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Dennis Cahill pictured with Brendan Larissey and Billy Clifford during a performance at the International Festival of Traditional Music in Feakle. Photograph by Declan Monaghan

Guitar hero Cahill to be honoured at Feakle session

Champion Chatter

FRIENDS, family and fans of the late Dennis Cahill, will gather on Saturday night in Feakle to honour the renowned musician.

A long-time musical collaborator with fiddle player Martin Hayes, the two men have played at some of the world’s most prestigious venues and toured extensively. Together, they breathed fresh life into a diverse traditional music repertoire and founded the acclaimed five piece, The Gloaming.

For more than two decades, Dennis joined Martin as he returned home to his native Maghera and the Chicago native became part of the Hayes family and a valued member of East Clare’s musical community. 

“Saturday evening in Pepper’s will be a moment for people to come together and to remember Dennis,” Martin said.

“It will be informal, in the same way that Dennis was. Music brought him to Feakle and the festival. East Clare made a big impression on him and the event will give people here the chance to talk and chat and hang out, in the way that Dennis like to do.”

For more than two decades, Dennis was a familiar and well-loved figure on the vibrant music scene in North East Clare. “When we would come back to Ireland in the summers, from the early ‘90s, we would camp out at my parent’s house,” Martin recalled.

“The room that Dennis would stay in became ‘Dennis’s room’ and he became a great friend to my brother and sisters and to my mam and dad. 

“In terms of the music, it gave him an angle into East Clare,” Martin added. “Dennis liked music that is open and that has space and a sentimental feeling. He liked the relaxed way of the people. He was low key and quiet and discrete. His wife, Mary, is American, but has relations in Feakle. Her mother lives in Ireland. Her stepdaughter, Clíodhna will be there too and the event on Saturday will be a chance for people to pay their respects to them.”

Martin’s brother Pat Hayes noted that their mother, Peggy, would refer to Dennis as “the third son of the house”. “Dennis was part and parcel of life here for a long time,” he said. “He was a wonderful photographer and Lough Graney was a place he particularly liked.”

Pat described Saturday night’s event as an opportunity to reflect on Dennis’s contribution to music and to life generally in the area. “On Saturday night, we’ll gather to honour his presence among us for more than 20 years,” he said.

“He had Kerry roots, but was immersed in the East Clare community. He was a person that engaged with everyone. It is sad that he has passed, but he has left a strong legacy. It will be nice to spend an evening reflecting on his contribution to East Clare, to the wider county and to Ireland. Everyone will praise him nationally, but it’s great for a small community to be able to celebrate him.”

Gary Pepper who will host the gathering described Dennis as “a beautiful soul, humble and with a great wit”. “We were very saddened when we found out he was ill and he is a loss to traditional music and to those who knew and loved him in East Clare,” he said.

“He is sorely missed here in Feakle and we want to celebrate and to reminisce about the good man that he was. He will be at the centre of the evening. He will be coming home to some extent. He loved Feakle and Maghera in particular. He will be among his own again, in a manner of speaking. On stage, he mesmerised people and off stage, he was just himself, a very likeable person.”

Martin described his long partnership with Dennis as a journey for which he is very grateful.

“It’s a changed environment for sure now that Dennis is gone,” he said. “I think of it as the closing of a musical chapter. I am more grateful for the experience of having known Dennis, than sad. The two of us together had as good a run as you could have. We didn’t feel we had any unfulfilled wishes in terms of the music. There are things we could and should have done, but in the larger sense, we were pretty satisfied. It was a great journey.”

The ‘Remembering Dennis Cahill’ music session will get underway at 5pm in Pepper’s Bar in Feakle on Saturday, November 19. 

Fiona McGarry
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Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald.
Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti.
She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at The University of Galway.
If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at The University of Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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