Sadness at passing of gifted ‘Bofin musician Dessie O’Halloran

There is sadness in traditional music circles this week after the death at the weekend of Inishbofin-native musician Dessie O’Halloran.

Mr O’Halloran who was in his late seventies, passed away after a short illness. His funeral took place on Inishbofin yesterday (Wednesday ) afternoon, and he was buried in St Colman’s Cemetery.

O’Halloran, who recorded his first album The Men of the Island in 1975 with two of his brothers, became better known in recent years for his performances with Sharon Shannon.

In 2001, his version of Say You Love Me, from Shannon’s album The Diamond Mountain Sessions, reached number four in the Irish charts.

The singer and fiddler died at a nursing home in Salthill, Galway, which he had only moved into in recent weeks, on the day he was due to perform a concert on his native Inishbofin, at the island’s Set Dancing and Trad Weekend festival.

Singer Damien Dempsey said on his Facebook page that he was “very sad to hear of the loss a great Irish singer and friend, Dessie O’Halloran of Inishbofin.”

“Many’s the mile with Dessie I travelled, when we were both guesting with the wonderful Sharon Shannon,” he said.

”We supported Willie Nelson one summertime around Britain and in Belfast and Dublin in huge arenas. And Dessie brought the house down in every one of them arenas with ‘Katie Daly’ and ‘Say You Love Me’…”

Dempsey said O’Halloran “possessed a magic when he played and sang”.

“He’d a rough oul haggard voice from decades on building sites through the London winters and heavy drinking with very little sustenance, but I watched audiences from the wings when he sang and played his fiddle,” he said.

“A smile rose on their faces like the sunrise, and they’d start to dance, and a warmth would glow and emanate across whole crowd, and you’d feel a warmth within. He had a great gift of putting people on a good vibration, which is a great gift to the world.”

Speaking on Sunday, President Michael D Higgins paid tribute to Mr O’Halloran.

“It is with great sadness that I have learned of the death of a great friend of Irish music and island life, Dessie O’Halloran, singer, musician and performer.

“Blessed with a distinctive voice and great musical talent, he used his music to bridge the divides of space, time and social background. A man from Inishbofin, where his heart always dwelled, Dessie O’Halloran has left a legacy that people will continue to celebrate. It was a privilege to know Dessie and his extended family at a personal level.

“As President of Ireland may I express my deepest condolences to his family, his friends and all those who love Irish music and creativity. His special voice will always be recalled when his name is invoked at the sessions,” concluded President Higgins.

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