‘Drinking not main reason for Ó Riada’s death’

THE son of one of Ireland’s greatest composers and musicians believes his father’s drinking was not the main reason for his death.

Seán Ó Riada’s eldest son, Peadar, made the comments in one of his most revealing interviews yet which was filmed for a new TV documentary about his father.

Peadar, who is normally fiercely protective of his privacy, agreed to take part in the TG4 documentary after it was commissioned to mark the 40th anniversary of the death and to mark what would have been his 80th year had Seán Ó Riada lived.

Ó Riada is widely regarded as the single most influential figure in the revival of Irish traditional music during the 1960s.

He became a household figure in Ireland through his participation in Ceoltóirí Chualann, compositions, writings and broadcasts on the topic.

But the new documentary will tell the story of Ó Riada as a father, with deep and significant insights into the personality of the man widely credited with launching traditional Irish music on the world stage.

In the documentary, Seán Ó Riada – Litir ód Mhac shows Peadar goes on a journey down memory lane to his childhood homes where he reveals new details about his life with Séan.

He also writes a letter to his father which inspired the title of the documentary.

Peadar, who was almost 17 years old when his father died, says he has detailed memories of the latter years of Seán’s life, of his short illness and his tragically early death at the age of 40.

But he says his father’s drinking was not the main reason he died.

A hereditary weakness in his liver meant his body could not deal with alcohol, and all too quickly his time was up, Peadar believes.

The revealing documentary was produced by Cork-based Nuacht RTÉ journalist Grett O’Connor.

“Seán O Riada would have been 80 this year had he lived, and this October marked the 40th anniversary of his death, so I submitted a proposal earlier in the year to make a documentary on this subject,” Ms O’Connor said.

“There have been a number of documentaries about Seán Ó Riada over the years but I knew we could do something different. The story Peadar tells is one our audience has never heard before — it’s very personal and very honest.”

It was shot during the summer in Cuil Aodha and at locations in Dublin and Ballyferriter where the Ó Riada family once lived.

The half-hour programme was edited by Killarney-based editor Tony Murphy at Open Eye Productions in Baile Bhúirne. It will be launched at Oireachtas na Samhna in Killarney on Thursday by Ó Riada’s good friend Seán Ó Sé.

* The programme is due to be broadcast on TG4 on Monday next, November 7, at 9.30pm.

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