Sheila O’Kelly remembers the ‘Golden Tenor’ on the anniversary of his death


Frank Patterson was born on the 5th October, 1938 in Clonmel, County Tipperary, the eldest of three sons and a daughter of Sheamus and Mary Patterson. Frank was educated at Saint Peter and Pauls’ Primary school and the Christian Brothers High School in Clonmel. He sang in the local Parish Choir and at school concerts.

After a high school performance as Lazarello in W.V. Wallace’s Maritana opera, Frank received special encouragement from Clonmel-based broadcaster and journalist Tommy O’Brien. Frank left school after his Inter Cert to work in Slaters, his mother’s family printing business.

In 1962 Frank moved to Dublin and enrolled at the National Academy of Theatre and Allied Arts, where he studied acting and received voice training from German music teacher Hans Waldemar Rosen.

In 1964, Frank entered the Feis Ceoil, a competition in classical music, and won all the major vocal awards in several sections including Oratorio (a musical piece based on some Biblical or religious event where the story is told through music and not with scenery, costumes or action).

This success led to classical recitals and roles in opera and oratorio throughout Ireland. Frank won scholarships for further studies in London, Paris and Holland. His first professional performance was in Handel’s opera, ‘Acis and Galatea’ at the 1964 Wexford Festival.

While touring in 1966 with Feis Éireann, a troupe of Irish singers and dancers, Frank met Eily O’Grady, the troupes musical director and concert pianist (Eily’s sisters Geraldine and Sheila O’Grady are accomplished violinists). Frank and Eily married the following year and they resided in France. Eily was a frequent accompanist at Frank’s concerts and recitals.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own