Lives Remembered

Ambrose McLaughlin: Nephew of Josef Locke who found singing success in Australia

Ambrose McLaughlin chose the stage name Brendan Locke in honour of his uncle Josef Locke.
Seamus McKinney

AMBROSE McLaughlin could thank a broken-down truck for setting him on the road to singing success.

Born at Artillery Street in Derry city centre, he emigrated to England in the 1950s at a time when his uncle Joseph - better known as the legendary tenor Josef Locke - was at the height of his fame.

While working with car manufacturer Vauxhall and as a truck driver, Ambrose started taking singing lessons.

One day on a job in Cardiff his vehicle broke down, forcing him to stay with his aunt Bridie and her husband Bill Lewis in Newport.

"I went with them to a local ex-servicemen’s club where a Welsh tenor was singing badly," he said.

“I boasted I could do better and I was immediately challenged by the singer’s family – who had overheard my crass remark – to get up and prove it.

"This I did and I was immediately offered five pounds to come back the following week. After that, there was no stopping me.”

Ambrose bought himself a new bow tie, adopted the name Carl Stevens and performed in working men’s clubs all over northern England.

A further name change – to Brendan Locke – and emigration to Australia brought further success.

As one of the “Three Irish Tenors” he toured extensively. As a solo artist he also won many awards including a Gold Disc for his first album, The Shamrock Spectacular.

The pinnacle of his career came when he became the first Irish tenor to sing at the Sydney Opera House concert hall.

Mr McLaughlin died aged 83 on Christmas Day in New South Wales.

He is survived by his wife Frances and children Carl and Joanne.

Seamus McKinney

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Lives Remembered