Barney McKenna, a founding member of The Dubliners has died aged 72. He collapsed at his home with a heart attack on April 5. Friend and guitar player Michael Howard said he was visiting the musician at his home in Howth when he collapsed while drinking tea at breakfast. Attempts to revive him proved unsuccessful and he died in an ambulance on the way to Beaumont hospital.
He is survived by his partner Tina, along with his brother Sean Óg and his sister Marie. His wife Joka died 28 years ago.
His fellow Dubliners described him as “one in a million”. In a statement, they said: “The greatest tenor banjo player of his generation, Barney spent his life travelling the world playing Irish music. He loved it. The world loved him. May he rest in peace.”
President Michael D Higgins said Mr McKenna “made a major contribution to music and song”. He added: “His influence on and generosity to other instrumentalists was immense.”
Said John Sheahan: “People have been phoning me sympathising, but I feel I could just as easily be sympathising with them,” he said. “I think it’s a kind of universal loss, I think everybody is going to miss him hugely. “We are all very sad.”
Stocktons Wing banjoist Kieran Hanrahan said top banjo players in both Ireland and the UK during the 1960s and 1970s all owed a debt to McKenna. “Every single one of them would have pointed to an influence by Barney McKenna. He had a technique of playing with his plectrum with his right hand which no-one had seen before,” he said.
The Dubliners, who recently marked the group’s 50th anniversary, were due to embark on a tour of Denmark starting on April 17. They toured Switzerland in February after their two sold-out concerts at the Christchurch Cathedral at the end of January.
Other group members, Ronnie Drew, Ciaran Bourke and Luke Kelly, have died since the band was formed in O’Donoghue’s pub on Merrion Row in 1962. John Sheahan is now the Dubliners’ sole survivor.