'It was such a shame he wasn't here, he missed a great funeral'
THE late broadcaster Ciaran Mac Mathuna's own musical instrument was his voice and he entranced generations with it.
Poet Seamus Heaney yesterday paid a poignant tribute to an historic figure whose enthusiasm and dedication, he said, helped ensure a new future for traditional Irish music.
Artists, musicians, poets, stars of television and radio, and politicians were present with his family yesterday for a beautiful funeral service in Terenure College Chapel that was infused throughout with traditional music and relayed partly as Gaeilge.
"Over a lifetime he helped the population of Ireland to realise the beauty, strength and value of their native cultural possessions, above all their musical culture," Mr Heaney said.
"The musical instrument which Ciaran played to magical effect, and which entranced generations of listeners, was his own voice," he added.
The Limerick-born collector and recorder of traditional Irish music, who was a familiar voice on RTE radio for 50 years, died late last week.
The chief celebrant, Monsignor Tom Stack, described him as a "truly great Irishman, broadcaster and friend".
"It is fitting that Ciaran Mac Mathuna is being laid to rest to the sound of sweet music at the Mount Jerome crematorium," he said.
Others echoed those words. Muiris O Rochain, the director of the Willie Clancy Summer School, spoke of Mr Mac Mathuna's love of people, and his ability and desire to visit the "highways and byways" of the country in search of music.
"His own personality was able to attract and draw from these people," he said. "They loved him. He was our voice. He made us aware of Irish music."
His work would bring him numerous national and international awards, and his popular Sunday morning radio series, 'Mo Cheol Thu', kept him going until 2005.
"Ciaran reached into places where, initially at least, electric light had not yet shone, and he created a new hearth for a wider audience," said the director general of RTE Cathal Goan.
Among those in attendance yesterday from the world of music were Eamonn Campbell and John Sheahan from the Dubliners, Paul Brady, Sean Keane, from television there was John Bowman, John Kelly and Blaithnaid ni Chofaigh, and from politics, former arts minister Michael D Higgins.
Mr Mac Mathuna's son, Padraic, told the congregation that he was sure his father was in heaven with fellow broadcaster Sean Mac Reamoinn.
"The first thing I thought was that Sean was going to turn around to Ciaran and say, 'You know what, we're missing a great funeral'," he said. "They loved funerals. And I think this is a great funeral."
Mr Mac Mathuna is survived by his wife Dolly, sons Padraic and Ciaran, and daughter Deirdre.