- 15 Jan 23
We received the sad news yesterday that Irish blues guitar legend Pat Farrell had died. Here, the harmonica maestro with the Mary Stokes Band, Brian Palm, pays tribute to a musician of outstanding calibre – and we retrace some of the highlights of his career...
Hot Press is saddened to hear news of the death of Irish blues guitar legend, Pat Farrell.
A Northside Dubliner, Pat was best known for his work with The Business, who started out in 1981 – and were still flying the flag right up to the present. However, he had started to master the guitar during the late 1960s and was a feature on the local scene during the 1970s. Pat was regularly cited in lists of great Irish guitarists from that era, alongside the likes of Rory Gallagher, Gary Moore, Ed Deane and Jimmy Faulkner, who also featured in The Business.
Pat played guitar beautifully on the acclaimed Midnight Well album, produced by Dónal Lunny, and released in 1977. He also did sessions with Clannad for their Fuaim album, released in 1982 – not long before they made their breakthrough with 'Theme from Harry’s Game’.
Pat had been a close friend of Clannad manager Nicky Ryan, who broke away from Clannad to concentrate on forging a musical vision with Enya. Her music had seldom featured guitars, but it was to Pat that Enya, Nicky and Roma Ryan turned, when they wanted electric guitar to feature on the track ‘My, My, Time Flies’ – released in 2008 on the And Winter Came album, which went platinum and gold across the world.
Latterly Pat also featured live, playing the blues alongside Mal O’Brien. But his mainstay was still The Business, with which he was both featured singer and guitarist. He released a solo album Riffit Avenue, on the sleeve of which he was photographed carrying a guitar case inscribed with the legends Capel Street, Dorset Street and Aungier Street – a tribute to three great blues haunts located on those streets – respectively Slattery’s, The Meeting Place and J.J. Smyth.
Pat also presented a music show on Near FM, which gave him an opportunity to share his vast knowledge of music and of the blues in particular with Dublin audiences.
Pat died peacefully at St. Francis Hospice in Raheny, according to the announcement on RIP.ie. He was "pre-deceased by his baby daughter Laura; lovingly remembered and sadly missed by his daughter Natalie and her partner Stephen, grandson Frankie Patrick, his loving sisters Joan and Lorraine, nieces, nephews, cousins, his lifelong friend Mick Hayes and by his huge circle of close friends and colleagues in the music industry.”
Here a special tribute is paid to Pat Farrell by Brian Palm, harmonica player with The Mary Stokes Band – with whom Pat guested frequently. Brian similarly shared the stage with Pat on an impromptu basis, in many of his different musical guises...
Farewell to one of the all time greats. It has been an honour and a privilege to have known and shared the stage with the sublime guitarist Pat Farrell for more than four decades. A kinder, more decent human being than Pat never existed. A ready smile, a quick wit, a love of the laugh and a depth of musicianship second to none.
Pat was the first professional musician in Dublin to invite me to join him on stage – in 1980 in The Meeting Place, then regularly in Slattery’s, the Baggot Inn, Whelan’s and the Leeson Lounge… It became a lifelong habit for us. Anyone who followed Pat as fan in the old days will remember how he never failed to invite his ever-present uncle Maurice Clarke-Barry up to sing ‘Rock Me Baby!’ and other Blues songs. I knew Maurice and his wife Betty very well, and those stage appearances with Pat were the highlight of his life. The joy that Pat brought to Maurice by regularly including him in his fascinating world of professional live music is incalculable, but it remains a perfect example of Pat’s enormously generous spirit.
I’m very proud that my partner Mary Stokes and I have been able to repay the compliment by inviting Pat to join us on stage as a member of our own band on numerous occasions. At one memorable gig in Bruxelles, with Pat filling in for our regular guitarist, we played a completely unrehearsed version of Neil Young’s ‘Vampire Blues’ which we only occasionally performed. It had specifically been requested by a well-known music promoter who happened to be in the audience, so we decided to wing it.
Pat absolutely devoured it, and made it entirely his own. He took a signature song by a famous guitarist and turned it into a completely original piece of music, while playing it perfectly accurately.
It was only after the gig that we found out the promotor had been quietly sitting through our entire show with Neil Young, who was performing in Dublin the following night.
Rest easy Pat, we are missing you already…
• The main pic shows Pat Farrell (centre) with Brian Palm (left) on harmonica.