Barney McKenna of The Dubliners dies aged 72

The legendary Dubliners banjo player Barney McKenna has died at the age of 72.

Barney McKenna
Barney McKenna

He collapsed at his home this morning and was later pronounced dead at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin.

His family released the following statement: “The band, his family and friends would like to thank everyone for their kindness and support. Words cannot describe how we all feel.

“The greatest tenor banjo player of his generation, Barney spent his life travelling the world playing Irish music. He loved it. The world loved him. May he rest in peace.”

Tribute to Barney McKenna

McKenna was the last surviving founder member of The Dubliners,who formed in 1962. The other founder members were Luke Kelly, Ronnie Drew and Ciaron Bourke. They were joined in 1963 by John Sheehan, who is still with the band.

Irish president pays tribute

The Dubliners are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year and McKenna performed with them at all the 12 concerts of their UK tour which ended a few weeks ago. He was also planning to perform at all of the remaining dates of the band’s anniversary world tour.

The Irish President, Michal D Higgins, paid tribute saying that McKenna had made a major contribution to music and song. He said: “His influence on and generosity to other instrumentalists was immense.”

McKenna was an accomplished performer on the mandolin and the melodeon, but he is best known for his virtuoso banjo playing.

All the top banjo players owe huge debt to him

Musician and broadcaster Kieran Hanrahan said McKenna was a hugely influential musician and all the top banjo players in Ireland and the UK owed a huge debt to him. Hanrahan said: “He had a technique of playing with his plectrum with his right hand which no one had seen before.”

“The beauty of all that and the beauty of Barney McKenna as a gentleman – to me, the most influential man – it did not matter who you were, 65 years or five, if you showed an interest in the banjo, he’d sit down with you and show you what he was doing.”

McKenna was born in Donnycarney to the north of Dublin in 1939.

McKenna’s wife Joka died 28 years ago. He is survived by his partner Tina, his brother Sean Og and his sister, Marie.

Tribute to Barney McKenna

By Patrick Kehoe

Pat Kehoe is a writer for Irish Music Daily. His favourite Irish music bands are the Dubliners and Planxty.