Donncha na nGael

Farewell to a Legendary Dance Master

The world of Irish Culture mourns the passing of one of its most ardent and effective advocates. There was an outpouring of grief at home and abroad when the news of the sudden death of Donncha Ó Muineacháin on Thursday, 27 January, spread among his many friends and admirers.

We extend our heartfelt sympathy to his wife Helen, children Siobhán, Fiachra and Cillian, and to other family members.

Even though relatively young in his mid-fifties, Donncha’s contribution to the promotion of Irish Culture - particularly dancing - was unprecedented. He shared his time and talents with communities in every corner of Ireland but also extensively in other countries.

Donncha had acquired legendary status. He was an iconic figure, respected and admired for his ability, dedication and sharing attributes. In 2003, Donncha was selected by Comhaltas to receive one of the first Bardic awards initiated by the movement.

Donncha Ó Muineacháin was acknowledged as the pleasant face of Irish dancing. His smiling face, measured steps and unique rapport with his audience enthralled thousands of people who had the good fortune to see him perform. He exuded an aura, a magic, which required no technology or gimmickry to manifest itself. Whether a kitchen floor or a world stage, the integrity of Donncha’s talen was sacrosanct and this created a lasting bond between him and his legions of fans.

Who will ever forget Donncha’s perfomance when he teamed up with another dancing star Celine Hssion, at the 1969 Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Cashel. On the steps of the Palace Hotel, the dancing duo gave a virtuoso display of Irish dancing which was never before experienced and which raised the artform to a new level. Luckily, this timeless and unique event was captured by RTE television as it was transmitted live on that day to the whole country.

American audiences had the opportunity in the early ’70s to witness this extraordinary dance master when he joined the first Comhaltas Tour of North America. His electrifying performances were one of the highlights of this and subsequent tours and are still spoken about to this day. Last September, many of these memories were recalled at Tionól Leo Rowsome, when Boston’s Larry Reynolds was honoured. To the music of Bobby Gardiner, Donncha showed that his dancing prowess had easily stood the test of time.

The famous son of Cork had learned his early steps from the renowned Peggy McTaggart and also Joe Donovan. During his 35 years plus with Comhaltas, Donncha never forgot his roots. This was true not just in dancing; he was also an ardent GAA supporter. It was said of him that he never missed a Munster Hurling Final and he was a member of Naomh Mearnóg GAA Club.

Donncha was a keen Irish language enthusiast. This was his every-day language on a regular basis. Like all else in his life, this was no mere lip service; he was passionate in his views and example that Irish should be centre stage.

Donncha the Dance Master; the set-dance instructor; the administrator; the project co-ordinator; the charity fundraiser - the list is endless. He was truly a man for all seasons - he gave willingly of himself and inspired all who came in contact with him.

Donncha and Helen shared the same interests and supported each other in those pursuits. This dynamic duo and their family set an example worthy of emulation.

Donncha laboured long and to the end. He was an active supporter of the new MEITHEAL initiative of Comhaltas. Ever the doer, he helped to deliver two memorable projects - Beirt Eile, the two hand dance video and, with PRO Martin Gaffney, the new Public Relations Programme.

Fear Mór an chultúir abea Donncha. Ní dhéanfar dearmad riamh ar an gCorcaíoch croíuíl Gaelach seo. Beidh an dea-shampla a thug sé dúinn mar lóchrann againn amach anseo. Is cinnte nach mbeidh a leithéid arís ann. Go raibh maith agat, a Dhonncha, agus ar Dheis Dé, i measc na nGael, go raibh do anam uasal.