Conor Walsh: “He had turned my head around just like his music had done the first time I heard it”

On Tuesday, the funeral took place of Irish musician Conor Walsh. Since his death last week, there have been countless tributes to the man and his music. Here are just a few examples of what people had to say about the Mayo musician

"He never failed to conjure the highest emotion from a melody just as he never but drew the brightest light from all who met him"
From Conor Walsh's Family

Conor treated each performance the same way he treated each and every individual whom with he shared company. He never failed to conjure the highest emotion from a melody just as he never but drew the brightest light from all who met him. The absolute dedication, insatiable energy and infallible passion he committed to his music was mirrored in the attention and engagement he gifted to the conversations of those he shared memorable times with, whether on stage in Ballinalough, on the streets of Swinford or, at home in Ballinisland.

Conor was a talented musician, a tireless conversationalist with an intelligent and informed mind, a skilled fisherman, an amazingly caring brother, son and friend, and most of all, a gentleman to all who were fortunate enough to cross his path. Conor's imprint on music will continue to flow long past his time, and the impression he left on all who knew him is sure to linger in minds and hearts as distinctly as the echo of the notes he leaves behind him. We will all miss Conor dearly, as we try to come to terms with losing a talented artist and an outstanding friend who still had so much to offer.

The family of Conor would like to sincerely thank everyone who has offered their condolences, your support is appreciated very much, and it is a great help at this difficult time.


`The value of one single conversation with one human being at one point in your life is inestimable'
Donal Dineen

I loved Conor Walsh’s music before I had ever met the man at all. As is often the case, the man turned out to be much like the sounds that he made, beautiful and soulful.

That first meeting was a fortuitous one on my part. I had just finished playing at Another Love Story in Ballinlough a couple of years ago and I was packing my boot with bags of records when he strolled past my car. I wasn't in great form myself and I didn't much feel like facing the lonely road back to Dublin at that point, late and all as it was. Hellos were exchanged and a chat was started. It quickly became a conversation and before I knew it we were strolling through the woods following some people we never did find and talking like there was no tomorrow despite all the dawning evidence to the contrary.

I remember the contours of our first conflab well. I had much information to offload on the nature of my sadness and that's where it started. He was a great listener. Straight from the off I felt comfortable in his company. He oozed that ineffable quality that makes some humans so approachable and innately understanding. I can't put a name on it but it's one of the things I love in people. It's what I'm looking for most of the time to be honest.

Owing to the tremendous relief I was feeling by having miraculously found the friend I so badly needed but didn't know existed just minutes before, thoughts quickly turned to the nature of chance and from there to the kindness and comfort of strangers.

We talked long and hard, never biting off more than we could chew but wading in deep all the same. Hours passed. It was a touch of that early morning - chill that eventually woke us up to the fact that it was getting cold and that it might be time to call it a day. I can remember being reluctant to leave so important was the nature of our talk. I know that's exactly how we left it, me telling him that I wouldn't forget what he said and him telling me that he felt exactly the same. It was then I realised that I hadn't asked him his name. He said 'Conor Walsh' and I started to laugh. I abandoned my attempt to get into the car for a second time and we sat back down again to talk music and shop. The fact that he never said anything about what he did speaks volumes about the man he that he was. His modesty and humility in that department is something I've heard a lot about in the past couple of days. I tried to explain to him how it sounded to me and he seemed pleased with the summation. Our second goodbye was even more heartfelt. There were hugs and handshakes and high fives all round.

I hit the road back with a whole different mindset to the one I was harbouring a couple of hours earlier. I felt really lucky to have made his acquaintance in such circumstances. He had turned my head around just like his music had done the first time I heard it.

So then we met again at The Model Niland Gallery in Sligo last year. There was a lovely May Day event organised there and we were both lucky enough to be involved. Without thinking about it for too long - we sort of simultaneously invited ourselves to try collaborating on some visuals for his performance later in the evening. It felt like we were back in the woods or something. Our friendship was reconvened. It felt natural. Part two was going to be every bit as good as the first.

We spent the time setting up talking about Mayo and matters of football. It was my turn to feel his pain but I knew it was difficult for him to take words of consolation from such as myself, with me speaking as a Kerryman and all that. But Conor was gracious to a fault and when I listed off all the reasons why I loved the county and people of Mayo he caved in and accepted my condolences and praise.

So it came to show time and there were just a bunch of us in the room. There actually could have been hundreds of people present and I wouldn't have noticed so absorbing was his set. It was transportive in the most magical of ways. The best music can do for someone is to open up a space for them in their heads where all the stuff that usually drags them down can't reach. It sets you free in that sense. That's how I felt that night.

I only had a minute to tell him what i thought afterwards as I had to get to work elsewhere. He said something about feeling like it didn't go well but I reassured him with the same words that I have just told you.

I'm glad that I did now.

Of all the crazy unfathomable questions that losing someone like this throws up, the shortest and simplest 'Why?......' is the one that keeps recurring.

All we know is there is no answering that. If there was we could take to the streets and rail against the injustice of losing someone that was so vital to us.

In ending this post, I'm going to remind you of something Conor and I talked about that first night we met.

The value of one single conversation with one human being at one point in your life is inestimable. I was guilty of assuming there would be many more with this great man but I am grateful that there was at least another.

"None of us ever know for sure what it all means but in those fleeting moments when we're talking and we think that we do we should go right ahead and say it."

That's what you said and now it's what I'll always say when I speak of you.

Thanks Conor. To be continued...

`I remember thinking, Jesus Christ, is this bollocks bad at anything?'
Eoin Butler

I first met Conor Walsh when we were both students in the Gaeltacht, at Eachléim, in the glorious summer of 1994. We shared a youthful enthusiasm for Nirvana, ripped jeans, cigarettes and speaking English as much as was humanly possible. (I remember being so taken with the methodical fashion in which he’d shredded his trousers, I copied it exactly and was called out for this act of sartorial plagiarism by the very girl we were both secretly trying to impress.)

If I had to sum up Conor the Teenager in one word, it would be: cool. He was intelligent, good looking, well read and popular. We stayed in touch. A few months later, by chance, I found myself marking him in an underage Gaelic football match between Ballyhaunis and Swinford. We chatted amiably before the game. But that didn’t stop him roasting me once the ball was thrown in. At the time, we were both in contention for places on the Mayo U-16 panel. I remember thinking, Jesus Christ, is this bollocks bad at anything?

Still, when he emailed me in August 2010, telling me he was now a “minimalist piano composer”, I was trepidacious. Conor was booked to pay a gig at the Hard Working Class Heroes festival in the Mercantile Bar, on Dame Street. He was a friend. I knew we’d have a drink afterwards. I’d heard nothing, up to that point, to suggest he had any interest in minimalist piano composition. I was afraid I wouldn’t like his music and I’d be forced to come up with some polite, disingenuous words to pawn him off with.

As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. Conor’s show wasn’t just good. It was mesmeric. I couldn’t believe the transformation in him. As a younger man, Conor had been brash and macho. (As he needed to be, where and when we grew up.) But Conor the Adult was a completely different character, unmistakably gentle and kind. I saw him many times after that, most often in the company of his great friend and collaborator, the poet Martin Dyar.

I took tremendous pride in all that Conor achieved. His death is a shock beyond all words. My deepest sympathies go out to his family and friends. He was a unique guy. I don’t know what else to say except that he joins an ever-extending list of people I wish I could speak to, long after the opportunity to do so has passed, and say, You were one of the people who lit up my life. I wish I’d had gumption, when you were alive, to tell you how much I truly admired you and valued our acquaintance.

Ceol Ar An Imeall 6: Conor Walsh from Ceol Ar An Imeall on Vimeo.