It is said that the late trad musician Séamus Begley was happiest when driving tractors – and playing music – and his accordion, of which he was famous for, could be found in the cab of the tractor when he was out working.

Being the eldest son of Irish-speaking Breanndán (Ballydavid) and Mary Ellen (née Lynch), Séamus inherited the family farm in Baile na bPoc, west Kerry.

With fields in the shadows of Mount Brandon and facing out to the Atlantic, the box gave Begley a break from the field work. As the saying goes “a change is as good as a rest”.

As the community of An Fheothanach, in the Corca Dhuibhne Gaelteacht, adjust to life without one of their own, a touching tribute is emerging on Salthill strand in Galway.

Etched in sand

With one word etched in sand - Begley - the simple carving on the beach is one of many that appeared across the country and around the world this week, paying tribute to the man who has enchanted audiences worldwide.

From sea to shore, in sand and snow, people are paying their respects to the Kerryman, who was best known for his accordion playing, but who also sang with a gentle tenderness.

Known affectionately as Begley, the term of endearment has been inscribed on beaches in Marbella, in snow in Boston and Canada, to coincide with the poignant tribute in Salthill.

Every day, new etchings are emerging in recognition of his impact on the local and international stage.

Starting out

Starting out at the local dances in Dingle, he went on to record his first album, An Ciarraíoch Mallaithe, with his eldest sister Máire in 1973 on the Gael Linn label.

To see Seamus Begley and Steve Cooney on a trad set would be a stellar draw and this collaboration with the Australian guitarist and composer pushed the traditional airs of the west of Ireland on to a globally recognised stage.

Listening back to a set of reels from ‘Meitheal’, their 1992 album, would transport you from whatever task you are doing to a cosy session where a knowing smile hops from person to person invested in the joy of these enriching musical moments.

Begley knew only too well the value of informal gatherings and, in that spirit, converted an outhouse into a síbín for musical sessions, going on to perform with the Síbín Orchestra, sharing this musical magic on a wider scale.

Having worked with top Irish and international musicians over a career that spanned decades, this accomplished musician leaves behind a legacy of work that will be enjoyed by future generations.

Ní bheidh a léithéid arís ann.

Read more

Dingle farmers celebrating sustainability

Rising rural musicians: Amy Meehan