Look up “global superstar” and Dolly Parton is surely at or near the top of that list. It’s nearly impossible to find a place in the world where the country music treasure is not only not known, but also where her presence doesn’t cause a considerable commotion. But for a small group of punters (that’s patrons to us Yanks), in a pub in Ireland’s County Kerry, Parton was just one of them for a while, hanging out, sharing songs and cozying up to the pub’s owner, who was himself a hugely popular sports figure in his home country.
While on holiday in Ireland some time around 1990 (based on the singer’s look in the above video, along with several user comments), Parton took in the local color and the live music at Páidí Ó Sé’s pub, which is situated in the charming village of Ventry. Also known by its Gaelic name, Ceann Trá, Ventry is located on the Dingle Pennisula in western Ireland in an area where many of the inhabitants still speak the Gaelic language. But that night, they all spoke the language of east Tennessee, as the famous tourist was coaxed on stage to sing her universally beloved hit, “Coat of Many Colors.” (Check out a longer video of her Irish adventures here.)
As the pub’s musicians tune up, Parton takes the mic and says, “Well, hello… and welcome to Ireland. My name is Dolly and I’m on vacation. I was not going to sing tonight. I was going to be entertained.” Pointing to the seated guitar player, Steve Cooney (who, as it happens, later went on to marry — and divorce — singer Sinead O’Connor), Parton says, “He says he knows my song… and he asked me to sing it.”
Also during the same visit, publican Páidí Ó Sé, who played professional Gaelic football for Kerry, welcomes Parton and introduces her to the crowd (in Gaelic), saying, “You know I’m speaking in Irish, I should hope. That’s our language back in this part of the peninsula.” He then presents her with the jersey he wore as captain when his team won the 1985 All-Ireland Final.” “It hasn’t been washed since,” he tells her. “I was hopin’ it had some sweat still in it,” she quips, before holding it up to her chest, which, of course, elicits quite a bit of laughter.
Dolly Parton isn’t the only American celebrity to have visited the Ventry pub. Tom Cruise, Martin Sheen and Julia Roberts also stopped in on their various trips to the Emerald Isle.