In Memoriam

The Irish Traditional Music Archive greatly regrets the recent deaths of three of its former board members: Finbar Boyle, Garech Browne, and Liam O’Flynn. All three made important and enduring contributions to Irish traditional music, contributions of different kinds. The board and staff of ITMA extend their sympathies to the families, friends, and colleagues of each.

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Finbar Boyle, Garech Browne, and Liam O’Flynn (left to right).

Finbar Boyle (1951–2018) was drawn to Irish traditional music from his teenage years in Dundalk, Co. Louth, and he was an excellent singer in the Northern style and an occasional writer of comic songs. After some years as a national school teacher and in the public library service, he worked for ten years for the Department of Irish Folklore in University College Dublin, specialising in the conservation of audio materials. He worked subsequently for Claddagh Records in Temple Bar. From the early 1970s he was an organiser of the influential Tradition Club in Slattery’s of Capel Street and from the late 1970s he was a columnist and reviewer for In Dublin magazine. Finbar was also an organiser of the 1970s Dublin Folk Festival, a radio researcher, and, from 2006 to 2009, the programmer of traditional music for the Temple Bar Trad Fest.


Garech a Brún / Browne (1939–2018), famously a member of the Guinness brewing dynasty, came to Irish music in the 1950s after teenage years spent in England. After studying the uilleann pipes with Leo Rowsome in Dublin, he co-founded and financed the record company Claddagh Records in 1959. Garech went on to issue many classic recordings of Irish traditional music, and to open Claddagh retail outlets and a distribution arm. The Claddagh catalogue now runs to over 100 individual recordings of the music, all of a high standard. Claddagh is best known internationally for the eleven early recordings of The Chieftains, whose albums first were issued by the label. They became major contributors to the twentieth-century globalisation of Irish traditional music. In his Irish home at Luggala, Co. Wicklow, Garech held court over the years for a stream of international artists and performers, including many Irish traditional musicians.


Liam O’Flynn / Ó Floinn (1945–2018), internationally renowned virtuoso uilleann piper and whistle player, was a native of Cill, Co. Kildare. He was long known as Liam Óg, having been named after his fiddle player father Liam, headmaster of Cill national school. With family and musical connections to Tralee, Co. Kerry, and to Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare, Liam was recognised early on as a more than talented piper. He took lessons from Leo Rowsome in Dublin, and later played with and was influenced by Willie Clancy and Seamus Ennis. But in time, he developed his own highly individual rock-steady, perfectly pitched style of mixed open and tight piping — piping expressed in solidly rhythmic dance tunes and in sweeping airs. Never losing contact with his traditional roots, he began a long series of music collaborations in 1972 with Christy Moore, Dónal Lunny, and Andy Irvine, as members of the innovative group Planxty. Through Planxty, Liam’s piping came to international as well as national attention, and brought a whole generation to uilleann piping. In the 1980s, he embarked as a solo piper with orchestral accompaniment on an original series of compositions by Shaun Davey, the best known being The Brendan Voyage. In the late 1990s, he formed his band The Piper’s Call; together they made one of his many recordings on the Tara label. He played on numerous film scores, and worked with experimental composers such as John Cage, popular singers such as Kate Bush, and fellow traditional musicians such as fiddle player Paddy Glackin. With the poet Seamus Heaney, he developed The Poet and the Piper, an occasional and much admired stage performance. In 2007, Liam was awarded the TG4 ‘Ceoltóir na Bliana’ Gradam Ceoil.


NC, 23 March 2018