Musician Gilbert O’Sullivan granted Freedom of Waterford

Musician Gilbert O’Sullivan granted Freedom of Waterford

Olivia Kelleher

Waterford-born singer-songwriter Gilbert O’Sullivan said that his late mother, May, was at the forefront of his mind as he was granted the Freedom of his native city and county this evening (Wednesday).

The 77-year-old, who lives in Jersey, said that he had never made a speech in his life, despite having performed on stages all over the world for five decades.

The three-time Ivor Novello winner, who has been praised by artists as diverse as Nina Simone, Paul Weller, Gary Barlow and Tim Burgess, said that he was delighted to follow in the footsteps of the “wonderful” Val Doonican and Brendan Bowyer in being awarded the Freedom of Waterford.


“I am proud of my roots. The fact that I only lived here until I was eight years old certainly never stopped me, as I got older, from coming back.”

O’Sullivan said that his mother had run a successful sweet shop in Waterford, while his father was employed by Clover Meats. His father got a job offer in England, and the family settled in Swindon.

O’Sullivan said his mother, who lived to her 90s, would have been over the moon to see her son receive the honour.

Gilbert O'Sullivan with his wife Aase O'Sullivan as she signs the visitors' book in Waterford City Hall. Photo: Noel Browne

Mayor of Waterford Joe Conway paid tribute to O’Sullivan, who he said had made “an indelible mark” on the music world.


“The essence of this man is captured not just in the length of his career but in the depth of his impact on music, the arts and the hearts of those who have the privilege to witness his journey,” he said.

Cllr Lola O’Sullivan, who in December of last year proposed that O’Sullivan receive the honour, said that he was one of the “greats” of Waterford.

“Gilbert has carved out a remarkable career with his unique melody, wit and surreal humour earning global success and critical acclaim. He is now hailed as one the great singer songwriters acclaimed by a diverse range of artists.”

The seconder of the proposal, Cllr Joe Kelly, said that O’Sullivan had made his way from Waterford’s “Cork Road to the Royal Albert Hall to Glastonbury and everywhere in between”.

“An eye-catching visual image consisting of a bowl cut, cloth cap and short trousers, inspired by his love of silent films, made him stand out and scored him his first contract after catching the eye of a professional manager.

“A 50-year career adorned with awards and performances around the world is exactly why Gilbert is deserving of this honour tonight.”

O’Sullivan’s first single, Nothing Rhymed, was released in 1970 and achieved top 10 status in the UK and European charts.

In 1972, Alone Again (Naturally) topped the US charts for six weeks and earned him three Grammy nominations.

He scored six UK number one hits and 16 top 40 singles over the course of his career.

In recent times, O’Sullivan has performed alongside other artists at BBC Proms in the Park. He has also made three appearances at Glastonbury, including on the main stage, and toured extensively throughout the UK, Ireland, Europe, Japan and Australia.

For the latest Waterford News and Sport, tune into WLR News on the hour and download the WLR App for news on demand.