Death of Kildare 'Jazz Freak' Donal Donnelly

I can make anything except money, jazzman told friend

Henry Bauress


Henry Bauress


Death of Kildare Jazz Freak Donal Donnelly

The late Donal Donnelly (left) receiving a Leixlip Town Council Civic Award from Sean Purcell

The death has taken place of Kildare based musician, Donal Donnelly, a member of the well known Jazz Freaks.

He passed away at St. Francis Hospice, Blanchardstown on April 26. The Leixlip based musician was in his early sixties.

TributeS have been paid to Donal, both as a person and a musician. His friend, and fellow Jazz Freak, Pat Burke Walsh, said Donal had a wonderful voice.

Donal spent over thirty years in the Jazz Freaks and was a very competent base player. In 1980, Donal’s then Leixlip-based group, Stout, was the first to record a song by American, Mack Davis, called “It’s Hard to Be Humble.”

It got to number four in the Irish charts but the same song recorded by Tom Allen (TR Dallas) around the same time hit number one. Prompted by Billy Bridgeman, Donal and Stout, invited a number of Celbridge children to form a choir.

They featured on the record and Donal and did two or three TV shows. The success of the song led to appearances on RTE 1 and 2, including the Sean Ban Bhreathnach show. The record also reached No. 22 in the UK charts and achieved airtime on Terry Wogan’s show on BBC.

Bernard Caldwell, chairman of the Leixlip Festival Committee, sending his sympathies to Donal’s family, said the Jazz Freaks have always been very popular the annual Leixlip Festival in June and Donal was very popular.

Originally from Dundalk, Donal moved early in life to Leixlip to stay with his grandmother in St Mary’s Park, went to school in Leixlip,  and more or less based himself there ever since.

Pat Burke Walsh said Donal was a great organiser and very good to deal with. Apart from music,  Donal had other skills and made Pat a stool.

“It lasted twenty years,” said Pat.  “Donal was great at fixing and making things. He once told me: I can make anything except money,” Pat told the Leader, laughing.

The Jazz Freaks were resident band at Barberstown Castle for many years. They were 25 years playing in the Foxhunter in Lucan.

“I think it was the longest running jazz session presence in Ireland,” said Pat.

Donal played with many others as well and was a base player with Margo’s band.

There were six Jazz Freaks originally, said Pat.

“Podger” Reynolds passed away in 1998 and Arthur Duffy in 2002. With Donal’s passing, Pat, John Kelly and Freddie Duffy, a brother of Arthur’s remain.

Donal received a Civic Award from Leixlip Town Council some years ago.

Donal is survived by his wife Dorothy, son Karl, daughters, Kim and Karen, and family members. His funeral mass takes place next Tuesday morning (May 1) at The Church of St. Charles Borromeo, Confey, at 11am.