Newry.ie

Over 50 musicians from every part of Ireland gathered in Bellini’s last week to pay tribute to Josephine Keegan, fiddle player, composer, accompanist and teacher. The Musical Icon Award event, Part of Iúr Cinn Fleadh got off to a  great rousing start when over 25 members of Josephine Keegan Fiddle Group reunited to pay homage to their mentor and inspiration. They were followed in quick succession by musicians who testified to Josephine’s legacy, which includes over 500 self-composed tunes, many of which are in the mainstream of performances of today’s young musicians.

The performances were interspersed with video messages from leading musicians in Canada, USA, the Shetlands, France and Japan. Leading traditional musicians like Finbar Furey and Noel Hill regretted they couldn’t attend in person, but sent messages testifying to Josephine’s universal status as one of the true icons of Irish traditional music.

Organisers Claire Byrne and Tommy Fegan present the Iúr Cinn Fleadh Musical Icon Award to Josephine Keegan while looking on is musician Ursula Byrne. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Organisers Claire Byrne,right, and Tommy Fegan present the Iúr Cinn Fleadh, Musical Icon Award to Josephine Keegan while looking on is musician Ursula Byrne. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

The Lifetime Accomplishment Award was one of the major events in this year’s  Iúr Cinn Fleadh programme, which has grown from strength to strength since its inception a few years ago.

Just some of the musicians with Josephine Keegan who received her Musical Icon Award at last weeks Iúr Cinn Fleadh. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Just some of the musicians with Josephine Keegan who received her Musical Icon Award at last weeks Iúr Cinn Fleadh. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

An unfortunate accident didn’t deter Oliver O’Connell from Doolin in County Clare pay his appreciation to Josephine. Oliver was on his way to the event when his car broke down at Ballinasloe. Oliver didn’t let his depression and stress at missing out stand in his way of paying tribute. As he sat on the grass verge at the roadside waiting for the pickup truck, he quickly penned a poem in honour of Josephine and emailed it through to Tommy Fegan co-presenter and organiser along with Clare Byrne for the event. Tommy was able to read the poem to an appreciative audience, amazed at Oliver’s ability to compose a poem under such duress. The final version is worth quoting here;

“Great players like Michael Coleman, O’Riada and Finbarr Dwyer

And the greatest duet of all time, Josie Keegan and Sean McGuire.

They have left us a legacy and we thank them one and all,

And tonight we honour Josephine, the greatest player of all.”

Oliver O’Connell, (side of the road, Ballinasloe, 6th Sept, 2018)

Doolin and the world paid a fitting tribute to Mullaghbawn-based Josephine Keegan an inspiration for over five decades to thousands of musicians at home and abroad.

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