Following in the tradition of players like John Renbourn and the British folk revival, Jim Ronayne specializes in intricate acoustic guitar work. He grew up in Birkenhead, a shipping port, where his father worked after returning from the war. Ronayne's first guitar was a gift from his father, an instrument that required more brawn than brains to play. "I just assumed all guitar players' fingers bled profusely after playing for four or five hours, and I would eventually 'get used to it,'" he later recalled. "This eventually resulted in an obsession for my playing guitars with very, very low action." Next, his mother acquired a better guitar for Ronayne with nylon strings, a guitar he still owns.
Ronayne first learned how to play by watching TV programs like John Pearce's Hold Down a Chord and a local show called Scene at Six-Thirty. "John showed us all how to play every song in the universe using C, A minor, F, and G7," Ronayne later remembered. He was also deeply impressed when he saw Ralph McTell perform one evening. "Ralph McTell came on one night and just before the required 'Streets of London' played 'Blind Blake's Rag' and I was hooked line and sinker on acoustic from that moment on."
Ronayne attended engineering school at 16, but guitar remained his primary interest, absorbing five to six hours every night in his bedroom. His turning point came when he attended a John Renbourn concert in Liverpool in the mid-'70s. So overwhelmed by the experience, he turned his back on his former music books and studied Renbourn's work. "John remains my mentor in all things 'guitar,'" Ronayne later wrote. He also began attending a number of folk clubs to see players like Bert Jansch, Martin Carthy, and Martin Simpson. In 1978, Ronayne joined these players on the folk circuit, eventually forming a duo called Jasmin with vocalist Yvonne Thomas. For the next 17 years, the team toured throughout the northwest of England.
After dropping out of the music business for some time, Ronayne reignited his career in 2003. Soon, he had an idea for a set of songs around the theme of emigration and the Atlantic crossing.
"I visited The Dunbrody [a ship] whilst taking an extended holiday in Ireland visiting family and friends," Ronayne wrote. "Having read a few books by my good friend Jim Rees and seen a few films pertaining to the emigration, it was still a shock to me to see a full-scale replica, and I've no reason to believe that my experience was very different to many other visitors. Firstly how small she is and secondly the conditions on board. It had quite an effect on me. I starting putting this CD together shortly afterwards, and 'Voyage of the Dunbrody' was the first track written."