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Tuesday 23 January 2018

Chieftains founder laid to rest in music-filled celebration

The remains of Sean Potts (inset) are brought from the church after his funeral Mass.
The remains of Sean Potts (inset) are brought from the church after his funeral Mass.
Micheal O Muircheartaigh
Sean O Se
John Sheahan from the Dubliners
Family and friends at the funeral of Sean Potts, who was a founding member of The Chieftains. Collins
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

THEY gathered in their hundreds for a music-filled celebration to mark the life of the man who had helped inspire a new generation of Irish traditional musicians.

Faces familiar from famous stages throughout the world marked the passing of renowned whistle player and co-founder of The Chieftains, Sean Potts.

The plate on the modest coffin of Mr Potts, who passed away at the age of 83 on Tuesday, read: "For the Glory of God and the Honour of Ireland".

His son, Sean Og, told the mourners that it was "a maxim by which he lived," and he proved an "inspirational and convincing" advocate for music.

Talented musicians, and treasured colleagues of the multi-talented player helped fill the Church of Our Lady Help of Christians on the Navan Road, Dublin, with music, as Capuchin Fr Kieran Shorten gave a heartfelt Mass as Gaeilge.

Among those were well-known Cork singer Sean O Se; Peadar and Cathal O Riada, the sons of Irish traditional group Ceoltoiri Chualann founder Sean O Riada; musician Ronnie McShane; bodhran player Kevin Conneff with The Chieftains; John Sheahan from The Dubliners; and flute player Paul McGrattan.

"Sean Potts was the linchpin in our family's rich musical heritage, as he connected the generations, inspired by his grandfather John Potts, a piper from Bannow in south Co Wexford," his son Sean Og said.


"A beautiful family man but his art enveloped him," he said, adding he was "ridiculously kind" to his nearest and dearest.

Chief among the mourners was his wife and "soulmate" Bernie; daughters and sons, Cora, Sean Og, Sorcha and Ultan; and a wide circle of relatives and friends.

His fondness and passion for GAA matches also saw figures including Micheal O Muircheartaigh and Dessie Farrell from the Gaelic Players Association attend the funeral Mass.

"Sean Potts drew people to him because he offered himself to people. He was an artist, and music enveloped his daily existence," said his son, telling of the "almost irrational" delight he took in his grandchildren's musical talents.

In his 80th year, the musician, who also played the bones and the bodhran, recorded a solo work 'Number Six', a testimony to his life's work, his son said.

"We have carried our music through three centuries and with Sean's powerful spirit in our hearts we'll carry it into the future," he added.

It was in 1962 that the whistle player, alongside his friend Paddy Moloney, set up the group in Dublin that inspired generations of traditional musicians and made Irish traditional music popular around the world.

From first playing in Paddy's home, the group went on to tour extensively and play famous stages throughout the world, and collaborate with Sting, The Rolling Stones and Van Morrison.

After leaving The Chieftains in 1979, he went on to become the honorary president of Na Piobairi Uilleann (The Society of Uilleann Pipers) and to set up the band Bakerswell.

Moloney, who is the US, still leads The Chieftains, who have recorded 58 albums and won six Grammy awards.

Applause rang out in the church after Mr Potts' remains were carried slowly out of the church to the haunting strains of a song often performed by The Chieftains, 'Mo Ghile Mear', to make his final journey.

Irish Independent

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