The Saw Doctors-  A Biography

The Saw Doctors is a group of songwriting musicians
from the West of Ireland, hell-bent on celebrating,
observing, recording and sometimes poking fun at
their own locality, accent and idiomatic use of language
whilst dressing their songs up in their favourite sounds
and styles from their years of musical fandom.

Formed in Tuam, really a small market town but in fact
a tiny city of two cathedrals, in the late 1980’s, originally
with Mary O’Connor as the main singer and later based
around the songs and singing of Davy Carton, Leo Moran,
Padraig Stevens, John ‘Turps’ Burke with no little
contribution from the late Paul Cunniffe (who had
written and sang Davy’s previous band, Blaze X’s,
repertoire with him)

The Saw Doctors were discovered by Mike Scott of
The Waterboys on a stormy Wintry Tuesday night in
Galway city, plying their trade with more gumption
than virtuosity in the back of The Quays Bar, blue
banger slates clattering down treacherously on the
narrow, deserted streets outside leading to where the
River Corrib meets the Atlantic Ocean.

Scott took an unlikely liking to the unlikely bunch of
raggedy and fashion-unconscious triers and offered
them the support slot on what was, at that time, the
most revered up-coming rock and roll tour of the country.
Things must’ve somehow pleased the Scot along the
way and in Sligo, before the tour was completed, he
offered the itinerant songsmiths the six-week Spring
tour of Great Britain, starting in February 1989.
Padraig’s coy acceptance of the offer came in four
words ‘We’ll pencil it in.’

With Pearse Doherty, the bassist since the start of the
Irish tour, in his last year in Science in Galway
University and Davy working as a fitter and the
father of three young boys, the youngest awaiting
holy water and a name, things were not pure and
simple. The philosophy adopted was – ‘Let’s not
end up looking back in twenty years time telling
people in a pub what we could have done wan time’

That decided, Pearse’s mother smuggled his good
bass down from Donegal (his father didn’t know
he was in a band) and Pearse packed his science
books with the rest of his gear so he could do some
study along the way(!!!) Davy asked for six weeks
off work and was promptly told by his boss that if he
took six weeks off he could have every week afterwards
off as well. Davy courageously chose to take the six
weeks and flew over to London a couple of days later
than the rest of the band, Christopher having now been
christened, for the start of an epic escapade.

Mike fulfilled his tour-time offer and produced the
band’s first single, ‘N17’, which features the then
Waterboys’ saxophonist, and now Saw Doctors’ bass
player, Anthony Thistlethwaite, in the outro; it was
a feat of indescribable dimensions how a man could
play a sax so well after being in the pub all day.

The single got on the radio a handful of times and a
second single was to be released to fulfill the two-record
deal with Solid Records. With Philip Tennant, whom
they had met through Mike and who had engineered
‘N17’, now on the producer’s perch, they went to the
haunted Loco Studios in Wales and put down three
tracks – ‘It Won’t Be Tonight’, ‘I Useta Lover’ and
‘Sing A Powerful Song’.

After debates, theories and shit-talk, it was eventually
decided that ‘I Useta Lover’ would be the second
release from The Saw Doctors. They plugged away at
gigs around Ireland and scored an early afternoon slot
at the coming-of-age Irish festival of its time, Féile, in
Thurles, in County Tipperary,in the August of 1990,.
The Welsh ghost must have brought them luck for that
Sunday evening they learnt that ‘I Useta Lover’ had
somehow entered the Irish single charts from where it
slowly climbed, taking seven weeks to reach the Number
One spot and remaining on top for the following nine
weeks. The Saw Doctors were now known the length
and breath of the country and beyond.

Things got fast. A Channel 4, Steve Lock directed,
documentary, ‘Sing A Powerful Song’, was shot in
Manchester and at their homecoming gig in the Gaelic
Football Stadium in Tuam, and it aired in both Britain
and Ireland. They made their first trip to The United
States in 1991, a journey they have made almost
eighty times since.

Through the nineties they chalked up well-received
appearances at numerous prestigious festivals
including Witnness, Oxegen and Slane in Ireland,
Glastonbury, T in the Park, the London Fleadh in
Britain as well as at its Fleadh cousins across the
Atlantic in New York, Chicago and San Francisco,
and garnered a reputation for being a powerful and
exciting live band, playing diligently through Ireland,
Britain and the USA, with the odd trip to Australia,
Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Holland,
France and Belgium thrown in. A handful of singles
briefly dented the UK Charts through the nineties, the
three most successful breaking into the Top 20 –
‘Small Bit Of Love’, ‘To Win Just Once’ and
‘World Of Good’.

With four studio albums in their record shop section,
‘If This Is Rock And Roll I Want My Old Job Back’,
‘All The Way From Tuam’, ‘Same Oul’ Town’ and
‘Songs From Sun Street’, The Saw Doctors went
where no band had ever gone before and bravely
entered the new millennium. Upheaval in the line-up
saw long-time drummer John Donnelly and long-time
bassist Pearse Doherty move on, joined shortly
afterwards by keyboardist Derek Murray and the
team-sheet took a while to settle again, with first
Jim Higgins and then Fran Breen occupying the
drumstool and Kevin Duffy pressing the black and
white keys. For a number of tours a brass section
with Danny Healy on trumpet and Richie Buckley
on sax augmented the show, as well as the addition
of Mouse McHugh on backing vocals. They released
their sixth studio album, ‘The Cure’, recorded in
Cuan Studios in Spiddal, near Galway and were
presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award at
the Meteor Awards of 2008, with the line-up of
Davy Carton, Leo Moran, Anthony Thistlethwaite,
Kevin Duffy and Éimhín Cradock.

Throughout the noughties The Saw Doctors gained
an ever-increasing and enthusiastic following on the
Irish college scene, ensuring a young and lively
new audience in their home country. In 2008 they
filmed a documentary, “Clare Island to Cape Cod’,
the centerpiece being their, by then, eagerly
anticipated annual August appearance at the Melody
Tent in Hyannis, MA revolving on the stage,
surrounded in 360° by banks of loud and sweaty
Summertime fans.

With their distinctive version of ‘About You Now’,
The Sugababes’ hit, a chance cover from the ‘
Rockin’ Roulette’ section of The Podge and Rodge
Show on Ireland’s national TV station, RTÉ, The
Saw Doctors scored an Irish Number One in October
2008, their first Number One since ‘Hay Wrap’,
seventeen years previous.

Over the following year and a half this squad
recorded the band’s seventh studio album –
‘The Further Adventures Of The Saw Doctors’
which is probably their most consistent collection
of songs to date, barely making it into the
‘record shops’ before the concept of an album,
and the outlets that sell them, veer dangerously
close to becoming obsolete.

The end of 2011 brought another surprise hit for
the band – having included a verse and chorus of
‘Downtown’ in the show-closing ‘Hay Wrap’, the
band noticed that, like ‘About You Now’, ‘Downtown’
captured the imagination of the audience, making it a
potential contender for the Christmas single. On a
long-shot, producer Phillip Tennant got in touch with
Petula Clark’s manager and a recording session was
arranged in London where the old 60’s classic was
re-vamped and recorded – ‘The Saw Doctors featuring
Petula Clark’! The lively duet made it to number 2 in
the Irish singles Christmas chart and actually made it
to number 1 in the i-tunes section of the count.

The beginning of January 2012 saw Éimhin passing on
the drumsticks to Mayo man, Rickie O’Neill, the first
green and red blooded member in the annals of the team;
Éimhin and Rickie had been working together towards
the end of 2011 on making the transition as smooth as
possible, and smooth it was – Rickie already having put
in storming performances at The Glasgow Barrowland
and The Manchester Apollo amongst other shows on the
December leg of the British and Irish tours.

Loved and revered by their loyal fans, many of
whom have been recruited by already fan friends,
or friends of friends of fans, if you know what I
mean, and often reviled by haughty urban-based
media style council as being too rural (Tuam!),
painting pictures that the begrudgers believe, from
their lofty perspective, don’t exist in the real world,
The Saw Doctors continue with a resilience and an
effervescent energy that few other bands can top.

In their own words…..

‘Born into a repressed, catholic, conservative, small-town,
agrarian, angst-ridden and showband infested society
we’re trying to preserve the positive elements of our
background and marry them to the sounds which have
culturally invaded our milieu through TV, radio, 45’s, fast
food restaurants, 24 hour petrol stations and electric

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