All hail Philly the queen of country

Philomena Begley
Philomena Begley

Pomeroy’s Philomena Begley has scaled the heights of Irish country music fame, received a standing ovation at Nashville’s Grand Old Opry and performed and recorded with a stellar line-up of US country artists including Porter Wagoner, Bille Jo Spears, Don Williams, Hack Locklin, Charlie Pride and Tammy Wynette.

The down-to-earth Co Tyrone performer began her career singing with the Old Cross Ceili Band while working by day in Fisher’s hat factory until music success meant Philomena could devote herself to the touring circuit full time. The Old Cross Ceili Band soon became known as The Country Flavour and began to play the kind of American country songs that were so popular across the Atlantic. Philomena fronted the band and they performed all over Ireland and the UK as more and more fans came to love country music and its particularly catchy and heartfelt ballads full of wholesome sentiments, infectious rhythms, memorable lyrics and corn-spun tales.

Philomena scaled the Irish country music charts with songs like her 1975 breakthrough hit Blanket on the Ground and was well known for a string of hits such as Truck Drivin’ Woman, Queen of the Silver Dollar and Ramblin’ Man. In fact The Country Flavour soon rebranded as Philomena Begley and her Ramblin’ Men as the band toured through the 70s and 80s. Philomena duetted with Irish singer Ray Lynam going on to perform with him at the UK country music awards in Wembley where the duo were uniquely honoured.

Despite her meteoric success in Irish country music and her 55-year glittering career that has seen her perform and work with some of the very biggest names in the country music genre - most notably her recordings with musician and producer Porter Wagoner across three full length albums, ‘Philly from Pomeroy’ as she likes to call herself is still happiest at home on the farm she shares with her former musician husband Tom baking soda bread and spending time with her three children Mary, Aidan and Carol as well as her grandchildren, who all live nearby.

In this new memoir Philomena tells the story of her childhood, upbringing and five decades in the music industry outlining her humble beginnings and her glittering path to the top of the Irish country music scene.

By 1978 Philomena was touring the US, marching the New York City St Patrick’s Day Parade, recording at Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner’s Fireside Studios in Nashville and was awarded gold, silver and platinum discs.

The book takes us from her happy beginnings as a bread-man’s daughter in Co Tyrone through the devastating loss of her brother Patsy and the risks of touring Ireland at the height of the Troubles right up to her 55th anniversary in show business this year as she recounts her ‘gold and silver days’. This warm, humoured insight into a life filled with country music and on the road banter makes for addictive reading and Philomena’s life story is colourful, surprising and uplifting.