Lament For A Legend

by Gazette Reporter
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Dubliner Paddy Moloney was not only the founder and leader of the incomparable Chieftains but was a man who transformed how trad music was regarded on a global scale.

That was the scale of his influence on a national and international scale and his death on Tuesday at 83 removes a bulwark of the trad music industry as well asd a lovely family man and friend.

A native of Donnycarney, he musical roots came through his family where under the influence of pipe master Leo Rowesome he mastered both he uileann piples and tin whistle.

Over 59 years ago he formed the legendary Chieftains group and in the decades since, they have spread the Irish Traditional gospel by playing with such stars as The Dubliners, Ry Cooder, Elvis Costello, Emmylou Harris, Tom Jones and The Rolling Stones, as well as having a very strong relationship with the likes of U2.

He formed several groups with musicians in duets and trios, and in 1962 formed the band that would become The Chieftains. Their unique style was heralded around the world where they received  several awards, including six Grammys.

One of the high water marks of their career occurred in 1987 when they recorded the the Irish Heartbeat album with the incomparable Van Morrison. Another personal highlight as a performer was when he recorded with ex-Beatle Paul McCartney on the Tug of War album in 1980.

The group also hit the headlines by composing the music for a number of blockbusters including Barry Lyndon, Braveheart, Gangs of New York and Treasure Island.

Paddy loved composition and the variety of his talent can be seen from the fact that he was a superb bodhran and accordion players as well as the tin whistle and pipes.

Paddy married artist Rita O’Reilly and the couple have three grown up children, Aonghus, Padraig and Aedin, who is an actress and producer.

Paddy’s grounding in the  music industry  was from every angle as he knew the other side when accepting the post in 1968 of Claddagh Records CEO. By the time he left it some seven years later, Claddagh had become a by-word for excellence in the production of quality folk, trad, classical and other albums.

President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Micheál Martin led a legion of tributes to the iconic North City native Paddy Moloney who died this week aged 83.

The multi-talented composer, piper  and producer was described as “an inspiration” by the president in a statement released on Tuesday.

 “The Irish music community, and indeed the much larger community throughout the world who found such inspiration in his work, will have learnt with great sadness today of the passing of Paddy Moloney, founder and leader of the Chieftains.

“Paddy, with his extraordinary skills as an instrumentalist, notably the uilleann pipes and bodhrán, was at the forefront of the renaissance of interest in Irish music, bringing a greater appreciation of Irish music and culture internationally.

“Not only as a consummate musician himself, but as a founder member of Claddagh Records together with Garech de Brún, he brought a love of Irish music not just to the diaspora, but to all those across the world who heard his music and appreciated it for its own sake as it transcended all musical boundaries,” Mr Higgins stated.

Mr Martin said Paddy was a true “legend and a giant of Irish music and Irish culture.”

Chieftans Memorial Concert Member of the Chieftans Paddy Moloney at the announcement of two memorial concerts for Chieftan Derek Bell who passed away in 2002 outside the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin. 15/5/2003 Photo:/

The Society of Uilleann Pipers paid tribute to one of its founding members, by also describing him as “a giant of a figure in Irish life” while the Irish Traditional Music Archive highlighted his enormous contribution to Irish traditional music, song and dance, adding that he had left a “wonderful legacy.”

Said NPU chief executive Gay McKeon: “Paddy was a wonderful piper, an incredibly creative musician and a powerful performing artist. He helped popularise Irish music all over the world and in doing so, brought the sound of the uilleann pipes to the attention of so many.”

Prof. Kevin Rafter, chairman of he Arts Council pointed to Moloney’s  “unique style of uilleann piping” which he said was one of the most instantly recognisable sounds of Ireland.

Arts Minster Catherine Martin said: “We have lost a giant of the national cultural landscape. Through the Chieftains, he brought the joy of Irish music to a global audience. His music was a source of celebration and pride for all of us. Suaimhneas síoraí dá anam.”

Writing on Twitter, singer Imelda May shared her regret at his passing, adding: “He was ours wasn’t he? He made us all so proud of our heritage and brought such joyous energy. I’m honoured to have known and worked with not just a legend but a thoroughly lovely man.”

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