Paddy Moloney, who founded The Chieftains in 1962, has died

Paddy Moloney
Paddy Moloney, one of the finest traditional musicians in the world.

By Bill Heaney

The founder and leader of The Chieftains traditional Irish music group, piper Paddy Moloney, has died.

Born in 1938, Moloney grew up in Donnycarney, north County Dublin, in a musical family.

The piper, tin whistle player and composer formed The Chieftains in 1962.

The Irish Traditional Music Archive (ITMA) said few could lay claim to the “level of impact Paddy Moloney had on the vibrancy of traditional music throughout the world”.

Moloney’s first instrument was a plastic tin whistle, according to The Chieftains’ official website.

In a statement on social media, ITMA said: “Uilleann piper, tin whistle player, composer, arranger and leader of The Chieftains, Paddy made an enormous contribution to Irish traditional music, song and dance.

“During a recent interview in ITMA, he spoke about the people and events that shaped his life in music. Few people can lay claim to having the level of impact Paddy Moloney had on the vibrancy of traditional music throughout the world. What a wonderful musical legacy he has left us.”

Paddy MoloneyPaddy Moloney (centre) with fellow Chieftains Sean Keane and Martin Fay performing at Cheyenne Civic Center in Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1988

Irish Tourism Minister Catherine Martin said Moloney’s music was “a source of pride and inspiration for all of us.  With the passing of Paddy Moloney, we have lost a giant of the national cultural landscape.”

Aedin Maloney, Paddy Moloney and Rita Maloney attend the Gold Medal of Honor for Lifetime Achievement in Music at The National Arts Club on January 27, 2011 in New York City.
Paddy Moloney with daughter Aedín Moloney and wife Rita at the National Arts Club, New York, where he received the Gold Medal of Honor for Lifetime Achievement in Music, in 2011

“Through the Chieftains, he brought the joy of Irish music to a global audience. His music was a source of celebration and pride for all of us.”

Paddy Moloney was a huge favourite in Scotland and took part many times with the Chieftains in the Celtic Connections Festival at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow.

To say he was absolutely brilliant as a musician and an ambassador extraordinaire for Ireland and for tourism in his homeland would be an under-statement.

He helped to promote Ireland where ever he went in the world, and that was all over it.

Once, about 50 years ago, I was in a small group of Scottish journalists who went to Dublin as guests of the Iriush Tourist Board, who did the best free loaders.

A guy called George Stevenson was the PR man for Aer Lingus and entertainment writer Gavin Docherty was in our party.

George took us to the Montrose Hotel where we met Paddy and his boss, Garech Browne of the Guinness family who owned Claddagh Records, which was the Chieftains’ label.

Well, we partied and we partied all day and all night and it was some “wee sing, song”.

In recent years, I saw Paddy and Chieftains at Celtic Connections. They were in great form that night and I took the picture below during the concert.

I also met up from time to time with Fergus Cahill, who was a member of the Chieftains, in Cleggan, Connemara,  and his wife Mary Rose, who was Garech Browne’s personal assistant.

We had a few songs together in Oliver’s pub and a few pints together for the day that was in it.

Thsanks for that Paddy. It was some trip Down Memory Lane.

Paddy Moloney and the Chieftains backing Kris Kirstofferson and others at a celidh in the Royal Concert Hall during Celtic Connection. Picture by Bill Heaney

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