Harrogate's singing rail conductor's career on the right track

Paul Mirfin at Harrogate rail station. Picture by Adrian Murray. (1612121AM1)
Paul Mirfin at Harrogate rail station. Picture by Adrian Murray. (1612121AM1)
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A Harrogate railway conductor is rapidly becoming as well known for singing as checking tickets.

Since singer-songwriter and father-of-two Paul Mirfin decided to get more serious about his musical dreams only two years ago, he’s led a charmed life.

Paul’s latest adventure involved being flown across to South Africa all expenses paid to perform at huge stadium concert.

Normally to be found playing upstairs at Caffe Nero in Harrogate town centre on a Sunday night in his trademark Yorkshire flat cap, the cheery and always positive Paul confessses to being bemused by his good fortune.

Paul said: “I’ve played in bands playing traditional Irish folk music all my life but ever since I decided to write my own acoustic songs, everything has opened up for me.

“It’s been one thing after the other for nearly two years,”

The last 12 months alone have also seen Paul, who has a 12-year-old daughter and an 18-year-old son, also appear on BBC TV’s Song of Praise where he was filmed at Harrogate rail station singing with his band for passengers, not to forget gigs at Times Square in New York and the desert at Dubai.

How he does it is a mystery to Paul himself, though a friendly nature and the willingness to perform at the drop of a hat seems to be part of it.

The stadium gig at an event attended by 85,000 people is a point in principle.

Paul said: “I met the organiser when I was visiting a big church-run, farmers event at Pateley Bridge. I wasn’t supposed to be playing but I mentioned my songs so they let me sing my single called The Fighter.

“The organiser said he loved it and said I should play at this huge festival he was organising in South Africa. I took it all with a pinch of salt.”

Although he was treated like a VIP for five daysin Souith Africa, Paul says what he really wanted to do was play in the townships.

This was ruled out as too dangerous but Paul’s ‘can-do’ approach has certainly paid off on other occasions.

He got the Times Square gig after getting up to sing unannounced in an Irish bar while his performance for a nomadic tribe in Dubai happened when he was on holiday and just happened to have his Merlin guitar with him.

Known for his memorable melodies combined with Yorkshire grit and honest lyrics, none of this would have been possible without the support of Northern Rail.

Paul has been a conductor on the York-Harrogate-Leeds line for 13 years and he says his employers have been great.

Life has changed a lot since he moved beyond traditional Irish folk songs into original material.

Fans in Harrogate are used to seeing him playing his story-telling songs such as Bring the Rain at the Blues Bar or Caffe Nero in the company of his band members Dom Cottrill and Dan Jackson who, between them, play everything from banjo to violin.

But, no matter where the gig is, Paul is always back on the platform handling rail tickets come the start of the working week.

Paul said: “It’s all changed for me since I turned 40. It’s been a real rollercoaster ride.”