Limerick Person of the Month: Gifted Dunne family are hitting all the right notes

Aine Fitzgerald


Aine Fitzgerald

Mickey Dunne receiving the Limerick Person of the Month award, on behalf of the Dunne family, from Dave O'Hora, with wife Aideen, Aine Fitzgerald of the Limerick Leader and Pat Reddan, Clayton Hotel

Mickey Dunne receiving the Limerick Person of the Month award, on behalf of the Dunne family, from Dave O'Hora, with wife Aideen, Aine Fitzgerald of the Limerick Leader and Pat Reddan, Clayton Hotel

A LOCAL family whose musical gifts have taken them each on a unique journey - from leading a foot-stomping trad session in Pa McGrath's in Boher to being the inspiration for Ed Sheeran's hit song Galway Girl - have been named the Limerick Persons of the Month.

Mickey Dunne, his wife Aideen O'Rahilly and their two daughters Niamh and Brid were honoured for enriching the lives of others through their music.

“Music is one of the greatest gifts of all time. I absolutely adore it. I don't know what I would do without it,” comments renowned piper Mickey on accepting the award at Limerick's Clayton Hotel with his wife Aideen.

Unfortunately, Niamh and Brid were unable to attend the presentation last week, with Brid enjoying her honeymoon in South Africa, and Niamh preparing for a Top of the Pops Christmas special with Ed Sheeran.

Raised in Lenihan Avenue in Prospect, Mickey Dunne moved to Caherconlish where he has resided for the past 36 years. Music has been one of the most important things in the Dunne family for generations.

“I suppose a lot of people in Limerick will remember my uncles, they were blind musicians who used to play on the street. People in their 20s, 30s and 40s will remember them, the Dunne Brothers, Michael, Christy and Joseph. My own dad Paddy played as well – he played the violin,” Mickey explained.

While Mickey plays the uilleann pipes and the fiddle, he says “the uilleann pipes are my instrument – it's the instrument that I'm most comfortable with”.

While other interests including football dominated Mickey's childhood and early teenage years, he started to show a flair for the pipes in his late teens when his father began to teach him how to play. Today, the instrument, he says, “is like part of my body.”

“I used to play (the uilleann pipes) every day but not anymore because I started making them.”

In early December Irish uilleann pipes were officially recognised as an important and unique cultural heritage symbol by UNESCO, the agency responsible for coordinating international cooperation in education, science, culture and communication.

“This set I have here took me about three months to make. They are made from ebony. The key work is brass. There are pipers' clubs all over the world now in places like Cuba and Argentina – you wouldn't believe it,” says Mickey.

Mickey spent around 20 years playing the pipes in Nancy Blake's and at Mick Dolan's pub.

“I still play and I teach people. I've been all over the world teaching – in Costa Rica, New Zealand, teaching the uilleann pipes.” He has taught the pipes to many young people who are making their mark in the industry.

Mickey met Dublin woman Aideen O'Rahilly when she came to Limerick to teach, and began learning how to play the tin whistle.

“That's right,” says Aideen, “I went to you for lessons.”

Aideen's grandfather was the famous Michael O’Rahilly - known as The O’Rahilly who was a key figure in the 1916 Rising,

Now retired, Aideen was a teacher for the deaf in the Limerick area and north Tipperary. She is a member of Comhaltas Garryowen in Limerick.

Both Aideen and Mickey have passed on their love of music to their two daughters Brid and Niamh.

Brid completed all her grades in the violin in the School of Music in Limerick.

“This year has been very big for her,” her proud father explains, “– she just married and got a PHD in UL in occupational therapy. She is currently on her honeymoon in South Africa.”

Niamh, of course, has enjoyed huge success with Ed Sheeran after inspiring his massive hit Galway Girl in which he sings the lyrics, She played the fiddle in an Irish band,

“She was on the Late Late recently and on Top of the Pops over the Christmas,” says Mickey.

“She said Ed is a lovely lad. They spent a few weeks living in his house and she said he is a lovely chap.”

Niamh sings and plays the fiddle with a band called Beoga .

“She met her husband Sean Og Graham doing the degree in music in UL and they got married and moved back up. She is living in Portglenone in County Antrim. Brid is going to move to Castlelyons with her husband who is a farmer there.”

Niamh and Brid, who are past pupils of Caherline National School and Doon Convent, returned home to the family homestead in Caherconlish on Christmas Eve,

“We will have a big session. The fiddles will be out. We will go to Pa McGrath's in Boher,” smiled Mickey who expressed his delight at his family being honoured by their native county. “I love Limerick and I love the people of Limerick- you couldn't ask for better. I've travelled all over the world and the people in Limerick are the nicest people under the sun.”