It’s rare for Unite Ireland senior regional organiser Davy Kettyles to watch breakfast TV – he normally listens to Today on Radio 4. But on one fine May morning, Belfast-based Davy, for no apparent reason, tuned into BBC TV’s Breakfast programme – and was surprised to see his old friend actor Adrian Dunbar, aka Superintendent Hastings as BBC’s Line of Duty fans know him – asking viewers to support the NHS-fund raising charity Asks for Masks.
Adrian was promoting a short spoof Line of Duty video promoting the charity – and Davy, who has worked with Unite NHS members and care workers – wanted to help.
“It was serendipity,” Davy says. “Adrian and I grew up on the same estate in Enniskillen and it just so happened I’d written a song about the Coronavirus, No tears at your grave.”
The heartfelt elegy was composed early on in the crisis, when one of the first Northern Ireland victims, Ann Best, died. “It’s was such a moving sight,” he says. “She was buried without her husband Tom, family, friends or neighbours. Only a priest and the undertaker at her graveside. I just found it heart breaking.”
As the virus went on to snatch away lives of more loved ones Davy thought how his song might help key workers – health and care workers, bus workers, food workers and more – many of them Unite members.
“Although the lyrics of the song, highlight the sacrifice of the “essential” workers who died in the line of duty, it’s a song that will resonate with everyone who has lost a friend or loved one during this period of time,” he explains.
So when he saw Adrian on TV he called his friend to ask for his help. Davy wanted to raise funds for Asks for Masks by selling downloads of No tears at your grave – and Adrian was keen to get involved.
“Adrian was very busy – but was well aware of what was at stake – and agreed to introduce my song and ask viewers to support NHS charities.”
The fund-raising single will be released this Sunday, July 5 – on the 72nd anniversary of the nation’s beloved NHS.
“When Davy Kettyles, my friend for almost 50 years, asked me to help promote his song No tears at your grave I was only too pleased to do so,” said Adrian.
“The song commemorates the key workers who have died in the line of duty during the Covid-19 crisis and acknowledges, not only the pain of their passing by their families and friends, but also the absence of the wake, family and communally gathering by the graveside because of Covid-19 restrictions,” he continued.
“The fact that the song is being released on the NHS’ anniversary as a charity single for the NHS-supporting Asks for Masks group, makes it all the better,” he added.
As a Unite senior organiser Davy is well known to many members and activists – including key transport and health workers. As an act of solidarity for their fellow workers and families, Unite’s Northern Ireland health, transport and passenger transport branches are supporting the appeal and will be promoting it widely.
Davy is full of admiration for Unite’s key worker members. “Our road and passenger drivers have literally kept the wheels rolling, while our NHS and care members have been under tremendous pressure – all have gone above and beyond.”
But the talented singer/songwriter is not content merely to raise funds with a single. Part of Northern Ireland’s culture are the legendary murals – and now Davy is on the case to celebrate Unite’s bus workers, NHS and care workers, food workers and the like in a specially designed mural.
Writer of over 40 songs, Davy’s newest album, The Great Red Wall – featuring the single, will be released in August. In a bid to raise even more needed cash for NHS charities, Davy is organising a schools art competition to design the album cover – with the winning design going on to form the basis of the new mural.
With both sales from the download and the Asks for Masks auction of the original artwork, Davy hopes to raise £3,000.
He also sees opportunities for further fund raising murals in other towns and cities to highlight the sacrifice of key workers going above and beyond the call of duty. “I’ve already had interest from members in Derry and Aberdeen.
“The mural in Belfast will be on the side of the former T&G union building. It’s in the city centre and in a very prominent position,” he adds.
Although this has been an extremely sad time for many families, Davy believes that at least some good has come out of it all. “We have many examples of Unite members getting involved and helping others – keeping the glue of our society together.
“Our taxi driver members have been helping elderly and vulnerable people with their shopping for example. People want to be together, be part of a community and Unite members have been there for them.”
Like many Davy is concerned for the future – especially with the threat of job losses hanging over Northern Ireland. “Take our aerospace members,” he says, “they are highly skilled workers and if we lose them we lose those skills forever.”
Hopefully Unite organisers like Davy and our teams of officers, staff and stewards throughout the UK and Ireland will do their utmost to achieve the very best for Unite members in the months to come.
Meanwhile this weekend at least Davy’s mind is firmly focused on raising much needed money for the NHS.
“Sales of the downloaded single will be donated to Asks for Masks to assist in the provision of essential protective equipment for those working in healthcare services,” Davy adds.
The download single will be released from Sunday July 5, and will be available for purchase on all download platforms. I have to say as someone who has had the privilege to have watched the song and beautiful video it’s incredibly moving and not to be missed.
Last words go to Davy. “It’s a song of our time – an acknowledgement of the work and sacrifices Unite members have given in the line of duty.”
Ahead of the single’s release you can watch a trailer – introduced by Adrian Dunbar
DOWNLOAD THE SINGLE:
Want to download the single from Sunday July 5? Here’s how you can
By Amanda Campbell @amanda_unite