Liam O’Flynn, also known as Liam Óg Flynn, was an Irish uilleann piper. Born on 15 September 1945 in Kill, County Kildare, he was as a prominent figure in the world of Irish traditional music.

O’Flynn grew up in a musical household. His father, also named Liam, was a fiddle player and teacher, while his mother, Maisie Scanlan, was a pianist and teacher with deep musical connections to County Clare through her cousin, Junior Crehan. Encouraged by Garda Tom Armstrong, a prizewinner at the Oireachtas and Fleadh Cheoil, O’Flynn began learning the uilleann pipes at the age of 11 under the tutelage of Leo Rowsome. He was also influenced by notable pipers Willie Clancy and Séamus Ennis, the latter of whom bequeathed his pipes to O’Flynn.

In the 1960s, O’Flynn gained early recognition by winning prizes at the Oireachtas Festival and Fleadh Cheoil. His career took a significant turn in 1972 when he co-founded the Irish traditional music group Planxty, alongside Christy Moore, Andy Irvine, and Dónal Lunny. Planxty played a crucial role in revitalizing acoustic music in Ireland and beyond. O’Flynn performed on all of Planxty’s recordings, contributing to the group’s distinct sound.

Beyond Planxty, O’Flynn’s career was marked by a series of notable collaborations. He worked with artists such as Kate Bush, Mark Knopfler, The Everly Brothers, Emmylou Harris, Mike Oldfield, Mary Black, Enya, and Sinéad O’Connor. He also contributed to film scores, including “Kidnapped” (1979) and “A River Runs Through It” (1992), and collaborated with composers John Cage and Shaun Davey. O’Flynn’s projects with Davey included “The Brendan Voyage” (1980), “Granuaile,” “The Relief of Derry Symphony,” and “The Pilgrim.”

In recognition of his contributions to traditional Irish music, O’Flynn was awarded TG4’s Gradam Ceoil in 2007 and named Musician of the Year at the TG4 Gradam Ceoil Awards the same year.

Liam O’Flynn passed away on 14 March 201. His legacy continues through the Liam O’Flynn Award, given annually by the Arts Council and the National Concert Hall to recognize creativity in traditional Irish music. Recipients of the award include Úna Monaghan, Barry Kerr, Jack Talty and Louise Mulcahy.

Going Further

The Instruments of Irish Traditional Music

Willie Clancy

Uilleann Pipe Fingering Chart

Robbie Hannan – uilleann pipes

Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy TV Series

Davy Spillane – uilleann pipes & low whistle

The Irish Low Whistle – a Complete Introduction

Image: Sean Rowe

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