from downtown Manchester.
“How you doing, mate?” he says in that gravelly voice of his. “That plaque means the world to me. My Granny was a Cullen; she died before I was born. There are lots of secrets and things that were never talked about after my family emigrated to England in the 1950s for work reasons. My Grandfather was in one of the Flying Columns and then he was a captain in the Irish Free Army. You didn’t really talk about that as a kid in Manchester, you know?”
By wonderful rock ‘n’ roll coincidence, Mani and Johnny Marr’s mams grew up on the same boreen in one of Athy’s rural parishes.
“There’s something in the bloody water in Knockroe, Maganey, I reckon,” he laughs. “They should do the Irish version of Stella Street if any more pop up! One day when I was in Primal Scream, Bobby Gillespie said to me, ‘I don’t want to be pushy, but what’s your Mum’s maiden name?’ I told him and he went, ‘So it’s true!’ He sat me down and told me that Johnny had told him that my lot, the O’Farrells, and the Marrs were five doors apart from each other on a street of six houses. Apparently, Johnny’s mam was in our house more than she was in her own.”
Mani remembers visiting Athy as a nipper.
“I was only three or four when we came over for my grandfather’s funeral. My little brother, who was only ten-days-old, had died as well, so they were buried at the same time in Maganey cemetery, which is another weird one. It’s really important that my kids get a handle on where their family’s from.”
Mani is intrigued when I tell him that one of the Picture This boys also hails from Knockroe, Maganey.
“I told you, there’s something in the fucking river water! They’ve sold five nights out in the 3Arena? That’s amazing. Johnny Cash’s people are from there too.”
Indeed, the first Made of Athy plaque was unveiled last year by Johnny Cash’s grandson, Thomas Gabriel, to mark the 55th anniversary of the Man In Black gigging in Athy’s Dreamland ballroom.
“Johnny Marr said the unveiling of his plaque was insane! A couple of hundred people turned up, with half of them purporting to be his cousin.”
When I recount Noel Gallagher telling me that he feels Mancunian Irish rather than Irish or English, Mani shouts out, “Bang on! It’s its own nationality. We don’t consider ourselves to be English in Manchester. It’s like a mini-New York, a melting pot. We’ve had emigration from Italy, Poland, Ireland, China. England is 250 miles away in London.” Noel also talked about him and Liam playing at minor level for Oisin who were Lancashire football champions on numerous occasions during their youth.
“Noel and Liam played GAA? I’m finding out loads today. The really brutal one is hurling. Who’d throw a ball between a lot of Irish guys with sticks? I wouldn’t. My Uncle Christy used to play hurling in Thurles after he moved away from Kildare. When we took him back to bury him, a lot of his old teammates said he was really good.”
Athy was also spoken of with great affection during the summer when the aforementioned Picture This boys popped into the Hot Press Chatroom at Electric Picnic.
“We played a hometown gig in the GAA grounds when we were starting off as band,” Ryan Hennessy told us. “I’ve never felt an atmosphere like that in the town in my life. The taxis were running for free because we’d handed out 5,000 tickets for free on a first come, first served basis. The support we’ve had from people locally is amazing.”
Asked what his favourite Athy boozer is, Ryan admitted, “That’s a tough one. Anderson’s on Emily Square is really good, as is the C.I. Bar on Leinster Street. Hop between the two and you’re guaranteed a good night out!”
When I relay this crucial information to Mani, he cackles and says, “That’s me sorted for the day next time I’m over!”