- 25 May 20
The singer, broadcaster and activist passed away last month, aged 65. Pictured (l-r): Dena O'Malley, President Michael D. Higgins, Mary McPartlan, Sabrna Higgins, former US Ambassador to Ireland Kevin O'Malley.
President Michael D. Higgins has paid tribute to the late Irish singer Mary McPartlan with a moving new poem, 'Of Saturdays Made Holy'.
McPartlan, a celebrated folksinger, trade union activist, Fulbright scholar, director of the Galway Simon community and TV and theatre producer, died on April 6, aged 65, as a result of cancer.
At the the time of her death, President Higgins remembered McPartlan as "a dear friend" and "one of Ireland's great folk singers."
"For myself," the President continued, "I will always hold wonderful memories of being on tour with her and of her singing her tribute to Victor Jara at those five gigs we did together in 2011 in Leitrim, Donegal, Wicklow and Kerry; the wonderful company she was; and later I often admired how brave she was, indomitable, transcending loss and adversity with a nobility of heart and a powerful reach of humanity that was, of course, always there in her singing and in her life.
"Sabina and I were among the many who were privileged to call her our friend, and we will all miss her so much."
Born in Drumkeeran, Co. Leitrim, McPartlan was active in the Irish folk scene throughout her life – founding the folk duo Calypso in the '70s, as well as the Galway singers club An Riabbóg. In 2004, she released her long-awaited and award-winning debut album, The Holland Handkerchief, which was followed by Petticoat Loose in 2008 and From Mountain To Mountain in 2016. Mary is survived by her husband, Paddy Noonan; her daughters, Mairéad, Méabh and Niamh; her son David; her brothers, Martin and Séamus; her sisters, Pauline and Gertie; and her grandchildren Cillian, Kate and Moll.
Read President Michael D. Higgins' poem, written in tribute to McPartlan, below:
Of Saturdays Made Holy (In Memory of Mary McPartlan, Folk Singer & Trade Union Activist
The night is long and I awake
Recall the making of the march,
On those Saturdays made holy,
The beat of feet behind banners,
That bore the glory of the words,
The call for a life made equal,
Banners held steady for the speech,
Gold threaded, fringed, eyeleted
With care, for the carrying,
To defeat the opposing breeze,
Borne by arms made strong,
From work of mind, of heart and hand.
Those words, sent out to cheers
I search for now,
They are not gone,
Nor is the memory,
Of how they danced, without restraint,
Skipping back and forth to cheers,
In joyful subversion
Of the ordinary.
The echo of that beat of feet behind banners,
On Saturdays made holy
Is slow to come.
Can it be that it is lost,
Surely not so.
For in the long sweep of history,
In the stories that will be told,
Others will hear of how behind banners
They marched, women and men
And children too, on Saturdays made holy,
It will be told of how they sometimes won,
And often lost, if never defeated
It will matter that they sometimes wept
On folding, for another day, those banners
That carried words, emancipatory
The night though long
And dawn so slow in breaking
Yet morning light, glorious,
Reveals how from those arrows fledged in history,
That missed their mark in darkness
Have sprung in light some frail fruit trees,
In other times, an old planet weary finds new life,
Renewal, from the music of the heart.
And now a new song emerges,
From behind banners gold threaded, again made sacred,
On Saturdays made holy, with words emancipatory,
As voices rise in unison,
And sing of love,
And a new day,
For all humanity.
– MDH May Day, 2020