Seán was one of the 'Greats'

By Margaret McElhlom

My father the late Sean Nugent died on 8th December, 1996, RIP. He was born near the village of Dromore in County Tyrone. His parents were the late Paddy and Mary Nugent who was a sister of the songwriter and poet, the late Felix Kearney (sen) of Omagh. It was natural and logical for my father to be brought up with a love of traditional music. His entire life from a very early age revolved around traditional music and this was nurtured by my grandmother.

My father started school in Letteree, (near the village of Dromore) and at the age of six was entertaining his fellow pupils with his late brother Packie Nugent who died in 1974 and who was also a great exponent of traditional music. Packie and his late daughter Marie Gormley (who played button accordion) also played with the Pride of Erin Céilí Band. Sadly Marie passed away on 26th of October last year at the early age of 49 years. The late Felix Kearney of Omagh was a cousin of my fathers and a well known fiddle player, and also a member of the Pride of Erin Céilí Band. Felix passed away on the 16th January 1997. This article is very sad for me to write as I spent most of my youth going to Fleadhs and ceilis all over the country with the band, but it was an experience that taught me the true values of tradition and one I will always treasure. This year as well in this area we lost a true friend and well known ballad singer Tommy Gallagher from Cornavara (also near Dromore) Tommy was a well known face at all traditional gatherings all over Ireland and is the brother of well known fiddle player Michael Gallagher from Mountfield. We sadly miss them all RIP.

One of my father’s oldest friends was Francy Quinn the well known fiddle player from Dromore and when I am writing this article I would like to thank him for all the support he gave to my father down the years and indeed still gives to us all.

As I said earlier my father lived for traditional music and I do believe that his love and interest in it kept him alive longer despite his serious heart condition. My father and Packie RIP were both founder members of the Dromore branch of Comhaltas one of the first branches in Ulster. Daddy played and competed at Fleadhanna from the 1950’s. As others looked forward to summer holidays, he looked forward to the Fleadh and the competition. He won the senior fiddle in Listowel and twice succeeded to win the All-Ireland with the Pride of Erin which were among the proudest moments of his life.

In latter years his main interest was teaching traditional music to young people. He had classes in Dromore, Ederney, Irvinestown and Tempo as well as teaching pupils in the house. The year before he died he recorded a few tunes on CD with my brother Laurence Nugent who plays the flute and now resides in Chicago. In the latter years my father composed quite a few tunes some of which have recently been recorded by the well known fiddle player Brenda McCann from Irvinestown who was a great friend of my father’s. This is my little tribute to his memory:

They have laid you down for your long sleep,
And we know you are at peace
Watching and guiding us safely through
Till our restless lives will cease.
Your memory rings through all the tunes,
You composed and left for us
We’re so proud when we hear them played
Through them you still live in us.

The Longing for peace, The Carrick Lassies,
The Swallows Nest are only but a few
Of the melodies you left for us to carry us safely through.

On behalf of all the Nugent family I would like to thank the many Comhaltas branches and musicians who supported the family at the time of my father’s death

Editor’s note: Sean Nugent was one of the ‘greats’ of the Irish traditional music movement. With his beloved Pride of Erin Céilí Band, he was a regular competitor for over 20 years at Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann. When the band won the All-Ireland it was obvious that it was one of the most popular results in Fleadh history. This, in many ways, was a tribute to Sean himself who epitomised all that was best and noble in the competitive world of native Irish music.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal.