Good Luke story Dublin musician Luke Thomas tells of his rise, fall and rise again in music business
Irish singer Luke Thomas has revealed how his parents' love story began as they were pen pals back in the 1970s.
His father, Luke Snr, from the Liberties in Dublin, struck up a relationship with his mother, Bernardine, who lived in Trinidad, after they began sending letters to each other.
"It's gas, having a pen pal was the original Tinder in those days," Luke tells the Sunday World. "If it wasn't for it, my parents would never have met. They were a million miles from each other.
"Dad was a shy guy and my mother was the opposite. She looks a bit like Whoopi Goldberg and she's larger than life. I guess that's where I get my outgoing personality from.
"My mother was also well travelled. She was an au pair for a very affluent family in Trinidad and she had the experience of going to places like New York and London minding their kids.
"In 1977, Mam wrote a letter to my father telling him that in four months time she was going to be in London and she'd take a flight across to Dublin.
"So she came to Dublin and they met, and then Dad went over to Trinidad to see her the following year. Two months later she came back to Dublin and she stayed. That's 44 years ago."
Luke's father, who turned 70 last week, is a retired fitter, while 64-year-old Bernardine is the head attendant at St James's Hospital.
"Mam has been in the thick of it in the last year as a frontline worker, but she's passionate about what she does. She's definitely popular on the wards there.
"My mother was always motivating me when I was young. She instilled in me, 'Always have ambition son, you are given opportunities in life and it's up to you what you do with them. You're given the tools to assemble your own life, but there are no instructions. When you get opportunities go for it.'"
Luke, who is also a personal trainer and a regular panellist on Virgin Media TV's Elaine show, grew up in Dublin's Walkinstown and says he never experienced any incidents of racism or bullying.
"We would have been quite a novelty as a family in the 1980s because Mam was this very exotic, slim lady with short hair from the Caribbean," Luke says.
"In primary school I was the only child of colour, but I never felt different. Then I went to secondary school in Synge Street in the late 1990s and that was a bit more multi-cultural, but there were still very few people of colour.
"Synge Street was where Gay Byrne had gone to school and when I was there he'd do the school presentations. Gay gave me a gold medal in fourth year.
"I met him years later in RTE and told him, 'Gay, you gave me this medal and I remember you saying to me that 'you're a great fella and whatever you put your mind to you are going to do it, I can tell by you.' Gay was an inspiring man.
"When I was growing up it was always football and sport that I was passionate about and I wanted to be Paul McGrath. But then somewhere along the line music kicked in.
"During transition year I actually got to support Coolio at the Olympia Theatre because I knew the DJ and he let me pop up and do a couple of songs.
"After secondary school I went to the Ballyfermot rock college for a year where one of my lecturers was the great Pete Holidai from The Radiators.
"In 2002, I released two songs through Vibe Music and the guy behind that was Edison Waters, who now manages Gavin James. That would have been his first project.
"The following year I won a Meteor Award and I thought everything was going all the way then. I was just 18 and there I was at the awards sitting behind Bono and in front of Westlife, with Chad from the Red Hot Chili Peppers beside me.
"But you know how fickle the music industry is. We got to a point where we didn't know what to do next. Everybody was young - even the managers were young in their 30s - it was a learning experience for everybody.
"I then crashed back down to earth. I got a job in Guinness's working in the storehouse as a keg boy and worked up to front of house manager before I left to do music again full time. So it has been a journey, but it builds character.
"I'm not one for sitting down and waiting for things to happen, I just try and make things happen."
The popular performer has gone on to carve out a successful career as lead singer with The Swing Cats, performing hits from the golden age of swing music.
A fitness fanatic, Luke did a college course in personal training during lockdown and is now combining that in his career as a second income stream.
"Fitness has been another passion of mine and I won a couple of amateur body building competitions in recent years," he says. "Then last March my whole calendar for the year was wiped out due to the pandemic, so I did a college course and I'm now a fitness instructor online."
- This weekend Luke Thomas and The Swing Cats release their Live In Dublin album exclusively online at Goldendiscs.ie, along with a competition on their Facebook page to have the band perform in your home when Covid restrictions are lifted.
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