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Paddy Moloney's funeral service was held in St Kevin’s Church, Glendalough today. Damien Eager/
Paddy Moloney

'Music was his life': Funeral of Chieftains founder Paddy Moloney takes place in Wicklow

The piper, composer and producer from Donnycarney in Dublin died earlier this week aged 83.

LAST UPDATE | 15 Oct 2021

AS THE SOUNDS of live music from The Chieftains filled the church, friends and family of the trad band’s founder Paddy Moloney paid tribute to his life as a talented musician and a dedicated husband and father.

The piper, composer and producer from Donnycarney in Dublin died earlier this week aged 83. Moloney grew up in a musical family and played various instruments including the tin whistle – or ‘win tistle’ as he liked to call it – and uilleann pipes. 

He was proud of his Donnycarney roots, his son Aonghus said today, during a funeral service at St Kevin’s Church, Glendalough.

“He lived for that moment when he would walk out onto the stage and say ‘I’m Paddy Maloney from Dublin, Ireland, the greatest city in the world’.”

Moloney, a father of three, always told his family stories of growing up in Donnycarney and the “adventures he and his gang would get up to”.

“He wasn’t a big lad, but you’d cross him at your peril,” his son joked.

Music was his life, he said. Moloney originally formed The Chieftains in 1962. In their nearly six decade career they have been six-time Grammy Award winners and have been recognised internationally for reinventing Irish music and for transcending musical boundaries.

Over the decades they collaborated or performed with artists as diverse as Emmylou Harris, The Dubliners, Tom Jones and The Rolling Stones.

“You opened to a million people for the Pope, you opened for the Rolling Stones. And last Tuesday on RTÉ, you opened for the Budget,” Aonghus said.

“I’m sure you would have been pleased to think Paschal and Micheál had to wait until your announcement was done before they could stand up and address the house.”

He said the pandemic was the “first time in 70 years Paddy Moloney couldn’t play to an audience”.

When he wasn’t touring around the world playing music, he would be at home with his family, sitting around the dinner table – or ‘the Monkey’s tea party’, as he called it – “where he couldn’t get a word in edgeways”.

 ”Any attempt to tell us that he just met the Pope, or played with superstars around the world was quickly drowned out,” his son said. “We were definitely his toughest audience.

“In later years Paddy’s focus switched to his four grandchildren who he absolutely adored. The real Paddy could be found crawling around the floor playing with toys, always gently teasing or hiding a dodo or maybe a quick impromptu session after dinner.”

Above all, Aoughus said, Moloney was dedicated to his wife Rita, with whom he had a “60 year plus love affair”. 

Fr Eamonn Crosson told mourners that Moloney had admirers all over the world and that his music would live on.

The service was attended by President Michael D Higgins as well as members of the Chieftains. 

‘A massive contribution’

Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger paid tribute on Twitter yesterday describing Moloney as “the greatest uilleann piper on the planet”. 

Following Moloney’s death, President Higgins, who attended the service today with his wife Sabina, lead the tributes: “The Irish music community, and indeed the much larger community throughout the world who found such inspiration in his work, will have learnt with great sadness today of the passing of Paddy Moloney, founder and leader of the Chieftains.

“Paddy, with his extraordinary skills as an instrumentalist, notably the uilleann pipes and bodhrán, was at the forefront of the renaissance of interest in Irish music, bringing a greater appreciation of Irish music and culture internationally.

Not only as a consummate musician himself, but as a founder member of Claddagh Records together with Garech de Brún, he brought a love of Irish music not just to the diaspora, but to all those across the world who heard his music and appreciated it for its own sake as it transcended all musical boundaries.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin echoed the president’s statement.

He said: “So sad to hear of the passing of Paddy Moloney. The term ‘legend’ is regularly overused, but hard to think of any other way to describe this giant of Irish music and culture. GRMA Paddy for your massive contribution to the life of our nation. RIP.”

Moloney is survived by his wife Rita and their three children Aonghus, Aedín and Pádraig. 

- With reporting by Michelle Hennessy 

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