Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

15.55 14 May 2020


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Dana Rosemary Scallon says "nobody thought" Ireland could win the Eurovision before her performance became the first Irish one to win the contest 50 years ago.

The musician - and later politician - won the song contest in 1970, when she was just 18 years old.

Dana spoke to Moncrieff about the experience, a half century after winning over Europe with her performance of All Kinds of Everything.

'Nobody thought Ireland could win' - Dana reflects on winning Eurovision 50 years ago

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

  

She said: "I was still at school of course... I used to go to Dublin on a Friday after school, any maybe do two gigs on Saturday and one on the Sunday... and then back.

"I sang in the National Song Contest in 1969... I came second, but it was such a terrifying experience I thought 'I can't do this for the rest of my life'.

"I retired from show business in the summer of '69, settled down to do my A-levels. I wanted to teach English and music."

However, it was producer Tom McGrath that called Dana up for the following year's contest and matched her with the song that would ultimately prove to be a European smash hit.

She recalled: "He is the man who was instrumental in changing my life."

When it came to the national contest in 1970, Dana says she was "nervous but not petrified like the year before".

After emerging victorious in Ireland, she went over to London to record a new version of the song (arranged by Phil Coulter) before travelling to Amsterdam for the Eurovision.

She recalls that she was a "huge fan" of Mary Hopkins - the UK's choice of performer for the contest, who ultimately finished in second place.

Dana explained: "I loved her... and there I was meeting her and standing behind her.

"It was one of those experiences I wanted to remember every second of, because I thought I'd never do this again.

"There's an awful worrying thing about meeting someone you really admire, because the chances are they could be really horrible people - but she was just what I thought she'd be... very natural and down-to-earth."

Dana said that while Ireland had had good entries in the past, "nobody thought" Ireland would win.

Remembering the immediate reaction to her victory, she explained: "Leaning against the wall at the back of the stage... was Tom McGrath.

"He looked at me, and I looked at him. He always used to call me Rosie Mary... and he said 'Rosie Mary, how dare you win... we can't afford it'".

She said that the reaction to the win in Ireland "was a wonderful thing... people were so happy".


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