Rahara native, Malachy Donnelly is set to be honoured with the Gradam award at this year’s Fleadh Cheoil following a life dedicated to the promotion of traditional music.
Malachy’s love of music began when he was just a teenager and since then he has been a driving force in the formation of Athleague Comhaltas Ceoltóirí branch in 1992. In fact, Malachy was elected the first chairman of the branch and served as chair until 2013 when he became Vice-Chairman.
The button accordion player said he was surprised upon hearing of his award: “Well I was totally surprised. I wasn’t expecting it at all. I only just go play the music and do it for the enjoyment of it. I wasn’t doing it for honours!
“At school I started with the tin whistle and then I played the fiddle. My father used to play the fiddle. Then I got an accordion when I was about 14 or 15 and I’ve been more or less playing it since,” he said.
This year’s Fleadh will be hosted under the auspices of Athleague Comhaltas Ceoltóirí and it’s only right that a founding member will be honoured in Castlecoote-Fuerty this weekend.
Malachy paid tribute to his fellow founding members, who were so ‘instrumental’ back in 1992. There were eight members in total and the first committee consisted of Malachy as Chairman, Dan Moran as Vice-Chairman, Gertie Dolan as Treasurer, Maura Whelan as Secretary and Mary Hamrock as Auditor.
“They were the key people at the start as it got going and new musicians came in then. It’s been going since,” he said.
As for young people thinking of taking up music as a hobby, Malachy has plenty of wisdom to impart. He said that Comhaltas is vital in order to encourage new musicians and advised youngsters to give traditional music a chance.
“Keep at it. Comhaltas encourages and then if you like it, you’ll keep playing it. Then when you get good at it you’ll enjoy it and it will continue. I still enjoy it, it’s my pastime and I look forward to it every week.”