Patrick Brogan - Tributes


Sonny is buried in Staplestown near Prosperous, County Kildare. Among those attending the funeral in the snow, and who travelled a long distance in bad weather conditions, was Ronnie Drew.

Tributes were paid to Sonny after his death on 1 January 1965, and Seán Ó Riada, during the radio programme "Reachtaireacht an Riadaigh" on Radio Éireann, when paying respects to Sonny, said that he "was a library of Irish Music and when you want to find something out you go to the 'library'".

James Keane, Sonny's young friend from the Dublin scene, founded and named a branch of Comhaltas in Sonny Brogan's honour while he was a teenager, shortly after Brogan's death.

John Kelly, the fiddle player, has said that Sonny was the best musician he had ever heard of for his vast knowledge of tunes and the fact that he could remember all the different versions and names of each tune and the history behind them.

Desún MacLiam wrote of him "Is cinnte nach mbéidh a leithéid arí againn" (It is certain we will never have the likes of him again)

Éamon de Buitléar did a special programme on Radio Eireann devoted to Sonny Brogan, on 19 March 1965. Ciarán Mac Mathúna also had often included some of Sonny's recordings in his radio programmes and spoke highly of him.

Seán Ó Riada published the following tribute following Sonny's death :

"It was in the autumn of 1960 that I first met Sonny Brogan. I had been asked to supply music for Bryan MacMahon's play "The Song of the Anvil" at the Abbey Theatre, and has conceived the idea of using a group of traditional musicians for this purpose - the first time, as far as I am aware, that such a step had been taken. It was Éamon de Buitléar who introduced me to Sonny, who was at first rather shy and reserved, until he realised what was wanted of him. The play went on and, though it did not find favour with the public which it more than merited, the music seemed to succeed with everyone, not least of all the actors and backstage staff, who used to be entertained by impromptu concerts given by the musicians in the dressing rooms. Sonny was, of course, a prime mover in all this and one of the reels which they used play most often backstage, commonly called "Redigan's", was re-christened by us privately "The Abbey Reel".

When the run of the play was over I hated the idea of parting from the musicians and so formed "Ceoltóirí Chualann", of which, during the few years we have been functioning Sonny was a mainstay. I would not suggest for a moment that our association was all sweetness and light. Many the argument we had - it is well known that musicians argue more fiercely about traditional music than about anything else. However, we always saw eye to eye in the finish and each argument served only to make us better friends.

Sonny's qualities as a musician were rare. He had an astounding memory, so much so that I was inclined to regard him, with John Kelly, as our living reference library. He could recall three or four different versions of a tune going back through three or four layers of time and often through three or four changes of title. He had a passion for the pure, simple essence of tunes, uncluttered by mistaken ornamentation. He was also, of course, an outstanding accordion player, one of the very few who could make it sound suitable for playing Irish music.

As a person, Sonny was - well, he was contentious, convivial, argumentative, loyal, dogmatic, witty, utterly reliable, a tiger when his temper was roused (which was rare), and at the same time curiously gentle and courteous. He was a good friend. I shall miss him.

Beannacht Dé lena anam."

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