- 12 Oct 21
As leader of The Chieftains, Paddy Moloney inspired a worldwide interest in Irish traditional music during his groundbreaking 60-year career. His passing will be mourned across the world.
Paddy Moloney, founder and leader of The Chieftains, has died at the age of 83.
Born and raised in the north Dublin area of Donnycarney, the iconic figure in Irish traditional music, grew up in a musical family and began playing the tin whistle at a young age. He later began playing the uilleann pipes, becoming a student of revered pipe master Leo Rowsome. From the start, his exceptional talent was evident as he rose through the ranks.
The piper, composer and producer formed several groups with musicians in duets and trios, and in 1962 formed the band that would become The Chieftains. In their nearly six decade career they have been six-time Grammy Award winners and have been recognised internationally for reinventing Irish music. Credited with. transcending musical boundaries, the band collaborated or performed with artists as diverse as Emmylou Harris, The Dubliners, Tom Jones and The Rolling Stones.
President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins has added his name to the long list of high-profile names singing Paddy's praises.
“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," President Higgins wrote in a poignant statement.
"Paddy, with his extraordinary skills as an instrumentalist, notably the uilleann 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.
"Not only as a consummate musician himself, but as a founder member of Claddagh Records together with Garech de Brún, he brought a love of Irish music not just to the diaspora, but to all those across the world who heard his music and appreciated it for its own sake as it transcended all musical boundaries. His work as a producer was a contribution of great integrity, undertaken to promote the music itself at a time when the commercial benefits of doing so were limited. His legacy will remain with us in the music which he created and brought to the world," President Higgins continued.
"On behalf of Sabina and myself, and on behalf of the people of Ireland, I would like to express my deepest condolences to Paddy’s family and friends, and in particular his wife Rita and his children Aonghus, Pádraig and Aedín.”
The Irish Traditional Music Archive (ITMA) has also reflected on Moloney's incredible legacy.
"Moloney had a phenomenal impact on traditional music in Ireland but also throughout the world," ITMA director Liam O’Carroll said today. "There’s people in Japan that are making and playing the uileann pipes because Paddy Moloney and The Chieftains played in Tokyo in the 1990s or 2000s."
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. Leaba i measc na naomh go raibh aige."
Minister Catherine Martin also paid tribute, tweeting: "With the passing of Paddy Moloney, we have lost a giant of the national cultural landscape. Through the Chieftains, he brought the joy of Irish music to a global audience. His music was a source of celebration and pride for all of us. Suaimhneas síoraí dá anam."
The likes of musician Majia Sofia, author Paul Howard and Mark O'Brian of the Abbey Theatre have also offered their condolences.
so sad to hear about the passing of Paddy Moloney! I had the real pleasure of meeting him when I was 16,watching the Chieftains play from the wings at the side of the stage in Westport, where I’d just hopped a fence at the back and walked up to watch and weirdly nobody stopped me pic.twitter.com/PVnArU1iCO
— maija (@maija_sofia) October 12, 2021
Such sad news.
The piper of our dreams imithe
His sound cast a spell for the ages.
His influence on the music and soul of this island immeasurable.
A chieftain indeed.
His tunes will echo through this land.
Codladh Sámh agus go raibh maith agat.
RIP #paddymoloney pic.twitter.com/cL1c43Ps0A
— Mark O’Brien (@obrienmark) October 12, 2021
Spent many happy hours in Paddy Moloney's company while I was working on the Tara Browne book, especially at Luggala. What a wonderful gent. Very sad news. Paddy Moloney RIP. pic.twitter.com/k1NgMl3T8K
— Paul Howard (@AkaPaulHoward) October 12, 2021
Moloney is survived by his wife, artist Rita O’Reilly, sons Aonghus and Pádraig and daughter Aedín.