Píobaire, An, Volume 4, Issue 43, Page 11

Píobaire, An, Volume 4, Issue 43, Page 11
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periodical Publisher
Na Píobairí Uilleann
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Chairman, NPU
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Píobaire, An
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Peter Laban21singing and of songs, and of the singers ofsongs, that stayed with him throughout hislife. This brought him from singing himselfand from private collecting and voluntaryinvolvement in many many organisations –far too many to mention here, but you knowwho you are – to professional field-collectingand archiving, first for the Department ofEducation under his early mentor BreandánBreathnach. But for most of his career, from1974, for the Department of Irish Folklore inUniversity College Dublin (now the UCDDelargy Centre for Irish Folklore and theNational Folklore Collection). It was employ-ment by the Department that enabled Tom tomake the largest field-collection of Irish tra-ditional song in the English language evermade by any individual, and to teach andinfluence others, and to collaborate fruitfullywith colleagues such as Ríonach uí Ógáin. Inthe course of his work there he collected anddocumented over 20,000 songs, and a mass ofother folklore, which is available for publicaccess through the Department. It wasemployment by the Department also thatenabled Tom to move with his family toMiltown Malbay in 1978 and become a kindof Dublin countryman, and a DublinClareman – a special hybrid – and to docu-ment from here a traditional way of life inrural Ireland which was fast disappearing butwhich will live on in his documentation.I’ve known Tom Munnelly now, and been anon-academic colleague of his, for over thirtyyears in a variety of enterprises related to tra-ditional music, starting about 1976 when hewas Treasurer and I was Secretary of the FolkMusic Society of Ireland, a voluntary society.We’ve been involved in many things sincethen, but most notably in the establishment ofthe Irish Traditional Music Archive from1987 to the present. Tom was the foundingChairman of the Archive from its beginningsto 1993 (followed by Mícheál Ó Súilleabháinand Cathal Goan). He was vastly pleasedwhen the Archive moved to new permanentpremises in Merrion Square in Dublin lastyear, and as a sign of this he arranged thatdonations be made to the Archive in lieu offlowers for the funeral, something that hastaken me by complete surprise. In the thirty-Nicholas Carolan speaking at Tom Munnelly’s graveside20~ Graveside words for Tom Munnelly ~Nicholas CarolanBallard Cemetry, Miltown Malbay, Co Clare1 September 2007We’re here, most of us, becausewe’re glad we knew TommyMunnelly, and because we want tosay goodbye to him publicly like this, and pri-vately in ways appropriate to ourselves.I don’t presume to speak for Tom’s family –his wife Annette and children Colm, Tara andÉadaoin – and his other family members andclose friends, who have had to endure thetrauma of Tom’s final illness, but I hope thatthe long length of that illness brought its ownconsolation, because it enabled him to com-plete a spectacular lap of honour in his lastsummer and to bring a finality to manyaspects of his life.Within the last few months he was presentedwith a festschrift, a substantial volume ofessays in his honour by his academic andother colleagues; he was awarded an honorarydoctorate of literature by the NationalUniversity Galway in recognition of his life-time's work in Irish traditional song and folk-lore; and he attended the wedding of his sonTara and new daughter-in-law Samran. Andhe was able to design his own funeral inwhich we’re now participating – or micro-manage it, as I accused him of doing when hewas telling me about some of the details onthe phone. It’s wonderful that these thingshappened when he was able to appreciate andget full value from them.The size of the attendance at the removal lastnight and at the funeral here today indicatesinescapably that a lot of people are glad thatthey knew Tom, that he had a lot of friendsand admirers. And that he held friends. Theconclusion has to be that he was a remarkableperson, a person out of the ordinary. And sohe was.Tom impressed people throughout his life,and not by things external – not by his wealth,God knows, or by his blue blood, or by hiselevated social connections, or by his level offormal education. But he impressed people bythings internal to him – by his sturdy larger-than-life character, his wide interests andsympathies, his intelligence and curiosity, hisstrong beliefs, his pugnacity and doggednessin pursuit of these beliefs, his encyclopedicknowledge of traditional song, his appetite fordedicated hard work, his restlessness inalways going on to new aspects of his consis-tent occupations, his loyalty, and sometimeshis deliberate coat-trailing and mischief-mak-ing, for sport. Humour was central to Tom’scharacter – his quips and asides and wryobservations, his fund of anecdotes and sto-ries, and his continuous humorous commen-tary on life. Perhaps more than anything else,he impressed people by his genuineness – hemeant what he said, and he said what hemeant (not always diplomatically), and hesaid it in original and memorable ways.Tom was a leading authority on Irish tradi-tional song, and he reached this high plateauby his own efforts chiefly, through a self-edu-cation that was motivated by the love of
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Píobaire, An, Volume 4, Issue 43

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