Limerick University Music Academy Honours Eamon Flynn

Dr Niall Keegan, Flute and Avril McLoughline, fiddle with Eamon and students during the launch of Eamon’s book

On March 12th last, in a day that can only be described as musically magical and memorable, a crowd of family, friends, musicians and a large body of musical students gathered in Theatre Two of Limerick University to honour the legendary fiddle and accordion maestro, Eamon Flynn of Mountcollins. It was the official and first launch of his book “The Dance Music of Eamon Flynn” edited by Dr Niall Keegan, Associate Director of the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, and Avril McLoughlin, an Irish traditional fiddle player and a doctoral student at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at University of Limerick. As we arrived, we were warmly welcomed by Niall, Avril and Dr Sandra Joyce, Executive Dean, Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Only weeks before, Eamon had hip replacement surgery, but he was not deterred from being part of the occasion. Niall Keegan introduced Eamon to the packed theatre, saying “An exponent of a distinct branch of Sliabh Luachra music, Eamon performed throughout Ireland and England with bands in his youth.  In the early 1960s, he emigrated to Boston, USA and performed with a number of bands and groups.  He became a prominent teacher of Irish traditional music, particularly in the Vermont region”. He thanked those involved in the publication of the book. He gave a brief explanation of the technicalities of the music, and it wasn’t long before Eamon was seated, fiddle in hand, belting out tunes of his own composition, accompanied by two young fiddle masters, Aidan Connolly, a Dublin born musician and teacher, and local county Cork fiddle player, Conor Daly, both great exponents of Irish music and, more importantly perhaps, sharing a close friendship with Eamon. Between tunes, Aidan asked Eamon about his musical career, from his beginnings at the Gate, Mountcollins and his innate ability and affinity with melody and the influences of other musicians of the time like the late Martin Ward, Tournafulla, and Daheen Davy Lenihan, his uncle who was also a music teacher and multi-instrumentalist. Eamon shared stories of his days playing with other local musicians of the time, notably the “Paddy Gerry” O’ Connors from Brosna, Seamus Connolly, East Clare born fiddler player, and many others, with whom he shared a lifelong friendship. With Aidan’s prompting, he regaled the audience with stories of his musical life across the globe, from Mountcollins to London, from Boston, Massachusetts to Vermont and back home again to his roots at the Gate. He spoke about his compositions, all immortalised in his book, (or at least the ones he hadn’t forgotten!) and the ease with which he had written them. Most of his tunes were written in honour of loved ones, like Nell Davy’s (his mother), Sarah’s Valentine, (his daughter), Con’s Return (his brother), Daheen Davy’s (his uncle) and even “My Cat Duke”, named for his cat of twenty-two years, now sadly departed. Always a fan of the music of the late Sean Maguire, he composed a wonderful hornpipe, in typical “Maguireish” musical style, “A tribute to Sean Maguire” after his passing in 2005. I admit that, as a mediocre player with only ten fingers, I have failed to master it!
Looking around at the audience, it was clear that everyone was enjoying his stories, and his music was highly appreciated by all. After almost an hour of playing, he was joined by Niall Keegan and many of the students who had learned his music. Fiddles, accordions, concertinas, guitars, flutes, and a harp joined in the playing of a medley of his music, much to the delight of all who attended. After much book signing and chatting, Niall, Sandra and Avril led us across to the University’s Pavilion where teas/coffees, sandwiches and more were laid on for Eamon and his guests. A host of musical friends accompanied Eamon, including John Daly, Con Herbert, Mike Collins, Donie Nolan, Pat Fleming, Michael Curran, Liam Broderick, Aidan Connolly, Conor Daly, Siobhán Cronin, Avril McLoughlin, and no sooner was the tea drank than the instruments were whipped out and a mighty session unfolded that went on for some time, much to the delight of everyone. It could only be described as a day out of time for all of us.
Eamon, a tin whistle/ fiddle/ button accordion player was inducted to The Hall of Fame by The Northeast Region of the North American Province on November 5, 2005. In October of last year, during the Padraig O Keefe festival in Castleisland, he was honoured at a special recital, accompanied by Nicky McAuliffe, Aidan, Conor, Colin Kadis and Conor Connolly. Thanks to the efforts of Aidan Connolly and Treasa Harkin, he is once again honoured in our own Irish Traditional Music archive ( in the Saothar Series. Eamon’s book is the completion of a year’s work and has become a very personal project for me. He represents a long line of musicians gone before him, and hopefully, an equally long line of musicians yet to come, from a proud family lineage. In an ever-changing culture of Ireland, it has become more important than ever to preserve the musical tradition of the past, while embracing the changes that naturally occur from generation to generation. Eamon’s music epitomises it all…. the polka and slide roots of Sliabh Luachra, the discipline of ceili bands, the offbeat of folk, and the cadence of reels, jigs, and hornpipes. He had the innate ability to adapt musical genres as his own.
On page four of his book, there is a photo of him, taken in 1955 when he was just 18, with his first cousin Noreen Lenihan (Haughney), 16, at St Augustin’s Church in Hammersmith, UK. They grew up together in Mountcollins. Sadly, the day before his book launch, Noreen was laid to rest. Eamon was unable to make the journey to Thurles, but his fiddle did. In a true example of family musical preservation and continuance, three generations of musicians, descendants of Nell and Daheen Davy’s, played polkas at her graveside, the youngest playing Eamon’s fiddle in Noreen’s honour, and at her request. RIP.
Eamon’s book is dedicated to his family, past and present.
In eighty-seven years of living, there are many tunes played and composed. Eamon’s story is not ended here. In fact, it’s only beginning. There will be two more book launches which will no doubt be a music session to remember. The first will be in Tommy Mick’s, Mountcollins, on March 29th, and the second will be at DJ Murphy’s, Abbeyfeale on April 5th. His book will be available to all discerning musicians and fans of the best of traditional music. These are nights not to be missed.
A sincere Thank you to all involved in the publication of his book, to Mike Collins who set the ball rolling, to Dr Niall Keegan and Avril for their visits to Eamon, Maurice Gunning, photographer, to Dr Sandra Joyce and the University of Limerick’s Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, Aidan Connolly and Conor Daly for mastering Eamon’s tunes and keeping him company so very often, all the musicians who have been supporting and playing his music, not just on the day but through the years, and in his home by the fireside, especially his lifelong friend, Seamus Connolly, ( who also preserved Eamon’s music in Boston College). . Thanks too to The Weekly Observer for permitting transcripts from previously published articles to be included and of course, to Eamon himself for his undeniable genius and ability.
I’ll leave the final words to Niall Keegan.
“To have a true understanding and engagement with the music of Eamon Flynn we must start by listening to his recordings and therefore an important part of this project is the development of a website at the University of Limerick ( where these scores and texts can be accompanied by recordings of Eamon playing the tunes.  Of course, there is more to the man and the artist than just the playing of tunes.  His individual personality, created in his traditional West Limerick / Sliabh Luachra home in Mountcollins, and melded through his experiences of London, Boston, and Vermont, is expressed not only in his music but in this open, friendly, and warm friendship, his ever-present cowboy hat, and his mischievous grin!”