The funeral mass of Clannad co-founder Noel Duggan has been told that he may have died but his music will always live on.
Mr Duggan, 73, passed away suddenly in the West Donegal village of Loughanure on Saturday evening last while out with friends.
He was one of the co-founding members of the iconic band who toured the world for more than 50 years since they formed in 1970.
A large crowd turned out at St Mary’s Church in Derrybeg, Gaoth Dobhair for the late musician’s funeral.
In a moving eulogy, Fr Brian Ó Fearraigh said that Noel “was music” and because of this his music will never die.
He told mourners “For Noel the song and the beautiful melody of his life here in this world, on earth has ended but that same melody continues on and it continues in a different rhythm, it continues to a different tune now not of Noel’s making but that of the master musician God almighty.
“So Noel has gone from this life – he has found peace – a peace that is far beyond any peace or tranquillity that we can experience in this earthly existence.”
Among the gifts brought to the altar were his guitar, a lead and photo of him and his beloved spaniel dog Rainbow as well as his Dore band sash and flute.
Other gifts included an early photo of Clannad, a certificate after he qualified as a radio operator in 1971 and a CD of the album Rubicon which he recorded with his late twin brother Pádraig which he was very proud of.
A beautiful bouquet of flowers in the shape of a guitar rested against the altar during Mass which was concelebrated by Father Seán Ó Gallchóir, Father Mairtín Ó Duggáin and Father Cathal Ó Gallchóir.
Fr O Fearraigh said Noel had a strong, simple and profound faith.
He was young when he discovered he loved music and song. Music surrounded him during his youth and it nurtured him. He was writing until the very end, the congregation heard.
“It came as no surprise that he became a musician. Music was in his blood. Noel loved music. He composed music. He played music. He listened to music. He lived music. I think we can even go so far as to say that Noel Ó Dúgáin was music. To the high note to the low note and every other note in between and through Clannad Noel brought … a deep and abiding love of music to thousands upon thousands,” he said.
Noel and Clannad brought houses down throughout the world, he said.
They brought music to Tory na dTonn and Noel and Pádraig both loved Tory island, the priest said.
He recounted a story of when Noel was in Tory Island during the early days of how Noel’s guitar crowd-surfed from the back of the clubhouse to the stage ahead of a fantastic and wonderful night of music.
He was described as the wikipedia of the Ó Dúgáin family.
He was always happy to share his knowledge with others. He loved history.
Noel was open and welcoming to everyone: “He always welcomed someone else. He recognised the nobility in everyone – he had an open mind and people were always comfortable with people and he put people at ease.”
He loved his dog Rainbow, the priest said, adding that Noel always had a smile for everyone.
Many pop songs were translated and played in Leo’s Tavern, the congregation heard. He and members of his family were also members of Amharclann Ghaoth Dobhair.
“In terms of music he was recognised for his guitar solos,” the congregation heard.
An tAthair Ó Fearraigh described Noel as having an individual style of playing the guitar which was a joy to listen to.
He spoke of the Irish traditional song ‘Níl sé ‘na Lá’ and how it lifted the hearts of Clannad fans wherever they traveled.
“No one could play these songs like Noel who traveled to the four corners of the world during his lifetime,” those gathered heard.
Having spent years in Dublin, Noel never forgot his roots.
“He was exceptionally proud of his people and his home,” an tAthair Brian said.
Noel returned home around seven years ago and reunited with his old friends.
He had a strong connection with Loch an Iúir and was known as the Loch an Iúir Legend. Those in the area had a great respect for Noel as he did for them.
An tAthair Brian said that it was significant that when Noel’s remains were brought back to Loch an Iúir, earlier this week, that people stood at the side of the road, many holding candles, and people turned lights out in their homes as a mark of respect.
An tAthair Ó Fearraigh said it was also significant that it was Loch an Iúir that Noel drew his last breath in this world, on Saturday evening last.
“As it was there among his friends he lived, he sang, he ate, he drank and he taught and where he welcomed people and friends. He himself was a very sociable man and he loved company and wasn’t it fitting that among his own friends … he closed his eyes on this world and opened them to everlasting life. The music of Noel’s life didn’t end in Casadh an tSúgáin, in the company of his friends – he continues to play music in you and in everyone he knew – in you and in your work.
“So we gather here today to bid farewell to this amazing man – a man who had a larger than life heart and an even greater and unbelievable musical talent. A man who died as he lived, doing what he loved most, doing what made him feel happy, feel good, a labour of love writing and creating a musical legacy that will last forever. A music that was faithful to his own rich heritage. Music that has outlast himself and on that note, a Noel Uí Dhúgáin, buail an bothar agus gabh na bhaile.”
Before Noel’s coffin was led out of the church, the remaining members of Clannad Moya Brennan, Ciaran Brennan and Pol Brennan played together and received a huge applause from those present before his remains were led to Magheragallon Cemetery for burial.
Noel was predeceased by his father Aodh Ó Dúgáin, mother Máire, sister Bríd, his twin brother Pádraig and brothers Seamus and Beartlaí.
He will be sadly missed by his sister Máire ‘Baba’ Brennan, brothers Eoin and Columba, nieces, nephews and the extended Clannad family and friends.