President lauds legacy of uilleann piper Liam O’Flynn

The death of uilleann piper Liam O’Flynn prompted tributes to his talent, his dedication to musical heritage and his inspiration to rising musicians.

President Michael D Higgins described it as an “important and lasting legacy” after news of the 72-year-old Co Kildare native’s passing emerged yesterday morning.

Best known to many for his work in the 1970s and 1980s with folk group Planxty, Mr O’Flynn’s collaborations with international performers like Kate Bush and Mark Knopfler also put him on the international stage.

However, it is his role in preserving Ireland’s musical heritage that will be strongly remembered at home in Ireland.

He was honorary president of Na Píobairí Uilleann (The Society of Uilleann Pipers), which described him as a great ambassador for Irish traditional music in Ireland and around the world.

President Higgins said that, as one of the sources of inspiration behind the founding of Na Píobairí Uilleann in 1968, Mr O’Flynn can be credited with having contributed to the revival of the uilleann piping.

“It must to him have been a source of great pride and satisfaction that Unesco...recently added the uilleann pipes to its register of important and unique cultural heritage symbols,” the President said.

He began learning from ‘King of the Pipers’ Leo Rowsome before he was a teenager, having grown up in a musical family.

However, just as he drew inspiration from Mr Rowsome and other legendary players like Willie Clancy and Seamus Ennis, Na Píobairí Uilleann said Mr O’Flynn himself went on to inspire generations of pipers with his tuition and performances.

It said his solo recordings have given emerging players a great source for their own repertoires.

In Washington, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar described Liam O’Flynn as “a true musical genius and a great Irishman in this most Irish of weeks”.

In a solo career following his departure from Planxty, Mr O’Flynn worked with composer Shaun Davey on the popular Brendan Voyage musical suite, Granuaile, and other orchestral works created for the uilleann pipes.

One of his celebrated collaborations was with poet Seamus Heaney on the 2002 album The Poet & The Piper.

It was one of many he made with Claddagh Records, founded by his lifelong friend Garech de Brún, who died last weekend.

Liam O’Flynn had been ill for more than a year and he is survived by his wife Jane.


Ovarian cancer has been dubbed ‘the silent killer’. Christina Henry tells Rowena Walsh why she is one of the lucky onesAgeing with attitude: Life after ovarian cancer

More From The Irish Examiner