Tributes to trad music’s gentle giant, John McManus

The late John McManus

The late John McManus

THE death took place on Friday last, at his home at Aughakillymaude, Derrylin of one of Fermanagh’s most respected musicians, John McManus.

He was 87.


A noted member of the ‘Starlight’ Showband, traditional fiddler and music tutor, he was married to Valerie and was the father of six, two of whom, Tommy (28) and Valerie (20) pre-deceased him.

Tommy was the drummer in the famous ‘Mama’s Boys’ alongside his brothers, Pat and John.

The respect in which Mr McManus was held was reflected in the huge attendance at the funeral Mass in St Ninnidh’s Church, Derrylin on Sunday, among them fellow musicians, Cathal O’Connell (Boys of the Lough) and Jim Lockhart (Horslips).

The celebrant, Fr Fintan McKiernan, PP spoke movingly about John’s contribution to the community and to his church where he had accompanied the choir every single Sunday.

The pupils he taught, he said, were now able to pass on the skills they had learned from John to others.

And, he did not forget that John was one of the founder members of the Starlight Showband.

Fittingly, the music for the Mass was rendered by John’s pupils and by the choir he trained.


At the graveside, in the adjoining cemetery, Bryan Gallagher, a lifelong friend, gave a moving tribute and Larry Nugent, a native of Lack, who came home especially from Las Vegas for the occasion, played two tunes in the flute by way of a final salute, an air and the reel, ‘Boys of the Lough’, one of John’s favourites.

The mourners included a huge collection of musicians, all there to pay their respects to a man who had become a legend in his own lifetime.

The funeral arrangements were carried out by Pat Blake, Derrylin.

John is immediately survived by his wife, Valerie, his sons and daughters, Molly, Aughakillymaude; Pat, Teemore; John, London and Siobhan, Athy, and by his five grandchildren.

He was pre-deceased by his son, Tommy and his daughter, Valerie, who died as a result of a road traffic accident outside Ballyconnell.

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