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The Dubliners' favourite pub hosts a final session for 'Banjo Barney'


Musicians and friends of the late Barney McKenna playing in O'Donoghue's pub in Dublin yesterday

Musicians and friends of the late Barney McKenna playing in O'Donoghue's pub in Dublin yesterday

Musicians and friends of the late Barney McKenna playing in O'Donoghue's pub in Dublin yesterday

THE DUBLINERS' favourite pub gave the last original member of the famous folk group a rousing send-off ahead of his funeral today.

A music session went on all day at O'Donoghue's on Merrion Row in Dublin in honour of the legendary Barney McKenna.

Friends and musicians dropped by to pay their respects to the man they knew as 'Banjo Barney' in the way they knew best -- on fiddle, accordion, and tin whistle.

Photos of The Dubliners in their heyday covered the wall beside the musicians, as old friends remembered the band's early days and laughed at stories of Mr McKenna's quick wit, known to them as 'Barneyisms'.

Accordion player Paul Skehill, who knew the band for more than 30 years, remembered when the gardai pulled them in after a gig years ago.

"They had been out on the rip and Barney was driving and the guards pulled them in," he said.

"They asked where they had been and they told them we're off playing a few tunes. The guards asked them how much they had to drink, and Barney said: 'About 14 pints and a few small ones'.

"The guards said: 'Would you mind blowing into this bag?' And Barney says: 'Why, do you not believe me?'."

Luke Kelly's sister, Betty, remembered when Mr McKenna used to visit her family home with his mother in Whitehall on the northside of Dublin.

"Mrs McKenna would always call him Bernard and was very proud when he bought her a half-ton of coal.

"And my mother used to speak about Luke making a show of the family with his mad red hair. Respectability was everything in those days.

"They were just 22 or 23 starting here in O'Donoghue's before becoming world famous. I was astounded at the fame they had and how people just loved them.

"Barney didn't have the same quick wit as Ronnie or Luke, but he would come around to telling a story in his own convoluted way. But he could talk about anything. I think people had the wrong impression of him, but he was a very intelligent and knowledgeable man. And women loved him."

Brian Byrne, who managed an Irish pub in Dusseldorf, Germany, met the band every November when they came into his pub after concerts.

He remembered meeting Barney at the airport and how he told him the secret to happiness in Germany was to buy the rump of a pig, red cabbage, sauerkraut, dumplings, and a litre of beer, not realising that Brian lived over there.

Mr McKenna was due to go to his hideaway home in Trim at the weekend, where his family came from.

Instead, locals in the Meath town were paying their respects as he reposed at Heffernan's Funeral Home on High Street yesterday.

He will be removed to St Patrick's Church in the town at noon today and his funeral Mass is at 12.30pm, followed by burial at nearby St Loman's Cemetery.

Irish Independent