RIP Paddy Moloney

Paddy Moloney (Photo: National Concert Hall)

RIP Paddy Moloney

Chieftains founder dies aged 83.

The uilleann piper and whistle-player Paddy Moloney, best known as the founder and leader of the traditional music group The Chieftains, has passed away aged 83.

Moloney had an incredibly successful career over six decades with The Chieftains and they were touring right up until the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.

Born in Donnycarney in Dublin in 1938, he began learning the whistle and then uilleann pipes under Leo Rowsome. In 1960, he was asked by Seán Ó Riada to perform in the group that was to become Ceoltóirí Chualann. Three years later, Garech de Brún of Claddagh Records invited Moloney to form a group for a once-off album. The result was The Chieftains, which featured Moloney on pipes and whistle, Martin Fay (fiddle), Seán Potts (whistle), Michael Tubridy (flute) and Davey Fallon (bodhrán). Fallon was succeeded by Peadar Mercier and then Kevin Conneff. Seán Keane joined on fiddle in 1968, harper Derek Bell in 1974 and Matt Molloy in 1979.

The Chieftains had a considerable national impact with their string of traditional albums in the late 1960s and 1970s, titled variously The Chieftains 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. Moloney also recorded on the first Drones and Chanters uilleann pipes compilation album in 1971, which also featured Séamus Ennis and Leo Rowsome. In 1973, he released a duet album with Seán Potts, Tin Whistles, which is still popular today for its inventive arrangements. From 1968, he worked for Claddagh Records, producing, co-producing and supervising dozens of albums for the label before going full-time with the band in 1975. He was also a founding member of Na Píobairí Uilleann, the society of uilleann pipers, in 1968.

In the 1980s, The Chieftains broadened their appeal further through a live album from a tour of China and recordings with James Galway and Van Morrison. In the 1990s, they released a string of internationally successful albums, such as The Celtic Harp and Santiago. In total the Chieftains received 21 Grammy nominations and won six. Moloney and the Chieftains collaborated with a diverse range of artists on their albums including Frank Zappa and Mark Knopfler and also composed or arranged music for films such as Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon (1975).

He served on the board of the National Concert Hall in 2007 and, with the Chieftains, was awarded the inaugural NCH Lifetime Achievement Award for their contribution to music in Ireland in 2011. In 1988, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Music by Trinity College Dublin.

Commenting on Moloney’s passing, the Minister for Arts Catherine Martin said:

With the passing of Paddy Moloney, we have lost a giant of the national cultural landscape. Through the Chieftains, he brought the joy of Irish music to a global audience. His music was a source of celebration and pride for all of us. Suaimhneas síoraí dá anam.

Gay McKeon, the CEO of Na Píobairí Uilleann, said:

Paddy Moloney was a wonderful piper, an incredibly creative musician and a powerful performing artist. He helped popularise Irish music all over the world and in doing so, brought the sound of the uilleann pipes to the attention of so many. Along with people like Breandán Breathnach and Séamus Ennis, he played a leading role in the foundation of NPU in 1968 and helped imbue the new organisation with great confidence through his music and his work as a commercial artist. He helped influence a new generation to take up the instrument and play Irish music. We have lost one of the country’s foremost artists whose legacy is inestimable at this point.

Paddy Moloney is survived by his wife Rita, sons Aonghus and Pádraig, and daughter Aedín. His funeral mass will be held on Friday 15 October at 11am in St Kevin’s Church, Glendalough, Co. Wicklow, followed by burial at the adjoining cemetery. The mass will be available to view at 

Published on 12 October 2021

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