Ómós: Nora Butler

Nora Butler (Photo: Comhaltas Ceoltoirí Éireann)

Acclaimed traditional singer, Nora Butler, has passed away overnight. A native of Toomevara, Co.Tipperary, Nora was a former All-Ireland champion and had been involved with Comhaltas for over fifty-five years both as an enthralling performer in sessions and music festivals and as a well respected adjudicator at fleadhanna in various parts of the country.

Nora won the first of a number of All-Ireland titles in 1966 in Boyle, Co. Roscommon.In the early 1970s she toured the US with Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann along with the late Paddy O’Brien. She also toured extensively in Australia, Canada, China, New Zealand and Libya.

Universally admired, Nora had gained many awards over the course of her singing career in addition to her many All-Ireland titles. In recent years she received the Annie McNulty award at the South Roscommon Singing Weekend in 2013 and a special presentation from Comhaltas in North America in 2014 honouring her contribution to Irish culture in North America over many years, entertaining on numerous concert tours as well as giving singing workshops. She also received gradams from the Fleadh Nua in Ennis in 2015 and from the Chapel Gates Singing Circle in 2019.

Nora made two solo recordings: an EP, The Shores of My Native Land, in 1973 and an album, The Dawning of the Day, in 2001. She is also featured on a number of video clips on YouTube.

Nora was pre-deceased by her husband, Pat Swann, in 2018. They often sang together as a duet. The Comhaltas website includes footage of Nora singing Slievenamon at a special concert honouring Pat, during the Comoradh Pat Swan weekend in Brú Ború, Cashel, in November 2018: https://comhaltas.ie/music/detail/comhaltaslive_552_6_nora_butler

A measure of the mark left by Nora Butler – both as a singer and as a human being – was the extensive number of tributes and reminiscences following news of her passing. A spokersperon for the Brú Boru Cultural Centre in Cashel, where Nora was a regular performer, said: “Words can’t describe the sadness and immense loss that Nora’s passing will have on so many.”
John Conlon, who organises the Robbie’s First Friday sessions in Spancilhill, Co. Clare said:  “It was Robbie’s First Friday that introduced me to Nora in 2002. What an introduction! The quality and clarity of her voice allied to her sheer sense of fun were a joy. That first night was also my first time hearing herself and her beloved Pat sing Davy The Drover. No matter how many times in later years you heard them sing it, they always brought a freshness to it.

“In all of the years since then, Nora had a beaming smile no matter where she went. Tulla was a regular gig every year, Feakle and Kilfenora festivals, Ennis and Spancilhill monthly sessions, she would visit as often as she could. Her quality kept her much in demand so she was always apologising for not getting to us as often as she would like.

“Brú Boru meant so much to her – and more so after Pat’s death in December 2017,” he added.

Singer, Nóirín Lynch, who runs the Kilshanny House singing sessions, said: “Ireland has truly lost one of its bright jewels of song and tradition.” “We only spoke a few weeks ago as she was to have been featured guest for May in Kilshanny, having had to cancel a previous autumn invite due to a local funeral. We had joked about third time lucky and decided to wait til we knew more before rebooking a date. Now we will sing for her – not with her.

“Nora brought a wonderful welcome for all, a deep love, knowledge and experience of traditional song and a great sense of fun and sensibleness to keep it all in perspective .She brimmed over with love for music, her style was always beautiful … and her love for Pat, well that shone brightest of all.”

Nora Butler accepts a gradam amhránaoichta from Senan Lillis of the Chapel Gate Singers in Cooraclare.

Singer Brigid Delaney added: “I first met Nora when I was a child and over the years we became great friends and in all of those years I never saw her without a smile on her face. The singing community has undoubtedly lost one of its irreplaceable treasures.”

Describing Nora as the “queen of traditional singing and a true ambassador of our Irish culture,” Senan Lillis noted that: “Less than a year ago, May 31, 2019, Nora was our special guest at the Chapel Gates Singers Club in O’Keeffe’s, Cooraclare, and what a fabulous occasion that was! Here’s a photo of yours truly presenting her with a Gradam Amhránaiochta at the conclusion of that memorable night.”

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