- 09 Apr 18
There was a huge turn-out of the great and the good this morning, at the funeral service of Dave Kavanagh – the man who created the Celtic Woman concept.
There was a huge turnout of the Irish music industry for the funeral of Dave Kavanagh, which took place at Haddington Road church in Dublin this morning.
Dave Kavanagh was the Chairman of Liffey Records and Celtic Collections – the culmination of a long career in the business, which began with a stint as Ents Officer in UCD Students Union, in the mid-1970s. Along the way, he was an agent for bands like U2, The Boomtown Rats and Thin Lizzy; a concert promoter and festival organiser, notably of the Castlebar Festival in the early 1980s; a band manager, with Clannad numbering among his charges, when they had their major breakthrough, with ‘Harry’s Game’ quietly taking the UK charts by storm; and, later, impresario, with the creation of the Celtic Heartbeat label (with Paul McGuinness) and the Celtic Woman phenomenon – which delivered his biggest success of all.
The funeral was what might be described as a powerful send-off, which ended with a boisterous chorus of cheers and the occasional whoop, as the coffin was carried down the aisle. It was a fitting goodbye to a man who – in the parlance suited to an occasion like this – knew how to enjoy himself.
There was music aplenty too, with songs being performed by The High Kings, who are part of Liffey Music's current roster, and by Edge and Bono. Overall, there was a feeling outside the church afterwards that a fine tribute had been paid to a life lived to the full – and a pervasive awareness that he will be badly missed, by family, friends and business associates alike.
Dave was mourned by his wife Rhona, his son Luke and daughter Phoebe. Also present at the funeral were members of The High Kings, Moya Brennan, Pól Brennan, Leon Brennan, James Morris, Moya Doherty, Edge, Bono and Ali Hewson, Guggi, Simon Carmody, Reggie Manuel, Jim Sheridan, Hot Press editor Niall Stokes, Kathy McGuinness, Susan Hunter, Michael Colgan, Andrew Leonard, Johnny Lappin and his partner Colette, Dave Fanning, Ian Wilson, Chris O’Brien, Ken Sweeney, Dermot McEvoy, Brian Whitehead, Aidan Cosgrave, restauranteurs Dylan McGrath, Ronan Ryan and Robbie Fox, Sam Smyth, Paddy McPoland, Robbie McGrath, Victor Finn of IMRO, Willie Kavanagh, Johnny Ronan, May Frisbee, Sarah Owens, Pat Creed, Mark Crossingham, Paul Smith, solicitor Kieran Kelly, Liza Geddes, Peter Brady, Glenda Gilsen, Mal Stevenson, Robert Matthews, Janine Nallen, John Dunford, Cliona Buckley, Charlie McNally, Tony Strickland, Anthony 'AK' Kennedy, Pat Byrne, Ned O'Hanlon – and far too many more to list here in full.
“I first encountered Dave when he booked Eyeless, the band formed by myself and my brother Dermot, to play at a lunchtime gig in Belfield, when he was the UCD Students Union Ents Officer,” Hot Press editor Niall Stokes recalls. "He successfully packed the place out – which was very impressive indeed at the time. He made the shift to being a full time music professional seamlessly and worked with some of the most important emerging acts of the era.
"Dave had a great sense of humour. His tongue was firmly in his cheek when he told Hot Press recently about the time he fell asleep at the wheel, driving U2 back from a gig somewhere down the country. They almost crashed at high speed, but he was prodded awake by a member of the band – who, in Dave's telling of the story, thereby changed the course of rock ’n’ roll history.
"Dave was a great ideas man. He ran the Occasion At The Castle festival in Castlebar– and pulled a fantastic bill together for it. He managed at a very high level with Clannad, before being in at the start of the Celtic Heartbeat label. Throughout his career, he moved from one success to something even bigger. His most lasting achievement was undoubtedly with the Celtic Woman show, which he created and put together. Most people in Ireland had no real idea just how successful that was – and is. Dave was the driving force behind the whole thing.
“At the church today, you could see just how much he was loved by so many people. It isn’t often that there is a spontaneous round of applause that turns into something much bigger at a funeral, but that is what happened today. It is a very sad moment, but a fine tribute was paid to him by the industry, his friends and his family. In times like this, that is all anyone can hope to do."