Peter Horan, R.I.P.

Peter Horan is being buried today (October 19th, 2010)  A fine, well known and much loved musician who did much for Irish Music and allowed it do for him.  My good friend, Fr James McDonagh, is Principal Celebrant at his funeral Mass in Killavil.  May Peter rest in peace.

A youtube video takes us back twenty years to the music of Peter and Fred Finn, both deceased.  The tune remains – so too the players’ memory.

The following appears on

Co Sligo flute and fiddle player Peter Horan died on October 17, 2010, in the North West Hospice, Sligo.

Peter Horan was born on June 25, 1926, in Bunnanadden, Killavil, in Co Sligo. Killavil lies near Ballymote in that musical part of south Sligo which also gave birth to Michael Coleman, James Morrison, Paddy Killoran, Lad O’Beirne, Seamus Tansey and many others.

His mother, Margaret (nee Davey), played fiddle, melodeon and concertina and his father was a traditional singer.

Peter played with the Glen Ceili Band, made up of Killavil musicians and whose number included Fred Finn. He also played with the Coleman Country Ceili Band which toured America in 1972 and which included Seamus Tansey. He also enjoyed playing with Martin Whynne – the two grew up together in Bunnanadden.

He was known for having developed a unique style influenced by the local irish fiddling tradition. For nearly 30 years he performed as a duet with the famous fiddler Fred Finn. More recently he performed with Sliabh Luachra fiddler Gerry Harrington and the pair released a CD called The Merry Love to Play. He continued to perform and teach in Ireland and at Irish arts festivals around the world, including the Catskills Irish Arts Week and the Ennis Trad Festival.

In 2002 he received the Irish Music Awards Hall of Fame award. In 2009, St. Angela’s College Sligo and NUI Galway recognised and honoured Peter as one of South Sligo’s most talented and best known traditional musicians by awarding him an Honorary Master of Music. When Peter was informed of the Masters degree, he revealed that he had sung with the choir in Killavil Church for 72 years. “His authentic, natural style, which is firmly rooted in the Coleman tradition, stands out as a unique musical talent and resource within our region and our country.. . .” the NUIG citation read.

Funeral Homily for the late Peter Horan, Killavil Church, 19th October, 2010

I would like once again to welcome you all here today to this funeral Mass when we gather to bid farewell and pray Gods speed for the late Peter Horan- one of the legends of our time. We pray in this Mass that he will be reunited with his wife Aggie after 15 yrs and all the deceased of his family. It’s a particularly sad day for you his family – losing your father, grandfather, great grandfather, brother and uncle; and also for this community and the traditional music community of which Peter was such a central part.  We pray that God will comfort all who are saddened by his death. Peter was so well known far and wide and respected as one of the all time greats of Irish traditional music and indeed in the words of scripture as “a great and good man”. It is indeed a very great loss to us that one of the main links with the very best of our cultural heritage is broken now by the death of Peter. 

Peter I suppose its fair to say was a unique character – a rare talent. A man with an unquenchable spirit and this was true right up until the end. The last few months have been difficult for Peter but he fought on bravely when others might have given up. But he was well used to fighting on bravely when others had given up – when others maybe had given up at one or two in the morning and Peter was still able to keep going till three or four or maybe even wait for daylight. He would be at home with the two men who spent the night playing music in a certain house and arrived out into the daylight only to comment “isn’t there a great stretch in the evenings”. His unique talent as a musician led to him being well known throughout the country and beyond – always willing to give of his time and his talents generously and enthusiastically. All of us marveled at where he got his energy from and his ability to keep going on little or no sleep and little or no food. I knew a man who worked with him in Gowna who said Peter was able to sleep standing up. He often passed him at the machine and when he’d speak Peter would shake himself and do a little treble on the floor in front of him. As a young man he played football and if he was as tough when he was young as when he was not so young I think you would be inclined to let him have the ball. Peter was also a lovely singer and two days before his death and while very weak he even tried to yodel. Now it would be one thing to try singing but to try yodeling is an example of the unquenchable spirit that Peter had right up to the end. 

We heard in the today’s Gospel of the Transfiguration how Jesus took Peter, James and John up a high mountain and revealed his glory to them – gave them a glimpse of heaven. It is described for us as a most beautiful experience and that’s why St. Peter wanted to build three tents so that they could stay in that beautiful place. Jesus brought them to this place for a little while to reassure them, to console them, to strengthen them and to enable them to continue the journey of life when they came down from the mountain – a journey that at times was difficult and confusing for the disciples. In our lives certain things – gifts from God enable us to climb that beautiful mountain – to be transported to that beautiful place. Peter’s gift – his music could be compared to a vehicle drawing boulders of beauty from the halls of heaven into the hearts and minds of all who heard it. The human heart has an innate attraction to beauty in all its forms because beauty is an attribute of God and our hearts are restless until they rest in God. Peter’s gift – his God given gift gave so many people a glimpse of heaven – brought them to a place of beauty – a place where they wanted to stay, a place which explains why musicians are often the last to leave – wanting like St Peter to build three tents to prolong the experience. I remember many years ago going with my father to a party in Tubbercurry – late at night after milking a few cows and he said to me “now we won’t stay here too long James” that was at about quarter to eleven. The next time he asked me what time it was, it was four o’clock in the morning. So in a sense the beauty of the music transfigures us. It causes us to forget about time and limitation and transports us into eternity where there is no such thing as time or limitation.  

I once heard Kevin Henry say about Irish Music, that it is played with a sense of urgency, a sense of longing – longing to be set free – the “lift” in the music as we call it. And that’s what attracts the human heart and mind to it – it speaks to that yearning inside us all to be set free-free from whatever holds us in bondage or oppresses us in any way, like the Israelites of old on their journey through the wilderness towards the promised land. They ate their food in haste we are told. St Paul tells us in Romans 8 that “the whole of creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God”. Kevin said that Irish music would put the hair standing on the back of your neck. Through the music we peep into eternity and become homesick for heaven. 

Peter’s chosen instrument was the flute and the fiddle was close second but in a real sense Peter was God’s chosen instrument – the means by which God showed some of his colour and let us see it, share in it and be touched by it. Fair play to Peter – like the man who was blessed with ten talents, he went and made ten more. He used his talent to the full he couldn’t have used it any more – every chance he got, everywhere he went he used his music – he loved to play. He played with the best of them and I think it’s true to say he’d be the first to admit that he also played with the worst of them but wherever he was he created a session of music. 

I also read recently how a man described those who had no appreciation of Irish music by saying that “they must have a hole in their soul.” We thank God today for the way in which Peter Horan helped to fill in that hole in peoples souls, to give them a glimpse of eternity – to give them strength and consolation and reassurance for the journey of life. If Peter’s music while on this earth could do that for so many people how right it must be that now he will be able to enjoy that “beautiful place” where he seemed to have one foot all the time for Peter was indeed a man of great faith – a regular here in this church in Killavil and in Gurteen where he lived for the last 2 years or so even though he returned to Killavil every day while he was able. He was always willing to join the choir and he knew all the old hymns. I think he was a member of the Killavil choir for 75 yrs – a record in itself.  

I’m not sure of the schedule or rest and activity in heaven but I hope they had plenty of rest in anticipation of Peter’s arrival for which we pray in this Mass, early on Sunday morning last. 

The author of the Gospel of St John concludes his account of the life and teachings of Christ in the following way = he says “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” (John 21:25) 

These words could also be applied to Peter Horan’s life which today we surrender back to the God who gave him to us. And as he did not lose him in the giving neither do we in the returning. May he rest in God’s peace. Amen

2 thoughts on “Peter Horan, R.I.P.”

  1. Peter was a legend. He played from his heart and encouraged everyone that played with him to do the same. He put his life and soul into every session he played. There was no such thing as a bad tune when you played with Peter. It was a great honour for all the local musicians who got the chance to play with Peter anytime they wished, down through the years. Go dtuga Dia suaimhneas síoraí dá anam dílis.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s