05 Jul 2022

Trad music legend of The Chieftains with deep Laois roots passes away

The sad passing has been announced of one of the giants of Irish trad music Paddy Maloney of The Chieftains whose love for Irish music is rooted deeply in Laois.

While from Donnycarney in Dublin, the piper, tin whistle player and composer grew up in a musical family from the heart of the Midlands county. 

Paddy’s father, John, was an army man before becoming a clerksman in Donnycarney Church. He was married to Catherine (nee Conroy), they had four children, three girls and a boy, Paddy.

Both hailed from the Ballyfin area where they were part of a rich local heritage of traditional Irish music.

Paddy’s Laois roots set the tone for his path to a lifetime at the heart of trad. Paddy would spend six weeks in Laois every summer with all his aunts, uncles and his mother, playing the accordion, singing songs and telling stories.

Right through his career Paddy would always refer to his Laois background during interviews about his career in music and how his time there was a big reason for his love of the tradition.

Paddy formed several groups before in 1962 he set up the band that would become The Chieftains which went on to become one of the best-known Irish traditional groups in the world, winning six Grammys as well as many other awards.

The Chieftains, of which Paddy was the beating heart and leader, worked with a vast range of artists such as Mick Jagger, Elvis Costello, Sinead O'Connor and Van Morrison.

He as 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.

Long before Riverdance, The Chieftains brought trad music and Irish culture to every corner of the world performing to some of the biggest venues in the globe along the way. 

Early in his career he was the Managing Director of the famous Claddagh Records which he ran until 1975. While at Claddagh he helped 45 albums of folk, traditional, classical, poetry and spoken word recordings.

President Michael D Higgins sled the tributes.

“The Irish music community, and indeed the much larger community throughout the world who found such inspiration in his work, will have learnt with great sadness today of the passing of Paddy Moloney, founder and leader of the Chieftains.

“Paddy, with his extraordinary skills as an instrumentalist, notably the uileann pipes and bodhrán, was at the forefront of the renaissance of interest in Irish music, bringing a greater appreciation of Irish music and culture internationally," President Higgins said.

Paying tribute to one of its founding members, Na Píobairí Uilleann (NPU), the Society of Uilleann Pipers, described Paddy Moloney as "a giant of a figure in Irish life".

"Paddy Moloney was a wonderful piper, an incredibly creative musician and a powerful performing artist," said NPU chief executive Gay McKeon.

"He helped popularise Irish music all over the world and in doing so, brought the sound of the uilleann pipes to the attention of so many.

"We have lost one of the country's foremost artists whose legacy is inestimable at this point. On behalf of NPU and the uilleann piping community, I would like to extend our condolences to his wife Rita, sons Aonghus and Pádraig and daughter Aedín, to the musicians who played with him and his many friends worldwide. Leaba i measc na naomh go raibh aige."

Paddy was married to artist Rita O'Reilly and had three children, Aonghus Moloney, Padraig Moloney, and the actress and producer Aedin Moloney.

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