Tuesday April 10, 2012

Barney McKenna Of 'The Dubliners' Dies Aged 72

President Michael D Higgins leaving the church after the service (Photocall)

The funeral has taken place in Co. Meath of Barney McKenna, the last of the original Dubliners, who died last Thursday at the age of 72.

"Banjo" Barney, as he was affectionately known, lost conciosness while sitting at his kitchen table in Howth, Co. Dublin last Thursday.

He is survived by his partner Tina, along with his brother Sean Óg and his sister Marie.

His wife Joka died 28 years ago.

Among those to attend his funeral was President Michael D Higgins, who said said Mr McKenna "made a major contribution to music and song".

"His influence on and generosity to other instrumentalists was immense," he said. Barney McKenna had played the banjo from a young age, and played with The Chieftains for a time before helping to found The Dubliners in 1962 with Luke Kelly, Ronnie Drew and Ciaran Bourke.

Kelly died in 1984, Drew in 2008 and Bourke in 1988.

But McKenna had kept the Dubliners name alive, playing with different incarnations of the band right up until his death.

He had recently completed a 50th anniversary tour of England, along with concerts in Dublin and Germany.

His current fellow Dubliners described him as "one in a million".

"The band, his family and friends would like to thank everyone for their kindness and support. Words cannot describe how we all feel.

"The greatest tenor banjo player of his generation, Barney spent his life travelling the world playing Irish music.

"He loved it. The world loved him. May he rest in peace."

Just 24 hours before he died, Barney McKenna had played at the funeral of his friend Dara O'Broin, along with guitarist Michael Howard.

The coffin with the remains of The Dubliners' member Barney McKenna at the repose in The Church of The Assumption in Howth (Photocall)

Mr Howard was with him at his home when he died.

"Barney was in great form when I called around 9.30am, sitting at his breakfast table drinking a cup of tea, so I sat down to join him for a chat," Mr Howard said.

"We were talking when his head dropped suddenly as if he had nodded off but pretty quickly I realised the situation was more serious.

"I called an ambulance and tried to revive him, they came within minutes but he was pretty much gone at that stage and he was pronounced dead when he arrived at Beaumont Hospital.

"The only comfort we can all take is that Barney passed away chatting at his own breakfast table, which is probably the way he would have wanted to go."

The funeral mass held on Easter Monday in Trim, Co. Meath included some of the Dubliners most famliar reels.

Fermoy Lassies and Sporting Paddy were played on banjo by musicians Gerry O'Connor, Padraig Drew and Barney's brother, Sean Og McKenna.

He was buried afterwards at St Loman's Cemetery.

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