Born in 1939, Garech de Brún was one of the most important patrons of Irish culture for many years...
Garech de Brún, the founder of Claddagh Records, has died. A member of the Guinness family, de Brún became one of the most important supporters and benefactors of Irish traditional music and poetry, via the label which released some of the most extraordinary and compelling Irish music of the 20th Century.
De Brún was central to the formation of The Chieftains in 1962. Legend has it that he asked his friend, the uileann piper, Paddy Moloney, to form a group for a one-off album on Claddagh Records. It was the beginning of one of the most important phenomena in the history of Irish music, as the collective went on to record a huge number of extraordinary and brilliant records.
In a statement, President Michael D Higgins paid tribute to de Brún.
"The passing of Garech de Brún will be heard with great sadness by all those interested in the performance and recording of Irish music, song and poetry,” the President said.
A member of the Guinness family, for most of his life, De Brún lived at his house Luggala in Co Wicklow. There, he played host to many of the leading lights of the Irish cultural renaissance, including the great composer Sean O’Riada, members of The Chieftains and actors and poets like Jack MacGowran and John Montague.
More recently, he was the subject of a superb Sunday morning interview by Miriam O’Callaghan for her weekend radio show, in which the renowned film-maker, and fellow Wickliow resident, John Boorman, and Paddy Moloney also participated.
“He was a great character,” Hot Press editor Niall Stokes said. “I interviewed him in his Rathfarnham home, Woodtown Manor, many years ago, and found him immensely charming, as well as intellectually engaged and committed. A true bohemian, there was always a playful twinkle in his eye. But the most striking thing, for me at the time, was his immense love of Ireland , and of Irish music, literature and art.
"He had wanted to be part of the Irish creative community, and with that in mind, he formed Claddagh Records, which played a hugely important part in archiving some of the greatest Irish works – including, for example, Jack MacGowran reading Samuel Beckett, which is such a rare and wonderful thing. And then, of course, there was his work with The Chieftains, which led on to so many great musical adventures.
“I listened to his recent interview with Miriam O’Callaghan, and there was a marvellous sense of fun about him still, as well as great camaraderie with John Boorman and Paddy Moloney. But I was most impressed by the rigorous intellectual honesty which Garech displayed during the interview.
"Without rancour, and acknowledging the wonderful good fortune that his circumstances in life had bestowed on him, he made the extraordinary, and deeply impressive statement that he wished he had never been born. That sort of honesty is such a rare thing that it will have shocked a lot of listeners. But it was enormously courageous to acknowledge those feelings, in such a public way."
Garech de Brún was also a friend and patron of Dublin-born artist Francis Bacon. In 2017, he appeared in the BBC documentary Francis Bacon: A Brush with Violence.
One of his younger brothers, the legendary socialite Tara Brown – recently celebrated in a superb book by Irish writer, Paul Howard – is often cited as an inspiration for The Beatles' song A Day in the Life.