Labhrás Ó Murchú, Ardstiúrthóir, and Éamonn Ó hArgáin, Uachtarán, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, unveil the memorial, with Cllr Tom Farrell, Peter Cunningham; Joe Connaire, Willie Penrose and Colette Glynn (FEC); Colmán Ó Muimhneacháin (Ard Comhairle, CCÉ), and Reynolds family, Theresa, Paul, Anne, Martina, Joe, Mary, John, Rose (Val’s wife), Liam and Gerry.

‘Musical genius’ honoured with homeplace plaque

As fleadh fever gripped the county, it was hugely fitting that a local ‘musical genius’ and one of the original founders of Comhaltas was honoured in his homeplace on Monday of last week.

A large crowd turned out in Walderstown to see a plaque unveiled to remember famed piper Willie Reynolds, widely regarded in trad circles for his mastery of many instruments, and particularly, the uilleann pipes.

On behalf of Drumraney Heritage Society, Cllr Tom Farrell thanked Willie’s son John, who built the plaque, the sculptor Martin Curley, the Reynolds family and the local community, who were so supportive of the venture.

“The initial idea for this from the 1916 Memorial Garden (put in place by the group) and, as Willie was born in 1916, we thought it was appropriate that he should be remembered, and with the fleadh coming home to Mullingar, this gave us the added impetus,” he said.

Buoyed up by the large crowds who turned out for the opening of the fleadh on Sunday, Joe Connaire, chairperson of Fleadh Executive Committee, said: “The huge crowd would not be there only for the likes of Willie Reynolds and the former founders of CCÉ.

“I’m amazed and delighted to see how many people are here today, and I want to congratulate and thank everyone for turning out for a very special occasion to remember one of the founder members of CCÉ, a fantastic piper – that being Willie Reynolds.”

The vice-chairperson of the Fleadh Executive Committee, Willie Penrose, spoke eloquently of being gathered at the homeplace of a “musical genius” whose scholarship and achievements have contributed to a rich legacy of which his family must be proud.

“All of us as devotees of the musical tradition have been greatly enriched by his wide mastery of musical instruments, but more especially, uilleann pipes, and it shows Willie’s name will be recalled with reverie and great pride wherever and whenever the pipes are played.

“His name is recalled in the same tones as his major influencer the so called ‘King of the Pipers’ Leo Rowsome, his first teacher Jimmy Dolan and indeed, Willie Clancy, who is remembered every year in Miltown Malbay by a major festival in his honour,” he said as part of a warm tribute to the Walderstown musician.

The ceremony, also addressed by members of the Reynolds family, included the relaunch of the book ‘Memories of a Music Maker’ by Willie Reynolds, originally published by Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, by Labhrás Ó Murchú, Ardstiúrthóir, and Éamonn Ó hArgáin, Uachtaráin of Comhaltas.