I was delighted to see a mention of Michael Landers on the excellent BrandNewRetro site. They have some really great scans of early Irish pop music magazines like Heat and Spotlight. It is always well worth a visit.
In 1971 a new face appeared in the Irish pop charts. He took to the road to bring his youthful stage-presence to the people of Ireland. His first (and only) chat song climbed all the way to number 11. It spent five weeks on the charts. That was appropriate because he was five years old! Michael was the youngest of six children from Kilcullen, county Kildare and according to court records had been performing from the age of three.
His chart song “If I could be a sailor man” featured “Mr Taxman” on the B-side. What taxes young Michael must have had on his mind are anyone’s guess. Hopefully not taxes on the old age pension!
One of his career highlights was a gig at Dublin’s National Stadium in September 1971 where he appeared on the bill with Slim Whitman.
Part of an ad for a Michael Landers gig in Ballinamore, county Leitrim in Feb 1972.(Note the name Christy Moore on the bill as well as the fantastic news that the hall was specially heated. That makes me wonder how cold a lot of the ballrooms of Ireland were in the early seventies!
Landers released another two singles on the Ruby label, neither of which charted. Yet the reason his short career was cut short was because of laws preventing children from touring the ballrooms of Ireland. Enter Fine Gael TD Oliver J Flanagan who was well known for his very hostile attitude to certain groups in Irish society. Oliver J expressed outrage about young Michael.
In an extraordinary court case the boy’s father argued that parts of the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act was inconsistent with the Irish Constitution.
The Irish Government kept quite a few of the laws they had inherited from the British. One of these was the pre-Independence Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act (1904). This was designed to protect the exploitation of children by making them work in unsuitable conditions. When young Michael went on tour tickets were sold and a few people raised objections. According to court statements in nine months his appearances had earned £2,000. £800 was put away from him, while his career cost £1,200.
The Irish Attorney General refused to rule the Cruelty Act as unconstitutional. He even told the young lad that he was free to perform…just not within the 9 pm – 6 am period outlawed by the act. He also told him that once he reached double digits, age 10, he could become a professional singer with minor restrictions!
He was never heard of again.
Here the question that we can think about arising from this case?
Should we have restrictions on how many hours children can work?
What should those hours be?
And at what age should children be able to work full time?