The late Denis McMahon, Ballyhar and Churchtown, Castleisland

The late Jerry McCarthy (left) and the late Mikey Duggan (centre) pictured with the late Denis McMahon as they played on the opening night of the first Patrick O’Keeffe Traditional Music Festival in Skevenas Bar in 1993.
©Photograph: John Reidy 22-10-1993
RTÉ Radio presenter, Peter Browne presenting the award for Dedication to the music of Sliabh Luachra to Denis McMahon at the Patrick O’Keeffe Traditional Music Festival in 2010. ©Photograph: John Reidy 24/10/2010
Mary Jones hosted the first session of the inaugural Patrick O’Keeffe Traditional Music Festival which took place at The Rambling House, Castleisland in October 1993. Pictured before the music began were: proprietor Mary Jones with, from left: Tim Kiely, Jerry McCarthy, RIP; Johnny O’Leary, RIP; Dan O’Connell, RIP; Paddy Cronin, RIP and Denis McMahon, RIP. ©Photograph: John Reidy 22-10-1993

The death has occurred of Denis McMahon, Ballyhar, Killarney, Co. Kerry and formerly of Churchtown, Castleisland.

Peacefully on the 24th of August 2018, at home. Predeceased by his brother Pat and sister Mary. Deeply mourned by his loving wife Margaret, daughters Maureen and Gretta, son Jerry and Fiancé Niamh, grandchildren Maebh and Aoife, Aunts Betty and Nellie, son-in-law Chris, sisters-in-law Noreen, Helen and Marie, nieces, nephews, relatives, friends and neighbours. Rest in Peace

A Giant of Traditional Music

The late Denis McMahon was a giant of the music of Sliabh Luachra and while he may be better remembered as a fiddle player, he was just as gifted on the accordion.

He was one of the generation of the people who brought the culture and music of the area safely from the post Patrick O’Keeffe and Denis Murphy era to where it is today.

Ever cheerful and always harbouring a joke or a yarn, Denis was known the length and breadth of the country as a fine exponent of the music of his native area and in later years as ‘The Man with The Hat.’

He worked for years at the Churchtown based A.I. or the ‘Bull station’ as it was locally known – and no more than a stone throw from his home.

Radio and Television

Since the advent of Telefís Éireann in the early 1960s there was never a series of traditional Irish music programmes that didn’t feature Denis McMahon. And that’s not to mention the radio programmes he was involved in.

Probably, his most important and insightful involvement with the world of radio came as one of the many interviewees of Peter Browne during his work which became The Last of the Fiddle Masters – the four-part RTÉ Radio One documentary on the life and music of Patrick O’Keeffe.

Brosna Céilí Band Member

Denis McMahon was also a member of the Brosna Céilí Band at the height of its popularity and success. In 1972 the band won the All-Ireland title at the fleadh cheoil in Listowel.

Ann Sheehy and Nickie McAuliffe, the Mulcahy brothers, Pat and Michael, Celia Regan and Dónal O’Connor were also members of the band at the time.

Denis was presented with an award for his dedication to the music of Sliabh Luachra at the Patrick O’Keeffe Traditional Music Festival by Peter Browne in 2010.

Towering Presence

If he was a giant on the traditional music landscape throughout the country, his presence was towering in his native place during the planning and run up to the first Patrick O’Keeffe Traditional Music Festival in Castleisland in the autumn of 1993.

The late Mike Kenny took on the role of chairman of the festival organising committee and, with floods of advice from the likes of Peter Browne, Jack Culloty, Johnny O’Leary and Denis, it always looked like something that would go.

Pure Magic of 1993

They were all part of the pure magic of that big adventure for all of us involved at the time.

We were in the Mary Jones managed ‘Rambling House Bar’ on another festival planning session one afternoon and Mike had arranged to meet Johnny and Denis there.

They were free and fair with the advice they gave. It was a long day and I fell asleep on a seat along the back wall.

Trio of Guardian Angels

Unknown to me I had a trio of guardian angels for the duration of my doze. When I woke up there were two bar stools placed beside my ‘bed’ in case I fell off.

I woke to the sight of their three smiling faces looking down on me. I’d like to think they’ll continue to do that now.

May God be good to them all.

The Rolling Wave

In his final RTÉ Radio One programme before his retirement, Peter Browne will pay tribute to Denis McMahon on The Rolling Wave tomorrow night, Sunday, August 26th at 9pm.

Funeral Arrangements

Reposing in O’Connor’s Funeral Home, Firies on Sunday, the 26th of August 2018, from 5.30pm to 7.30pm.

Removal at 7.30pm to the Church of the Sacred Heart, Ballyhar. Requiem Mass for Denis McMahon will take place Monday, 27th August, at 11am.

Burial afterwards in Kilnanare Cemetery, Firies.

Date Published: Friday 24th August 2018. Date of Death: Friday 24th August 2018.

Please note, there is a facility on the attached Facebook page for people who wish to send a message of condolence to the McMahon family.

You can click on the image below to see Denis McMahon playing with Paddy Cronin, Paddy Jones and Maurice O’Keeffe from a Geantraí programme from 2004.

©John Reidy / The Maine Valley Post 25-8-2018

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