Tommy Makem Dies

Irish president Mary McAleese led the tributes to Tommy Makem, saying the acclaimed singer, songwriter and storyteller most famous for his work with The Clancy Brothers brought happiness and joy to fans all over the world.

Makem, 74, whose career spanned five decades, died August 1st after a long battle with cancer.

He was born and raised in Keady, County Armagh. His mother Sarah was a successful folk singer, and he began his own career with a pipes band before coming to the U.S. in 1955.

He worked in a New Hampshire mill until an accident left him with a crushed hand. Apparently with his arm still in a sling, he set out for New York to try to find and make music with The Clancy Brothers.

By the late ’50s they’d achieved international fame as "The Clancy Brothers And Tommy Makem," playing sellout shows New York’s Carnegie Hall, making regular TV appearances on variety shows including Ed Sullivan, and even playing for President Kennedy at The White House.

Makem left the group in 1969 to pursue a solo career. In 1975, he and Liam Clancy were both booked to play a folk festival in Cleveland, Ohio, and were persuaded to do a set together. Thereafter they often performed as Makem and Clancy, recording several albums together. He went solo again in 1988.

"He was always the consummate musician, he was also a superb ambassador for the country, and one of whom we will always be proud," President McAleese said in her statement.

He died at a nursing home near his home in Dover, surrounded by family and friends.

His sons, Shane, Conor and Rory, maintain the family singing tradition as the Makem Brothers. He also had two daughters. His wife Mary died in 2001.