Sad news for whoever knew Leo Brennan of Crolly, Co Donegal. Can’t say I knew him that well. The first time I happened in on Leo’s Tavern was early 1977 when myself and another friend from Holywood, sort of, gatecrashed the Easter course at the College in Rannafast.
Luckily for us it was a warm early Easter for camping that year.
Leo’s was a heaving with students in the evenings and the highlight was his stepping up on the stage (a rather grand title for what it actually was) and playing his medley of songs about the northern counties of Ireland.
It’s where I first gained the confidence to use the Irish I’d been learning at school, since about P5, but it’s also where the English words of some songs from a much earlier time got right under my skin.
The Green Glens of Antrim and the Boys of the County Armagh (which for me always plays in Leo’s accordion’s waltz time) and my own favourite, the Homes of Donegal. The place was bunged each evening, and a small army of us would walk back in the pitch dark of a moonless night arm in arm.
Leo was firm, but fair with us kids. A great lover of music, story teller and host. Those times are packed for most us who shared them into a small trunk of precious memories. And of course, he passed much of that love of music on to his talented family (Gaeilge).
So for one last time Leo, maith thú!