Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh was the ‘High King’ of Irish broadcasting, funeral hears (2024)

Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh has been described at his funeral in Dingle, Co Kerry as the “High King” of Irish broadcasting whose golden voice will be remembered by people “for as long as grass grows or water runs”.

His great friend, Raidió na Gaeltachta commentator Micheál Ó Sé, told the large congregation at his funeral Mass in St Mary’s Church on Saturday that Mr Ó Muircheartaigh was a once-off, a superlative storyteller, and that his gifts as a broadcaster would remain unequalled: “The microphone in his hand was like the brush in the hand of a great master”.

The funeral heard many tributes to the contributions made by Mr Ó Muirchearthaigh, who died at the age of 93, to Irish life and society as a broadcaster, educator, Irish language advocate, family man and also of his qualities of humility, selflessness and kindness.

Speaking at the end of the Mass, his eldest son Aonghus, spoke of their family home which his father, and his wife of 54 years, Helena, “filled with kindness and fun” for their eight children.

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“Bíonn siúlach scéalach (Those who travel will have stories to tell). He was fond of the road and seeing new places and we were very fortunate because he brought us along with him,” he said.

Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh was the ‘High King’ of Irish broadcasting, funeral hears (5)

He loved his native Kerry and his townland of Dún Síon on the Dingle peninsula more than anything else, said Aonghus.

“Dad sometimes told the story of how his father and godmother, Mary Quinn, brought him by horse and cart from Dún Síon to this Church for baptism after he contracted pneumonia within a few days of his birth [in 1930].

“I’m sure as they stood at that baptism font almost 94 years ago with the sickly newborn, they could not have imagined the life he would go on to lead. That he would broadcast for more than 60 years, that he would meet two US presidents, that he would interview a member of the British Royal family about a greyhound, that he would travel the world, that he would be welcome in every house and club in Ireland.

“Or that people would stand on side of the road from Adare to Dingle to say ‘go raibh maith agat a Mhíchil’. That little boy did not do too bad, did he?”

[‘His gesture of sympathy touched me greatly’: Readers pay tribute to Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh]

[‘I’ve seen it all now, a Rabbitte chasing a Fox around Croke Park’: Pat Fox on Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh’s famous quote]

The chief celebrant of the Mass was Canon Michael Moynihan. The concelebrants were Bishop Raymond Browne and An tAthair Séamus Mac an tSíthigh.

In his homily Canon Moynihan recalled a Chinese saying: “When an older person dies a library burns.”

“How true that saying is as we gather today to celebrate the life of a remarkable man, Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh.

“We were blessed with his presence for 93 years. As we reflect on his life’s journey, we recognise a life filled with passion, dedication, and an enduring love for the Irish language, for education, for sport and for culture. He brought that passion to all he did.

“Mícheál’s love for the Irish language was a testament to his deep love for our culture and history, making him a true custodian of our linguistic heritage.”

Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh was the ‘High King’ of Irish broadcasting, funeral hears (6)

The chief mourners were his widow Helena, and his eight children: Éamonn, Niamh, Aonghus, Cormac, Neasa, Nuala, Éadaoin agus Doireann, his grandchildren and his sisters, Kathleen and Máire. He was predeceased by his brothers Pádraig, Náis agus Dónal and his sisters Siobhán and Eibhlín.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin attended the Funeral on Saturday, along with Minister for Education Norma Foley, Ireland South MEP Billy Kelleher, Senator Timmy Dooley, and chair of Kerry Council Council, Breandán Fitzgerald. Taoiseach Simon Harris attended the removal for Mr Ó Muirchearthaigh on Friday evening and was represented at the funeral his Aide-de-Camp, Comdt Claire Mortimer. President Michael D Higgins was represented by Aide-de-Camp Captain Tom Bell.

Speaking as he arrived at the Church, the Tánaiste said what Mr Ó Muircheartaigh had done for the Irish language was immense.

“He had that beautiful lyrical voice and in Irish that was easily understandable to people. And it was poetry when you listened to it ... It’s in a humble way that I am coming here to recognise his contribution to Irish life and to Irish society,” said Mr Martin.

A large number of former Kerry footballers provided a guard of honour outside the church. They included former TD Jimmy Deenihan, Darragh Ó Sé, John Kennedy, Dermot Hanafin, Sean Walsh, Vincent O’Connor, Mick O’Shea, Liam Hassett, Vincent ‘Shin’ O’Connor and Raidió na Gaeltachta broadcaster Dara Ó Cinnéide. Other Irish-language broadcasters who attended were Seán Ban Breathnach, Gearóid Mac Donncha and Pádraig Ó Sé.

Representing the GAA were its president, Jarlath Burns, and Patrick Sullivan, the chair of Kerry GAA, and former secretary general of the GAA, Liam Mulvihill. Others who attended included former President of the University of Galway, Iognáid Ó Muircheartaigh, a cousin of Mr Ó Muircheartaigh. He recalled that he saw his first All Ireland in Croke Park as a boy in the late 1950s sitting in the commentary box squeezed between Mr Ó Muircheartaigh and Micheál Ó hEithir.

Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh was the ‘High King’ of Irish broadcasting, funeral hears (7)
Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh was the ‘High King’ of Irish broadcasting, funeral hears (8)

The Corca Dhuibhne singer Muireann Nic Amhlaidh sang Beir mo Dhúthracht at the Mass while the Galway musician Síle Denvir sang Ag Críost an Síol. The Cúil Aodha singer Iarla Ó Lionáird sang Amhrán an Gleanna and Mo Ghile Mear. Ms Denvir also played harp, Barry Kerr playing uilleann pipes and Gerry O’Beirne playing guitar.

Speaking wholly in Irish, Mr Ó Sé said he sat close to Mr Ó Muircheartaigh for many of the matches on which he commentated. “He loved to the bottom of his heart those big occasions where the crowds would gather. The crowd would give a surge of energy to his wonderful commentary, which was unequalled.

“He was always proud of his heritage, of the language of his own people, and was especially fond of the games that gave him so much pleasure. He related those games in such as way that his radio audiences derived the same pleasures and satisfaction from them as he did,” he said.

Mr Ó Sé evoked the “ball seirce”, which was the skin blemish on the forehead of the Irish mythological figure, Diarmuid Ua Duibhne (the lover of Gráinne), which made him irresistible to women.

He said that the voice, the wit, the poetry and Dún Síon accent of Mr Ó Muircheartaigh was like a “ball seirce’ that drew people irresistibly to their radios to listen to his wonderful commentary.

After the funeral Mass, the burial took place at St Brendan’s Cemetery in Dingle.

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Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh was the ‘High King’ of Irish broadcasting, funeral hears (2024)

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