Versatile musician and accomplished writer

Maidhc Dainín Ó Sé - Born: February 2nd, 1942; Died: August 29th, 2013

Maidhc Dainín Ó Sé:
prolific author, musician, singer and composer whose work won popular and critical acclaim

Maidhc Dainín Ó Sé: prolific author, musician, singer and composer whose work won popular and critical acclaim


Maidhc Dainín Ó Sé, from Carrachán, near Feothanach, in the west Kerry Gaeltacht, who has died aged 71, was a multitalented individual.

A prolific author, a musician, a singer, a composer, a poet, a truck driver, a trade union official, a civil rights campaigner, a returned emigrant, he was the embodiment of a rural meitheal, a whole team of personae in the one body.

Like most of those brought up in rural Ireland in the 1940s and 1950s, he was destined to emigrate and so he did – first to London and then on to join his siblings in Chicago.

While working for the large mail order company Sears Roebuck in the 1960s, he witnessed civil rights issues at first hand and by the end of that decade he had decided to uproot his growing family to bring them home to a more serene environment.

While working in Chicago he had married Kathleen Fitzgerald, from Gleanntán, Cordal, near Castleisland and they were raising two children, Caoimhín and Deirdre, when they decided to return home.

Back in Ireland, Micí Dainín, as he was colloquially known, began a most amazing and distinguished career. The year of their homecoming, 1969, has gone down in west Kerry annals as the “year of the film” – the year David Lean came to direct Ryan’s Daughter in the Dingle area and beyond.

Maidhc Dainín could have had secured work with the film production company but he opted instead for more long-term work with the Dingle creamery. Eventually he became a truck driver, the conveyor of fresh west Kerry milk to the Kerry Co-Op factory in Listowel.

Three more children were born into the Ó Sé family – Danny, Dáithí and Marianne. There was often jovial banter in the family in recent years, when Dáithí became a familiar face on television, as to whether it was more important to be known as the son of Maidhc Dainín or the father of Dáithí Ó Sé!

A great tragedy in his and the family’s life was the sudden death of Deirdre, who had returned to live in the US and was a young married mother in Philadelphia at the time of her death.

Just as Kate was his great love, music was his first love and once he got hold of his first melodeon (bought through mail order by scraping together every penny he could earn as a teenager), there was no stopping him on his career as a musician – playing at every céilí and hooley he could.

He graduated to playing in the great Irish halls of London and Chicago and played with the likes of Joe Cooley.

Subsequent to his arrival on home turf he became well known for his accordion playing on the fledgling Raidió na Gaeltachta.

He featured regularly at the annual Oireachtas na Gaeilge, where his accordion music added immensely to the atmosphere of that great traditional festival.

A most gregarious and charismatic but down to earth character, with a distinctive crop of white hair, he was recognised and well received wherever he went in Ireland in the latter years of his life.

That was the case, really, ever since his first, and best, book, A Thig Ná Tit Orm, was published by Coiscéim in 1987. It was the story of his life as a garsún in west Kerry, of his attempts at becoming an accomplished musician and his experiences, some very funny, as an emigrant on the streets of London and Chicago.

Because of its literary merit being widely acclaimed by Irish-language critics, A Thig Ná Tit Orm replaced Peig on the Leaving Certificate curriculum. “I was the man who threw Peig out of her bed!” as he often mirthfully declared.

He subsequently authored 19 books in Irish, including four books for younger children, and his most recent book, Punt Isló, was published a few short months ago.

Another book he wrote for children will probably be published posthumously in the coming months.

Two of his books were also translated into English.

He also published two CDs of his music, accompanied by Caoimhín and his friend and confidant, musician Feargus Ó Flaithbheartaigh.

He is survived by his wife, Kathleen, their sons Caoimhín, Dáithí and Danny, their daughter Marianne and his grandchildren.