Tallaght man honoured to play at funeral of RTE icon

by Padraig Conlon

A renowned uilleann piper from Tallaght has spoken of his pride at performing at Gay Byrne’s funeral.

Piper and postman Eamonn Walsh from St Maelruan’s Park, a world champion and master musician, answered the call to provide the music at the legendary broadcaster’s funeral last month.

Eamonn, who is a member of “Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann”, played as the cortege arrived at the gates of St Fintan’s Cemetery in Sutton and again at the graveside.

Among the pieces of music Eamonn played was “The Parting Glass” and “You Raise Me Up” as the cortege arrived at the gates of the cemetery.

After the coffin was lowered into the grave, Eamonn played “Gabriel’s Oboe” composed by Ennio Morricone from the Film “The Mission”.

“I received a round of applause after the lament,” Eamonn told Dublin Gazette.

“Gay Byrne’s wife Kathleen Watkins and members of the Byrne family thanked me and said they were deeply moved by the beautiful haunting sound of the Uilleann Pipes.

“I do a lot of funerals, I think the haunting sound of the pipes help people to cry, they’re much nicer than Bag Pipes.”

Eamonn, who has been playing the uilleann pipes for almost 40 years, recalls how his passion for the instrument was ignited.

“I was at a Planxty concert in 1980 and when Liam Og O’Flynn started playing the uilleann pipes I was totally spell bound.

“After the concert I met him and asked how I could get started, he put me on the right road.

“He gave me the name of Matt Kiernan, a pipemaker in Cabra who made me a beginners set.

“I went for classes at the Uilleann Piping Society and in 1986, just a few years after taking up the instrument I became All-Ireland champion.”

Since then, Eamonn has performed at various official functions in Àras an Uachtaráin,the Mansion House, Dept of Foreign Affairs, as well as various embassies and civic receptions in Ireland and overseas.

He also appeared on the Late Late Show numerous times back when Gay Byrne was the presenter.

“It was a huge honour to perform at his funeral,” Eamonn said.

“I grew up listening to Gay Byrne on the radio and watching him on the Late Late Show on an old black and white TV.

“He was an icon who had a massive influence on Irish life, the like of which we’ll never see again.”

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