A renowned harp-maker and a solo Atlantic sailor

Obituary: Larry Egar, born October 29th, 1937 – died July 15th, 2017

Larry Egar: a quiet person of deep faith, he had a gentle laconic sense of humour

Larry Egar: a quiet person of deep faith, he had a gentle laconic sense of humour

 

Harp-maker, boat-builder, printer, solo Atlantic sailor, Larry Egar, who has died aged 79, had all those attributes and much more besides.

Something of a renaissance man, he was also a teacher, a lifelong beekeeper, an occasional music critic, a stone-carver and active member of St Vincent de Paul for 50 years.

A quiet person of deep faith, he had a gentle, laconic sense of humour. His light-hearted approach to life was a considerable help in dealing with Parkinson’s disease. From the time he was diagnosed with that debilitating condition in 1999, he continued making harps for another 15 years but the illness eventually forced him to stop making them a few years ago.

Born into a musical family in Cork, Egar was educated at Christian Brothers College. His father was known as a fine singer and pianist. His sister, Helen, who cared for him through his long illness until he was moved to a home, also plays the piano and sings, while his brother Kieran, a violinist, founded the Dublin City Chamber Orchestra.

Stone-carving

Gifted with his hands, he served an apprenticeship in Cork as a compositor before going to England where he worked in the Oxford Press as a printer. On his return to Cork, he set up a layout and artistic design business, and lectured in design at CIT. He also became interested in stone-carving and produced some fine pieces.

Drawn by a yen to make musical instruments, he first made guitars in a large workshop beside the family home, and learned to play the classical guitar. He then began experimenting with harp-making. Turning his hobby into a highly successful business, in his time he has made some 300 specimens of the Irish harp from walnut or sycamore. Characteristically, his harps were light enough to carry, simple in design and have a sweet sound and were highly valued both by professional harpists and amateurs alike.

Renowned internationally for his craftmanship, he reached national prominence when he agreed to restore a shambles of an old concert harp for a musician friend in Cork. The finished product was so beautiful it won first prize in the Late Late Show furniture restoration competition.

Timber boat

Having crewed for some sailing friends in Kinsale, Co Cork, he decided to build a timber boat which he then sailed around Ireland for charity.

A free spirit, he set out to sail the Atlantic single-handed in the Jollybee, a small broad bottomed yacht in 1981, stopping off at the Canary Islands and the Azores on the way, and dropping in to see some relatives in Trinidad and then continuing on a course of island-hopping for several months throughout the West Indies.

Returning to Ireland the following year, it was typical of the man that when he landed at Schull there was no fanfare. He simply walked up to the village to do some breakfast shopping and then headed for Oysterhhaven. The only publicity about his transatlantic solo journey was an article in the centenary magazine of the Christian Brothers College.

He is survived by his sister Helen and brother Kieran.