My neighbor Paddy was a superstar, but you would never know that when you pass him in the stores


If his life seemed exotic, traveling the world like a troubadour and hanging out in the recording studio with luminaries such as Mick Jagger, Van Morrison or Willie Nelson, Paddy Moloney kept his feet on the ground.

His official address was a cottage near Annamoe, County Wicklow, where he was part of a ‘set’ that enjoyed a bohemian lifestyle centered around the local village and the impregnable solidity of Luggala, where reigned his boss, friend and heir to Guinness Garech Browne.

But when he wanted to “get away from it all,” he retreated to his anonymous villa a five-minute walk from the center of Blackrock, County Dublin, away from the fast-paced lifestyle that characterized his fame as a as leader of the Chieftains.

There he was both local – as always ready with a salute and a smile – but largely left alone, whether when he went shopping in the local supermarket, having his evening drink in the off license or visit local restaurants.

Internationally known as a recorder player, he always had an iron whistle in his inside pocket. If asked to play a few tunes after a good meal and a bottle of wine with his wife Rita in Chi, a Chinese restaurant a short walk from their house, he was always ready to help – but not to mingle. He probably already had enough friends.

Despite the attributes of musical praise, he was so low-key that most of his neighbors didn’t realize how famous he was.

On New Year’s Eve, after celebrating in style, as he did, he was known to parading down the avenue in front of the house, vigorously blowing the whistle to welcome the New Year and greet the neighbors.

More recently, a local builder, who knew Paddy by chance, picked him up in his van when he saw the Chief of the Chieftains waiting with others for the No.7 bus outside the Rock Road Mall.

While comfortably seated, the builder said he heard that Paddy was still carrying the whistle, which was duly produced.

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“What would you like to hear? The chef asked as they drove.

“Why not ‘Kelly the boy from Killane’,” replied the builder, who was not so familiar with traditional music but knew the fame of his passenger, and thus mentioned the only tune he remembered from his years. school.

Paddy played until they reached St. Vincent Hospital, his destination.

“Did you like?” Paddy asked, unbuckling the seat belt.

“I did, but I didn’t know it was going on that long,” the builder replied and they parted laughing.

Another friend tells the story of meeting Paddy after they haven’t seen each other for a few years.

“And what is your son Pádraig doing now?” She asked of her youngest child.

“He’s a rocket scientist,” Paddy replied. The friend started to laugh, but realized that Paddy didn’t think it was funny. Her son is actually a NASA rocket scientist, which is part of why his whistle was taken into space to be played on the International Space Station.

Purists might argue that Paddy Moloney was not the best bagpiper of his generation, but he developed a unique sound from the pipes and no one could deny that when it came to promoting traditional Irish music to around the world, Paddy was in a league of its own. .

With a mischievous wink and a cheerful sense of fun, no matter who he was dealing with, he was The Chieftains, although the group has had various forms and each of its groups is made up of high-level musicians.

Raised in Donnycarney, he spent his summers with his maternal grandparents in Slieve Bloom Mountain near Ballyfin in Co Laois. They are made of solid materials in these blue hills, with a determination to live in life. It is this motivation that will eventually lead to a separation with his mentor, the composer Seán Ó Riada.

Ó Riada’s son Peadar recognized him in Seán Rocks on RTÉ Radio Arena, after Paddy’s death last Tuesday at the age of 83, that a “tension” developed between the two men after Moloney left his father’s pioneering music group, Ceoltóirí Chualann, to found The Chieftains and pursue a more commercial career in traditional music in 1962.

In an interview with broadcaster Liam Nolan in 1970, Seán Ó Riada said of the Chieftains: “They wouldn’t have come into being without Ceoltóirí Chualann. I actually admire what they do, but it has huge limits. They are limited to doing this stuff and I see no future for them.

What he may not have factored into this flawed prediction is that Moloney and The Chieftains would change the direction of the lore.
Irish music. His natural abilities as a publicist, his connections and his charm would open the group to a global audience and international fame.

Paddy Moloney first met Garech Browne, founder of Claddagh Records, at a traditional music session in Tulla, Co. Clare, in 1956.

Paddy later admitted that he initially thought the long-haired girl was a girl, but a friendship developed – and Moloney proceeded to drop by and play the flute in the house of Browne on Quinn’s Lane, near Pembroke Street, in central Dublin.

According to Robert O’Byrne in his book Luggala: The Story of a Guinness House, the pair were known to town spirits as “Ballcock and Browne,” a pun on aviators Alcock and Brown, but also what was considered a spiritual reference to Moloney, who was then working in the plumbing and sanitary ware suppliers Baxendale’s of Capel Rue.

Years later, as “piper in residence” at Luggala, the majestic Guinness hunting lodge in the Wicklow Mountains, he introduced the unique music of the Chieftains to everyone – from Hollywood royalty and music promoters. internationals to a parade of celebrities, poets, writers and painters, locals and others.

In his book, O’Byrne talks about a lavish lakeside lunch hosted by Garech’s mother, Oonagh Guinness, in 1965 and attended by Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco. “It was just a big picnic,” Moloney recalls, “The Chieftains played and Dolly McMahon sang, followed by Leo Rowsome on pipes.”

In the years that followed, Paddy was still on the guest list for a seemingly endless series of parties at Luggala.

“He would come home after dinner and start playing and you could see these very influential people all of a sudden say, ‘Who is this guy? “They were screwed,” said a regular at the long, often drenched days and nights at Wicklow Manor.

The collaboration of The Chieftains, Garech Browne and Claddagh Records resulted in a series of recordings that took traditional ballad boom music to artistic levels unthinkable for those who had previously only heard come-all-ye. sung late at night in smoky pubs.

He also created a genre that captivated an international audience, and his innovative arrangements proved Irish music doesn’t have to be boring and repetitive.

Moloney was a natural troubadour who constantly traveled the world playing Irish music and making connections that led to multiple collaborations with the rock’n’roll and world music elite – an elite with whom he was comfortably at ease, never sacrificing anything. of his own personality.

But despite the fame, he was also comfortably at home in Blackrock and Annamoe – a man who loved the pleasures of life and never had to be asked twice to blow the whistle and play something in. that unique style that made a lasting impression on the world.


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