As the year turns, as the prospect of longer days moves from hope to inevitability, many of us remember loved-ones who died in the last while. We also remember friends and those who earned respect and affection. Those memories may be raw, but the renewal ahead may balance that sorrow by allowing lives to be celebrated as much as death is regretted.
The relatively confined world of Irish music and dance lost a few figurehead venerables during the year. The majestic piper Liam O’Flynn died in March. The Bothy Band’s Donegal fiddler, Tommy Peoples, died, aged 70, in August. Dancing master Timmy ‘The Brit’ McCarthy, after a high-energy life dedicated to preserving dance traditions, died the following month. Composer and academic Mícheal Ó Súilleabhain died in early November. Less than two weeks later, Alec Finn, co-founder of De Dannan and the man who introduced the bouzouki to the tradition, passed away in his beloved Oranmore.
There were, of course, many more high-achievers lost in 2018, but very few, and this is the great legacy those musicians have left us, died leaving a strand of our culture far, far stronger, far more vibrant than it was when they began their musical journeys. Each of those, in very different ways, enhanced and embellished their predecessors’ bequests in a way that honoured a great musical tradition and celebrated the positive, enriching side of cultural nationalism.
If ever The Parting Glass was justified...