- 14 Mar 22
Tributes have been paid to singer-songwriter Pete St John from the worlds of music, sport and politics.
Tributes have been paid by the likes of President Michael D. Higgins and Dublin Lord Mayor Alison Gilliland to celebrated singer-songwriter Pete St John, who died on Saturday at the age 90.
Born Peter Mooney in 1932, the folk musician died at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin. He is survived by his sons Kieron and Brian Mooney and was predeceased by his wife Susan.
The singer-songwriter is best known for writing 'The Fields of Athenry' and 'The Rare Ould Times', while his music has been recorded by the Dubliners, Mary Black, Daniel O’Donnell, Brendan Shine and many others.
Pete also penned 'The Ferryman', 'Luke Kelly’s Land' and 'Ringsend Rose', and more recently composed on topical themes such as the environment. This included a song 'Never Drink and Drive' for the Road Safety Authority.
Originally from Inchicore in Dublin, Mooney was educated at Scoil Mhuire Gan Smal and Synge Street CBS and worked as an electrician before emigrating to Canada. He returned to his native Dublin in the late 1970s. He then began to write songs about how the years had changed his home city of Dublin.
He has won many awards for his work, namely the IMRO Songwriter of the Year award and the Variety Club of Ireland 'Gold Heart' Award for his outstanding contribution to Irish music and song.
Folk band the Wolfe Tones stated that his legacy “will endure for centuries to come”.
Our condolences to the family, friends and fans of an Irish songwriting great, Pete St. John. Pete’s legacy will endure for centuries to come. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
- The Wolfe Tones pic.twitter.com/4qsuQLCosh
— The Wolfe Tones 🇮🇪 (@wolfetones) March 13, 2022
Composer Phil Coulter posted: “Deeply saddened to hear the news of the passing of the great Pete St John, a gentleman, a proud Dub and a proper songwriter who contributed at least three classics to the Great Irish Songbook.”
Deeply saddened to hear the news of the passing of the great Pete St John, a gentleman, a proud Dub and a proper songwriter who contributed at least three classics to the Great Irish Songbook. Ar dheis De go rabh a anam dilis.
— Phil Coulter (@Phil_Coulter) March 12, 2022
The Lord Mayor of Dublin Alison Gilliland described how Pete was a frequent visitor to the Mansion House and received a Lord Mayor’s Award in 2015.
“He will be remembered every time we sing 'The Rare Old Times'. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam,” she said.
The Irish Music Rights Organisation said Pete St John was one of Ireland’s “finest songwriters and a passionate advocate for creators’ rights”, while President Higgins noted how he passed on the day England beat Ireland on the Twickenham rugby pitch.
"It is noteworthy that Pete has left us on the day that Ireland play England in a 6 Nations rugby match, a sport and fixture that has been indelibly associated with his song 'The Fields of Athenry' for decades and the singing of it at today’s match of course takes on a particular poignancy as people throughout Ireland remember Pete," the President said in a statement.
"Pete had the rare gift of being able to write songs that while new and original creations, immediately assumed a timeless quality and central place in all our lives," President Higgins added. "It is hard to imagine a world where songs like The Rare Ould Times did not exist and in his work Pete has left us with songs that not only defined his own career, but those of many other musicians and indeed all of us as a people.
"Pete was a close friend of Sabina and myself over many years and it was an honour to host him in Áras an Uachtaráin in June 2019 where he performed his song on environmental awareness, ‘Waltzing on Borrowed Time’. That was reflective of the deep care and concern which Pete had throughout his work in protecting and preserving the vital things in our world. We will all miss this lovely engaged caring man, none more than who had the privilege of knowing him as an indomitable source of inspiration and song.
"I would like to send my deepest condolences to his sons Kieron and Brian Mooney, and to all his family and friends.”
Irish Rugby, the Football Association of Ireland and Celtic Football Club also paid tribute to the singer-songwriter.
— Celtic Football Club (@CelticFC) March 12, 2022
Irish Rugby said 'The Fields of Athenry' had been sung at rugby around around the world, from the Aviva in Dublin to Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand, but that it “sounded just that extra bit special” in Twickenham on Saturday.
‘Low lie the fields of Athenry…’
We’ve sung The Fields at rugby grounds around the world from @AVIVAStadium to Eden Park but it sounded just that extra bit special today.
Rest in peace Pete St. John. pic.twitter.com/GrMDs48nqh
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) March 12, 2022
Stockton's Wing musician Mike Hanrahan referred to St. John as "One of our greatest songwriters":
"So sad to hear about the death of Pete St John," he tweeted. "He helped so many writers throughout his career. He was constant support to my role at the helm of IMRO all those years ago. A great guy. Such a lovely man. May he rest in peace."
So sad to hear about the death of Pete St John. One of our greatest songwriters. He helped so many writers throughout his career. He was constant support to my role at the helm of IMRO all those years ago. A great guy. Such a lovely man. May he rest in peace. pic.twitter.com/PxoWpkJPCu
— mike hanrahan (@mikehanrahan58) March 13, 2022
Meanwhile, renowned cellist Patrick Dexter paid tribute with a beautiful song outside his cottage on the Atlantic coast.
The Fields of Athenry by Pete St John, a west of Ireland tribute to the great songwriter. Rest in peace Pete pic.twitter.com/ScO2M9W7wR
— Patrick Dexter (@patrickdextervc) March 12, 2022
Fellow singer-songwriter Eleanor McEvoy and musician Derek Ryan also expressed their condolences.
Was so sad to learn yesterday during the sound check that Pete St John had passed away. 😢 An absolute gentleman and a truly wonderful songwriter. Sang this last night in his honour…. go gently Pete…❤️#PeteStJohn #RIP https://t.co/b2a47haWKD
— Eleanor McEvoy (@eleanormcevoy) March 13, 2022
"Was so sad to learn yesterday during the sound check that Pete St John had passed away," she tweeted. "An absolute gentleman and a truly wonderful songwriter. Sang this last night in his honour. Go gently Pete."
I’m very saddened to hear of the passing of Irish music Legend Pete St. John. I can only aspire to write the magical songs that he has left us with. They will live on forever. I was honoured to record ‘The Ferryman’ and ‘Dreamers & Believers’.
Thank you for the music
R.I.P 🙏🏻 pic.twitter.com/mLvtLVdnFm
— Derek Ryan (@derekryanmusic) March 12, 2022
Pete St. John referred to his songs as 'magic carpets' and described how they could tell stories and connect with people. These connections spanned the length of Ireland and beyond, with his songs remaining engrained in Irish culture at home and abroad.