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Wednesday 14 November 2018

Last applause for Banjo Barney

Barney McKenna of the Dubliners.Pic Tom Burke 22/8/06
Barney McKenna of the Dubliners.Pic Tom Burke 22/8/06
Family members at Barney McKenna's funeral in Trim, Co Meath, yesterday, including his sister Maria (in beige coat) and his brother Sean Og McKenna (third from left in woollen hat)
Dan McGrattan and Anne Doyle at the funeral of the late Mr McKenna

Colm Kelpie

IT was a fitting way to bid farewell to Barney McKenna, a man renowned the world over for his contribution to folk music.

Hundreds burst into spontaneous applause at the funeral of 'Banjo Barney' as a variety of reels and songs beloved by the musician were performed by friends.

And as Mr McKenna's coffin was carried from St Patrick's Church in Trim, Co Meath, emotional fans marked the moment by clapping to the beat of the music.

The last of the founding members of The Dubliners was remembered by Fr Mark Mohan as leaving thousands of people with treasured memories.

"In these last few days, Barney's passing has changed the course of the McKenna family life," Fr Mohan said.

"It has changed also Dublin, Ireland, and indeed the music world at large. It has lost one of its greatest. The last man standing, so to speak, of the original Dubliners has been taken from us."


President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina led mourners in the funeral Mass along with Mr McKenna's partner Tina, his brother Sean Og, sister Marie, and extended family.

Mr McKenna (72) died last Thursday. He was the last original member of the band formed in 1962 in O'Donoghue's pub in Dublin.

The other original members, Luke Kelly, Ciaran Bourke and Ronnie Drew, died in 1984, 1988 and 2008 respectively.

Although he lived in Howth, Mr McKenna's family came originally from Trim, a place where the musician kept a house and for which he had a deep affection. It was there that he had requested to be laid to rest.

Under sombre skies and misty rain, a lone piper led the funeral party through the town centre ahead of the Mass with McKenna's coffin draped in the green and gold harp flag of Leinster.

Inside the church, musicians were set up to the left of the altar, including current Dubliners John Sheahan and Eamon Campbell, as well as Ciaran Hanrahan, Ceola Sheahan, and long-time friend Michael Howard, who was with Barney in his final moments.

The music that Mr McKenna loved so much dominated his funeral Mass -- 'Fermoy Lassies', 'Sporting Paddy' and 'Fiddler's Green' performed, as well as 'Ar Eirinn Ni Neosfainn Ce hI'.

Curate Fr Mohan said Mr McKenna had made an impression on everybody he met. "Barney McKenna touched so many and left thousands with happy hearts. Your stories are sacred and your memories are to be treasured."

The priest described Mr McKenna as a "true blue Dub", but said he had spent much time in Trim and had played at ceremonies in the church.

He said he had used his talents in a "unique and wonderful way".

As the funeral Mass opened, a memorial table was set up to the side of the altar on which items treasured by Mr McKenna were placed, including a banjo and plectrum, a model fishing boat, a Breton-style fisherman's cap, an accordion and a photograph of the man himself.

Famous faces mingled among the mourners, including Shay Healy, Phil Coulter, Donal Lunny, Paddy Reilly, Liam O Maonlai, Anne Doyle, Declan O'Rourke, Damien Dempsey,; Maire Breatnach, Gerry Adams, economist Colm McCarthy, and former SIPTU chief Des Geraghty. Phelim Drew, the son of the late Ronnie Drew, and classical guitarist Mr Howard said the readings.

Mr McKenna was laid to rest in nearby St Loman's Cemetery.

Irish Independent

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