RIP Seán Garvey

Seán Garvey

RIP Seán Garvey

Influential Kerry singer and musician dies aged 69.

The renowned traditional singer Seán Garvey passed away earlier this month (6 May) aged 69.

Born in Cahersiveen in County Kerry in 1952, he cited hearing the Dunne musician brothers play at a race meeting in the town as a turning point in his interest in music. This inspired him to start learning the banjo. He was also encouraged to sing by a teacher at school and by his mother.

After completing school, he moved to Dublin to train as a teacher and came under the influence of Clare singer Siney Crotty who performed regularly in Slattery’s pub on Capel Street. Garvey also performed with The Pavees traditional music group with uilleann piper Paddy Keenan.

He subsequently moved to the west of Ireland and lived in An Spidéal in Conamara. There he came under the influence of sean-nós singers such as Johnny Mháirtín Learaí, Tom Pháidín Tom, Sarah Ghríallais, and Joe John Mac Con Iomaire, and he began singing more in Irish.

From the late 1990s onwards, he performed regularly in the Cobblestone bar in Dublin with singer Johnny Moynihan and uilleann piper Nollaig Mac Cárthaigh. He also sang at the Béal Binn club in Bray, Co. Wicklow.

During these years he released two exceptional solo albums, Ón dTalamh Amach / Out of the Ground in 1998 (produced by Marion McEvoy and Garvey) and The Bonny Bunch of Roses in 2003 (produced by P.J. Curtis). The former includes ‘The Boys of Bárr na Sráide’, the song most strongly associated with Garvey, ‘The Freedom Tree’ and ‘Song for the Healing’. His second album includes classic renditions of songs such as ‘The Ballad of Sammy’s Bar’ and ‘The Weary Gallows’.

He subsequently returned to Kerry and in 2006 was awarded the TG4 Gradam Ceoil singer of the year award.

Garvey’s funeral took place on 10 May. He is survived by his sons Seán Óg and Eoghan, daughter-in-law Vanessa, grandchildren Fia and Aaron, partner Laoise, brother Donie, sister Noranne, sister-in-law Kay, extended family and a wide circle of friends.

To listen back to a tribute on RTÉ Radio 1’s The Rolling Wave, visit

Published on 17 May 2022

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