C: World Fiddle Day, Scartaglin, 2023; O'Laoire Family

“The gentleman Dónal Ó Laoire”: A new tune of remembrance at World Fiddle Day

The rich heartland of music that is Sliabh Luachra hosted its 10th World Fiddle Day last weekend, and a key moment was the unveiling of a gorgeous new piece of music in honour of Meath musician, Dónal (Dan) Ó Laoire, who passed away this year after a short illness.

Dónal’s father, the renowned singer Seán Ó Laoire, is a proud Rathmore man, and Dónal made the trip south very often to Scartaglin for a feast of Sliabh Luachra music, where he was viewed as one of their own by the musicians of the area.

From a famed musical family of award-winning traditional musicians and seannós singers, Dónal and his daughter Gráinne were regular attendees at the fiddle festival where, as organisers said, in May of each year it was time for “the fiddle and those associated with it in Sliabh Luachra to be celebrated and honoured in the best known way – by letting the music of the area ring out”.

Aidan Connolly, long a devotee and star exponent of the music of the region, wrote this gorgeous new slide in memory of the friend who is now immortalised in the piece named “Dónal Ó Laoire the Gentleman”.


The Ó Laoire family were in attendance at the weekend and at the concert where the slide written in Dónal’s honour was played for the gathering for the first time.

Writing for the festival, his sister Nollaig, a celebrated seannós singer and winner of Corn Uí Riada said:

Bhí croí Dhónail go smior i gceol Shliabh Luachra. Spreag a thuismitheoirí é go hóg leis an suim a chothaigh siad sa chultúr idir ceol, amhráin agus damhsa. Gaeilge an chéad teanga a bhí aige agus bhí sé an- bhródúil aisti.

Sliabh Luachra music and musicians captured and enthralled Dónal.

Dónal was the eldest of 6 children whose parents Seán and Nóra exposed them to music, song and dance from an early age.

He began playing the fiddle at a young age in the local Comhaltas branch in Portarlington. He really enjoyed it and his mother Nóra often remarked on his ability to be able play the tune he had just learned in the class when he came home that evening.

The Kerry connection is strong as his father Seán is a proud Rathmore man. As children they spent many a night in Scartaglin with relations. Dónal even competed in a few of the local Scartaglin Féile Cheoil competitions.

A relocation to Co. Meath in the 80’s meant the fiddle was left to one side for a while, the pull of the Meath football being strong! He reacquainted himself with the fiddle in the 2000’s and reinventing himself with his 1914 fiddle handed down from his grandmother Máire O’Leary (nee Dineen) and his trademark racing car red fiddle case, merging old with new.

From his first trip South he was hooked. The tunes and the chat were of equal importance. He always commented on how lucky he was to have fallen in with such a great crew of people and fine musicians to boot.

PJ was the first man he became friendly with – a man he admired immensely for the way he went about his business – it was ALL about the music for PJ. This really resonated with Dónal and they struck up a great friendship.

It was through P.J that Dónal was introduced to what became his Kerry Crew of Mick Culloty, Mike Rice, Mary Lawless and the other lads and lassies.

Each trip to Kerry, reinvigorated his passion for the music. He worked hard at developing his style and in keeping with his personality, he thought a lot about how to approach tunes, putting sets together, finding tunes with a ‘twist’ and a ‘growl’ and generally making plans about the music.

He and his daughter Gráinne attended most if not all of the World Fiddle Days and he enjoyed each one immensely.

He attended many a ‘Handed Down lecture’, encouraging other members of his family to attend and had many a great night again in Scart with Rathmore cousins and friends.

He had many theories about the music! First and foremost was that the company was good – the thing that drew him back to Scart always. He also believed in ‘Playing up!’ as much as he could, he would play with musicians of a higher calibre with a vision of improving his own playing.

He admired the work of the committee and was very proud to have played in the concert and been part of the virtual World fiddle days with his daughter, sister and nephews and niece.

He would have been absolutely privileged to be remembered at the recital and his family are equally proud and grateful.

Bhain Dónal suim agus spraoi ar leith as a bheith ag foghlaim poirt don ócáid speisialta seo agus bheadh sé chomh sásta as a bheith luaite leis. Tá muid mar chlann thar a bheith bródúil agus buíoch chomh maith.

May be an image of 3 people

The O’Laoire family join others at the Festival for the Annual World Fiddle Day photo

Clann Uí Laoire. Suaimhneas Síoraí ar anam Dónal uasal. 

“We first met Donal in 2010 in Castleisland when he joined Mike Rice, Mick Culloty and myself in a session during the Patrick O’Keeffe Traditional Music Festival and we took him to Sheila Prendiville’s Bar for a tune,” World Fiddle Day founder member PJ Teahan told the Maine Valley Post.

“Dónal was a proud Co. Meath man but with Rathmore, Sliabh Luachra blood coursing through his veins and he never missed a recital,” said PJ.

Ar dheis lámh Dé go raibh a anam uasal.

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