Saturday 22 October 2016

Thanks for the music, Ciaran

Published 14/12/2009 | 08:34

CIARAN Mac Mathuna was a national treasure. He lived a long and happy life and died "full of years and honour". A whole nation shares the grief of his family, but it is alleviated by admiration for his achievements.

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He will be remembered with enormous affection by people of every generation for the warmth of his personality, his delightful rumbling voice, and the pleasure he gave to countless thousands.

The pleasure will continue indefinitely, for the music he collected with such assiduity and presented with such charm and ardour will always be available. But younger people may find it hard to grasp the scale of his achievement.

It is not too much to say that he and his colleagues rescued Irish traditional music. They did so literally, in the form of recordings of singers and instrumentalists whose work we would otherwise not know. And they did so in a wider sense, and doubly, by popularising traditional music and raising it, often from obscurity, to the status it deserves.

The greatest popularisers, no doubt, were the Clancy Brothers, the last of whom, Liam, departed us so recently. On another section of the vast stage, young men, and many young women, mastered the art of sean-nos which their grandmothers and great-grandmothers had once feared would die out. Our country has many faults and many troubles. But what it lacks in governance, it makes up in culture. Ciaran Mac Mathuna served this country well.

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