President leads tributes to Ireland’s greatest fiddler

President leads tributes Irelands greatest fiddler
Tommy People

President Michael D Higgins led tributes to one of Ireland’s most acclaimed trad music fiddlers, Tommy Peoples, who died aged 70 last Friday.

Donegal man Peoples was born in St Johnson in Donegal in 1948 and came from a long line of fiddle players, including his grandfather, Jimmy, and cousin, Bob. His style was said to be definitively of Donegal. Many of the tributes to him said he was the most inspirational player of his generation and he played with the best known names in Irish traditional music.

He moved to Dublin in 1965 where he became a police officer working for An Garda Síochána before going on to help form groups like the Bothy Band in 1975.

President Higgins said Peoples was much loved personal friend and would be sorely missed: “I have learned with great sadness of the death of Tommy Peoples, the renowned Donegal fiddle player and composer.

“Regarded as a master of his craft, Tommy enchanted audiences at home and abroad with his unique style of music, playing with the Kilfenora Céilí Band, the Bothy Band and many other legendary figures in the world of traditional Irish Music.

“Tommy has the distinction of receiving two TG4 Gradam Awards, for Traditional Musician of the Year in 1998 and Composer of the Year in 2013, a feat not achieved before or since. He also had a great love of the Irish language, which he considered to be a very important part of Irish life.

“I, with so many others have the warmest memories of Tommy as a friend over many decades and we shall all greatly miss him.

“Sabina and I send our deepest condolences to his family, friends and all those who knew him. Ar dheis Dégo raibh a anam.”

He lived in Co Clare for the last 30 years and had retired from performing due to ill health. In 2015 he released Óam Go hAm — From Time to Time to help teach his playing style, illustrated by his own drawings. He also released eight solo albums in the course of his playing career.

He taught the fiddle at Willie Clancy Summer School and hosted master classes at its annual traditional music festival.

The folk band Lankum, previously known as Lynched, paid an on-line tribute: “Very sad to hear of the passing of Tommy Peoples. A major influence, particularly to Cormac. Our thoughts to all of his family and loved ones . . . and if you’ve never heard of the man, do yourself a huge favour. RIP.”

Singer-songwriter Maura O’Connell wrote: “Very sad to hear of the passing of the great Tommy Peoples. Many years ago I heard the blues in Irish music when I heard him play a slow air on the fiddle. It moved me to tears. I’m glad I was able to tell him about it a few years ago.”

His funeral mass was due to be held at Ennis Cathedral, Co Clare on Tuesday followed by burial at Drumcliffe Cemetery.


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