Dubliners founder McKenna dies


The only surviving founding member of the Dubliners Barney McKenna has died suddenly. He was 72.

McKenna played with the legendary band since they started in O'Donoghue’s Pub in Dublin in 1962. They celebrated their 50th anniversary with a series of concerts in Christ Church Cathedral in January and are also participating in the official Irish single for the forthcoming European Championships.

The Dubliners were due to embark on a tour of Denmark starting on April 17th.

McKenna lived in Howth. Though he had health problems in recent years with diabetes and a mild stroke, his death came as a shock.

He was talking in his kitchen to his friend, the classical guitar player Michael Howard, this morning when he fell asleep in his chair. Attempts to revive him proved unsuccessful and he died in an ambulance on the way to Beaumont hospital.

Fellow Dubliner Eamon Campbell said he was “completely devastated” by McKenna’s death and described him as a like a brother. “I can’t come to terms with the suddenness of it,” he said. "He was unique, there will never be another Barney.

“He was very droll man and great company. You’d never know what he’d come out with next. He was just a great guy. My favourite song that he sang was ‘I’m a man you don’t meet every day’ and that was true about Barney.”

Broadcaster and banjo player Ciaran Hanrahan said McKenna was the "single most important figure" in the development of the tenor banjo in traditional music. "It was not played a lot up until the 1960s. He popularised it. He inspired a whole generation.”

He described McKenna as one of “life’s gentlemen” and one of the most entertaining people you could meet. “On a personal level he was such a decent, generous, humble man. He wore his talent very lightly.”

The Dubliners have had an incalcuable impact on the Irish ballad tradition. They are arguably the most famous Irish traditional ballad group of all time and were responsible for the resurrection of some Irish songs that had died out.

“I don’t think you’ll ever be able to figure out what they generated for Ireland and for Dublin,” Mr Hanrahan said.

McKenna is survived by his partner Tina, his sister Marie, his brother Séan Og, who is also a musician, and his nephews and nieces.