Sean Lynch projects biography news contact
Monday, 23 March 1970.
Four found images, digitally restored
Accompanying text compiled from newspaper articles of the time.
The Irish Times reporter wrote that the crowd acted as a shoving, pushing, charging melee, despite all the best efforts of Aer Lingus public relations officer Captain Jack Miller. As press cards were being checked by the nine police officers present, a female journalist angrily complained that a security guard had manhandled her. When the plane arrived from Amsterdam, Miller unsuccessfully attempted to forbade the press contingent present from running out of the terminal building onto the tarmac.
18-year-old Rosemary Brown (also known as Dana) was last out of the plane, behind her mother Susan Brown and her grandmother Ellen Sheerin. At this stage, the much-publicised Operation Dana broke down into chaos. The Press, along with friends and family of the arriving party, made their way forward to hear Dana, wearing a fur-trimmed green leather coat, sing her winning Eurovision song accompanied by an accordion player. A banner, ‘Thanks Dana, We Love You,’ was the handiwork of employees of Irish Factors, who distributed Rex Records, the label Dana recorded for.
She was met by P.J. Burke, chairman of Dublin County Council, who escorted her into the terminal. Dana gracefully acknowledged the plaudits of people, most of them little girls who had lined the viewing balcony above, from where these photographs were taken. The Irish Times estimated the crowd on the balcony to be hundreds; the Evening Herald suggested it was more like several thousand.
She was then hustled through the hall and disappeared into the VIP lounge with dignitaries that included singer Sean Dunphy, who was second in the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest in Vienna, and Michael Garvey, head of programming at RTE television. Garvey carried in a bouquet of flowers, presumably intended for Dana. Outside, Derry Lindsey, of Ballymun, complained bitterly that he and fellow songwriter Jackie Smith had been ignored throughout the song contest, and that all the publicity had gone to Dana. He said ‘I know she did a really good job on it, but as far as I can see, every attempt has been made by everybody, especially her manager, to keep us out of the picture.’
Captain Miller announced there would be a press conference. He shouted to the milling throng of reporters ‘Why the devil can’t you be quiet, we will have to get tough, put security men on and put everyone out.’ An RTE spokesman said he would be entertaining 300 people next year when the Eurovision would be held in Dublin. When asked how much this would cost the Irish people, he did not reply. Suddenly Dana reappeared amid warning that she must take off in 60 seconds. She signed some autographs. If she made a statement it was not audible. She then left for Derry.
This was Dana’s 50-minute stay in Dublin, before flying to the RAF base at Ballykelly near Derry. The brevity of her stay was due to Aer Lingus’ fixed timeframe. Their Boeing 737 needed to get to and leave the base before dark, since international regulations of the time stipulated that passenger airlines using a military airfield must land and take off in daylight hours.
In Ballykelly, the evening continued. In response to the demands of about 200 people on the tarmac Dana agreed to once again sing All Kinds Of Everything. It was almost theatrically fitting that she forgot the words halfway through before weeping briefly to tremendous clapping. Overhead two birds, as if attracted by the sweet sounds soaring towards them, wheeled and dipped as if in admiration. She had to then sign an autograph for the daughter of the base squadron leader before being allowed through customs. Robert Brown, Dana’s jubilant father, meet her at the airport. He had successfully bet £10, at odds of 10 to 1, that his daughter would win. Her motorcade of about 20 vehicles then left the RAF base. Along the 15-mile stretch of road to Derry, people greeted her hysterically. On several occasions crowds mobbed around the car and brought it to a halt.
In Derry, a crowd of over 5,000 people welcomed her as she approached the Guildhall. It took more than a dozen members of the British army to clear a path for her to walk into the building, where she was meet by local dignitaries. A most notable speech came from The Most Reverent Doctor Farren, Bishop of Derry, who said, ‘I hope that this great success will do one thing – unite all our people. I hope that the trouble that we all dislike will cease and harmony will not only prevail in singing but in the ordinary day’s work in Derry City.’ Outside, hundreds on the street attempted to gatecrash the event, but were held back by army soldiers guarding the steel-gated entrance to the building.
After the civic reception, Dana went to her home in a seven-storey block of flats in the Bogside, where a crowd estimated at 6,000 had gathered. Troops removed the wire barrier at Butcher Gate at 9.45pm and five minutes later Dana’s car drove through. A spontaneously organized ‘welcome home’ committee greeted Dana, and Miss Kate Norris, one of the oldest residents in the flats, presented her with a bouquet of flowers. Each home was decorated with a photograph of Dana and gaily-coloured bunting hung from the railings of each balcony of the multi-story flats. Dana then appeared at her fifth floor window and said, ‘I wish I could come down and give every single one of you a big hug.’ She then sang unaccompanied once more. When her song was finished there was prolonged applause and the crowd went home humming and singing strains of a familiar tune. A group of around 100 teenagers then moved from the Bogside towards the city centre, where some bottle and stone-throwing resulted in several arrests and clashes with troops until about 2am.