Ómós: Brendan Mulkere

Brendan Mulkere (Photo: TG4)

The death has been announced of the inspirational London-based musician and teacher, Brendan Mulkere whose outstanding contribution to traditional music was recognised in the award of a TG4 Gradam Cheoil in 2019.

Originally from Crusheen in North Clare, Brendan came from a family of musicians and teachers. Brendan’s father, Jack, was a music teacher and farmer in Kiltartan, South Galway – a colleague of Paddy Fahy and Paddy Kelly who formed the Aughrim Slopes céilí band. Brendan’s grandfather, Pat, was one of the last hedge-school masters and had spent time with Lady Gregory and W.B. Yeats at Coole House where he translated myths and legends for Lady Gregory and Yeats.

After completing a primary degree and a H Dip Ed in UCD and further study at University College London Institute of Education, Brendan became a school teacher in London – teaching at both primary and secondary level.

A highly accomplished musician, Brendan also taught a variety of instruments – including fiddle, box, banjo and whistle. His teaching activities were key to the revival and spread of Irish music and culture in London, since the 1970s – especially since he gave up his school teaching post in Hampstead in 1979 to concentrate on his music classes.

Among the many musicians who benefitted from Brendan’s guidance during a teaching career of over 40 years, were John Carty, Niall Keegan, John Blake, Claire Egan, John Whelan and Lamond Gillespie. Brendan also organised many major cultural events across London and South-East England featuring the cream of Irish traditional music.

In the official citation that marked the award of the Gradam Comaoine (Outstanding Contribution) in 2019, Brendan was described as “a pivotal member of the Irish diaspora in London, Clare man Brendan Mulkere, has worn many hats – as the unofficial ‘Irish music ambassador’ to London; Irish rights activist, record producer, promoter and musician.”

“Despite all of this,” the citation continued, “he is perhaps best known as an Irish traditional music teacher. It’s safe to say that every London-born, Irish traditional musician has been pulled into his orbit at some stage or another….And, he has helped to put the London style of Irish traditional music firmly on the map.” In accordance with current Irish Government guidelines, a private funeral mass for Brendan to be attended by family and close friends will take place in Ennis Cathedral on Sunday, August 30 at 2 pm – followed by burial in Drumcliffe. 

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