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Donegal catch as proud parents of folk music's first family get freedom of county

THE parents of an extraordinary family who have collectively sold 70 million albums worldwide were awarded the Freedom of Donegal yesterday in recognition of their unique musical legacy.

Musicians Leo and Baba Brennan from Gweedore - whose children include Enya, Moya and members of Clannad - were saluted by Donegal Co Council.

Eight of their nine children and five grandchildren were present for the ceremony at the County House in Lifford.

Although unable to make it because of touring commitments, solo artist, Enya, joined her four sisters, Moya, Deirdre, Bridin and Olive, on Wednesday night at St Mary's Church, Derrybeg, where their mother conducts the choir.

"Like angels descending" was how one member of the audience described the sisters' rendition of 'Pie Jesu'.

Enya, who joins the choir for midnight Mass every Christmas, said she was overwhelmed by the occasion.

Wednesday night was one of three special concerts arranged for this year's Eargail Arts' Festival, culminating on Friday night when three generations of the family will take to the stage in Letterkenny.

Yesterday, it was the turn of Leo and Baba, surrounded by their children, to have praise heaped upon them by chairman of Donegal county council, Dessie Larkin.

"We celebrate the contribution of Leo and Baba Brennan and that of their children, whose music - as Clannad, Enya and the Moya Brennan Band - has become synonymous with Donegal all over the world," he said.

Leo, with a past in showbands, and music teacher Baba married in 1952 and in the late 1960s took over Leo's Tavern in Meenaleck, a mecca for fans from all over the world.

After winning the International Folk Festival in Letterkenny in 1970, eldest daughter Moya, her brothers Ciaran and Pol, and cousins, Noel and Padraig Duggan, launched Clannad, releasing chart topping albums throughout the next two decades.

In 1982, Enya had her first success with 'Watermark' and last month, youngest daughter, Bridin released her first single.

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In an emotional tribute, county manager Michael McLoone said the people of Donegal were finally saying thank-you to the family for their immense contribution to the county. "They have embodied their heritage and extended musical boundaries," he said.

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