Columban priest Fr PJ Kelly, whose traditional music compositions were recorded by bands such as the Chieftains and De Danaan, has died.
The priest from Woodford, Co Galway, died at St Columban’s in Dalgan Park, Navan, on Friday night following a year-long illness.
Fr Kelly (80) was a well- known figure in traditional music circles despite having worked abroad as a missionary priest for most of his life.
His best-known compositions include The Lough Derg Jig, Rossmore Jetty and The Ben Hill and Derrycrag. He also wrote a series of tunes known as Kelly’s No 1, Kelly’s No 2 and so on.
He was ordained in 1950 and became a missionary priest in Fiji. On his return to Ireland in 1960, he was playing music with friends when someone asked what would happen when they ran out of tunes to play.
The musicians agreed to write their own tunes and to meet the following week to play them. Fr Kelly was the only one to return with a composition. He had written his first tune – The Lough Derg Jig.
After spending some years at St Columban’s in Navan, he returned to the missions and worked in Australia and Pakistan. In a 2001 interview with The Far East magazine, he recalled the thrill he got when he walked into an Irish club in Perth and heard a bush band playing The Lough Derg Jig.