Northern Ireland news

President Higgins joins mourners for the funeral of Chieftains founder Paddy Moloney

President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina Higgins attended Paddy Moloney's funeral in the village of Glendalough Co Wicklow. Picture by RTÉ

THE CHIEFTAINS founder Paddy Moloney "faded away" after he was no longer able to perform music for his fans due to the Covid-19 pandemic, his family told mourners at his funeral.

President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina travelled to the village of Glendalough Co Wicklow to support the 83-year-old's wife Rita, children Aonghus, Aedín and Pádraig and their grandchildren at Requiem Mass in St Kevin's Church yesterday.

Coronavirus regulations meant there were restricted numbers at the service, but many fellow musicians were among the those gathered to pay their last respects.

His bandmates took their places with their instruments in the chancel where they accompanied the singer and played his simple coffin in and out of the church.

Aonghus Moloney gave "special thanks to The Chieftains - Paddy would always have wanted them to play the final note".

On the altar were a set of Uileann pipes and a whistle in memory of the man described by Rolling Stones legend Keith Richards as putting Irish music "on the map".

There was also a black and white photograph of the young Paddy Moloney, who chief celebrant Fr Eamonn Crossan said "was able to listen, he was able to hear the sound of music even as a young boy - it was ringing in his ears as he began to learn... the plastic whistle".

Fr Crossan said St Kevin's was "the place that he loved and he loved to come to worship frequently with parish priest Fr Ollie Crotty who passes away a month ago".

Born into a musical family in Donnycarney, north Dublin, he formed several groups with musicians in duets and trios before forming the band that would become The Chieftains in 1962 with Sean Potts and Michael Tubridy.

They went on to achieve worldwide fame, winning six Grammys and many national and international awards.

"You opened to a million people for the Pope, you opened for the Rolling Stones. And last Tuesday on RTÉ, you opened for the Budget," his son said.

Aonghus Moloney revealed the pandemic had been hard on his father.

The piper, composer and producer was a devoted husband, whose relationship with Rita was "a 60-plus love affair", and grandfather often "found crawling round the floor playing with toys".

But he was "never without his tin whistle and always let his music do the talking",

"He lived for that moment when he would walk out onto the stage and say `I'm Paddy Moloney from Dublin, Ireland, the greatest city in the world'."

He said the pandemic was the "first time in 70 years Paddy Moloney couldn't play to an audience".

"Our dad loved doing what he did and in March last year Covid brought about abandoned, then cancelled tours. For the first time in his life he couldn't do what he loved.

"With the thing he loved most taken away from him, Paddy's life faded last March."

As The Chieftains played him from the church a final round of applause erupted for the man who brought joy to music-lovers for seven decades.

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