Northern Ireland

Musician Barry Lynch remembered as 'a lighthouse of a man' after shock death

Barry Lynch in the studio and as an Armagh Rhymer and mummer. Pictures courtesy of Armagh Rhymers
Barry Lynch in the studio and as an Armagh Rhymer and mummer. Pictures courtesy of Armagh Rhymers

Multi-instrumentalist Barry Lynch, a member of the renowned Armagh Rhymers, has died several weeks after he suffered an accidental fall.

Barry was remembered as a teacher, a friend and a "lighthouse of a man" following his death on Tuesday at the Royal Victoria Hospital. He was in a coma in hospital following the fall in late April.

Barry, originally from Pomeroy in Co Tyrone,  will be buried following a service on Thursday morning at St John' s Church in Moy, where he lived for many years with his wife Siobhan. He is survived by their two children and one grandchild.

Clare Jennings, programme manager with the Armagh Rhymers, said “heartbroken” does not cover how the group “is feeling…at the sad passing of our esteemed colleague and dear friend Barry Lynch”.

“Barry has been the very fabric of our work in recent years, and it is hard to imagine a world without him in it,” Ms Jennings said on behalf of the traditional "mummers" music and cultural group that Barry was heavily involved with over the last approximately five years.

He toured Switzerland and Germany with the Rhymers and performed with the group at the Folk Alliance in Kansas City, Missouri, last year.

“His encyclopaedic knowledge of music, impeccable style, contagious laugh and of course that glorious moustache, brightened our days," said Ms Jennings.

Rhymer Annie June Callaghan described him as a “lighthouse of a man”, something Ms Jennings echoed. He was “a beacon of strength and a shining light in this world”.

Barry, 71, retired from full time teaching after many years at Drumcree High School but combined his career as a teacher with a packed life as a musician, playing  with the Armagh Rhymers but also at sessions across mid-Ulster and beyond. He continued to work as a substitute teacher.

Barry was a former teacher at Drumcree High School
Barry was a former teacher at Drumcree High School

He was also involved in film production. Film maker Des Henderson worked with Barry on How to Defuse a Bomb: The Project Children Story. 

“A bright shining light has gone out. Barry Lynch, you were a teacher, a friend, a mentor and a source of endless ideas and inspiration,” Mr Henderson said.

Project Children “would never have happened without your unwavering positivity and refusal to ever take no for an answer”

He added: “You were a true force of nature and the world is a poorer place without you in it.”

Musician Sárán Ó Machail said: "Barry held a very special place in my heart, and to me, he was the exact definition of a gentleman."

"His smile would light up a room; his voice could fill a room with power yet with warmth; and his accompaniment could sweetly blend into a session." 

Ms Ó Machail remembered the first session she played with Barry Lynch, at the Auction Rooms in Moy. She was seven.

"The late Aidan Prunty had invited me to play a few tunes, and Barry openly welcomed me into the session. Although the speed was remarkably slowed down as I was only a beginner, Barry insisted that I join in and play," she said. 

In full flow at a gig
In full flow at a gig

"Barry loved bringing out the hurdy-gurdy in the sessions and his performances. He created a haunting and enchanting atmosphere when he played it in tunes like Brian Boru’s March. He told me that he saw one in New Orleans in a shop window and felt obliged to buy one."

Aidan Quinn, owner of Daly's in Dungannon, said everyone at the venue is "heartbroken" at the "passing of the legend that was  Barry Lynch". 

"He brought a lot of happiness to a lot of people and when hearing Barry and his band open up, you always knew you were in for a good night," said Mr Quinn, a singer himself and son of Philomena Begley.