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‘win thistle’ Mourners told Chieftains founder Paddy Moloney's children were ‘his toughest audience’ at funeral

The uilleann piper’s funeral mass took place in Glendalough today

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The remains of Paddy Moloney, founder member of The Chieftains, arrive for his funeral mass at St Kevin's Church in Glendalough, Co Wicklow. Picture: Colin Keegan/Collins

The remains of Paddy Moloney, founder member of The Chieftains, arrive for his funeral mass at St Kevin's Church in Glendalough, Co Wicklow. Picture: Colin Keegan/Collins

The remains of Paddy Moloney, founder member of The Chieftains, arrive for his funeral mass at St Kevin's Church in Glendalough, Co Wicklow. Picture: Colin Keegan/Collins

Musician and composer Paddy Moloney was remembered as a man who was as at home on the world stage as he was crawling around the floor with his grandchildren.

The Chieftans founder died on Tuesday at the age of 83.

President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina were among the mourners at St Kevin’s Church in Glendalough, Co Wicklow, to honour the famed uilleann piper.

His fellow Chieftans Matt Molloy, Kevin Cunneff, Sean Keane and Michael Tubridy attended with other musicians, many who played from the altar of the historic hilltop church, sheltered by oak and holly.

Paddy, who was born in Dublin’s Donnycarney but lived in Annamoe in Wicklow, is survived by his wife Rita, children Aonghus, Aedín and Pádraig, grandchildren Ciarán, Aonghus, Fionn and Mieke, and his wider circle of family and friends.

His son Aonghus paid tribute to him, saying he opened to a million people for the Pope, opened for the Rolling Stones, and last Tuesday he opened for the Budget.

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President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina at the funeral of Paddy Moloney. Picture: Collins

President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina at the funeral of Paddy Moloney. Picture: Collins

President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina at the funeral of Paddy Moloney. Picture: Collins

“I'm sure you would have been pleased to think Paschal and Michael would have to wait until your announcements were done before they could stand up and address the house,” he said.

Aonghus said music was his father’s life. ”He lived for moments when he would walk out on the stage and say, ‘I'm Paddy Moloney from Dublin, Ireland. The greatest city in the world’,” Aonghus said.

“He never went anywhere without his ‘win thistle’ as he called it, and always let his music do the talking.”

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Paddy Moloney. Picture: Gerry Mooney

Paddy Moloney. Picture: Gerry Mooney

Paddy Moloney. Picture: Gerry Mooney

Aonghus said he and his siblings remember as children Paddy’s love of touring around the world playing to new audiences.

“When he took a break he’d find himself at home at the dinner table, or the Monkey’s Tea Party as he called it, where he couldn't get a word in edgeways. Any attempt to tell us that he just met the Pope or played with superstars around the world was quickly drowned out. We were definitely his toughest audience,” he added.

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“In latter years, Paddy's focus switched to his four grandchildren, who he absolutely adored. The real Paddy could be found crawling around the floor, playing with toys, always gently teasing or hiding a dodo. Or lately, maybe a quick impromptu session after dinner, the accordion would come out,” he explained.

“Paddy was so proud of his Donnycarney roots - Donneyer he called it. He grew up in an area that kindled so much of what we know of Irish traditional music today”.

“Paddy always told us about growing up in Donnycarney. The Aonghus added.

“Above all, Paddy was devoted to Rita. There’s a 60-years-plus love affair, which the odd row or ‘tóg go bog é’ could never diminish.”

Speaking about how Covid had such a detrimental effect on live music performers and audiences, Aonghus said their father loved doing what he did.

“In March last year Covid brought about abandoned, and then cancelled, tours. For the first time in 70 years, Paddy Moloney couldn’t play music to an audience. Paddy died last Tuesday. But with the thing he loved most taken away from him, Paddy’s life faded last March,” he said.

After requiem mass, Paddy Moloney’s coffin was brought up into the adjoining cemetery where he was buried as his grandson Ciaran played a lament on the tin whistle.

Mourners included writer Brian Keenan and his wife Audrey Doyle, composer and conductor David Brophy, James Morrissey of Claddagh Records, and Eimear Mulherne, the daughter of former Taoiseach Charlie Haughey.

Paddy Moloney formed several groups with musicians in duets and trios, and in 1962 formed the band that would become The Chieftains with Sean Potts and Michael Tubridy.

They went on to become one of the best-known Irish traditional groups in the world, winning six Grammys as well as many other awards.

Paddy Moloney and The Chieftains worked with a vast range of artists over their long career, making guest appearances with and contributing to albums by Ry Cooder, Marianne Faithful, Mick Jagger, Elvis Costello, and Sinéad O'Connor. In 1987 they recorded the acclaimed Irish Heartbeat album with Van Morrison.

Moloney, who also played button accordion and bodhrán, was the main composer and arranger of The Chieftains' music and composed for films, including Treasure Island, The Grey Fox, Braveheart, Gangs Of New York, and Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon.

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