Tommy Makem, known around the world as “The Godfather” of Irish music, age 74, of Longmeadow Road, died Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2007, after a yearlong battle with lung cancer.
Born Nov. 4, 1932, in Keady, County Armagh, Ireland, he was the son of legendary source singer Sarah (Boyle) Makem and Peter Makem. He came to the United States on Dec. 5, 1955, to live with family members here.
The widower of Mary C. (Shanahan) Makem who died in 2001, he is survived by a daughter, Katie Makem-Boucher and husband Bob, of Dover (NH); three sons, Shane Makem, of Dover, Rory Makem and wife Elaine Scherer-Makem, of Amesbury, Mass., and Conor Makem, of Dover; two grandchildren, Molly Dickerman and Robert Boucher Jr.; and many cousins.
WE REMEMBER: In Tommy’s younger years, he worked at Kidder Press in Dover, then moved to New York City to become an actor, where after a brief but rewarding career in live television, summer stock and off-Broadway plays, he teamed up with Liam, Tom and Paddy Clancy. Folk music was the “in” music in 1961, and when he and Joan Baez appeared at the Newport Folk Festival, they were chosen as the most promising newcomers on the American folk scene.
Armed with his banjo, tin whistle, poetry, stagecraft and his magnificent baritone voice, Tommy mesmerized audiences for more than four decades. He expanded and reshaped the boundaries of Irish culture and also infused a pride in that culture.
In 1969, Tommy left the Clancy Brothers to pursue a solo career and immediately sold out the Felt Forum in Madison Square Garden, New York City. His popularity soared, and he went on three sold-out concert tours of Australia, three in the U.S. and several in Canada, Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales, all within two years.
In 1975, he teamed up with Liam Clancy, and Makem & Clancy was a magical combination that lasted until March 1988.
In 1994, he completed a lifelong dream when he taped “Tommy Makem’s Ireland,” a two-hour TV special, and on its last showing it was picked up by 320 stations nationwide.
He was well known for promoting Irish culture, and locally he helped promote the George Grenier Memorial Fund for the Dover Firefighters for many years, as well as performing at the Cochecho Arts Festival in Dover. He also sang at Gov. John Lynch’s inauguration, as well at the Mass for the 175th anniversary of St. Mary Church in Dover.
He received a doctorate of humane letters from the University of New Hampshire in 1998, a doctorate of letters from the University of Limerick, and a doctorate-litt from the University of Ulster. In October 2006, he was honored by being placed on a stamp in Ireland with his former bandmates, the Clancy Brothers.
Tommy could have lived anywhere in the U.S. or the world, however he chose Dover as his home, where he was a communicant of St. Mary Church.
SERVICES: Relatives and friends are invited to call Monday from 7 to 9 p.m., Tuesday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m., and Wednesday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m., at the Tasker Funeral Home, 621 Central Ave., Dover.
A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 11 a.m. on Thursday at St. Mary Church, corner of Chestnut and Third Streets, with Rev. Fritz Cerullo, O.S.A. Pastor as celebrant. Burial will follow in St. Mary New Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, it is requested that memorials in his name be made to a fund being started in the name of Tommy & Mary Makem Fund, c/o Attorney William H. Shaheen, P.O. Box 977, Dover, NH 03821-0977.
He meant a lot to me over the years. I loved his voice, his music, his whole life story. I remember going to see him in person once, too, and he was super, as usual. He will be missed. I am going to find my Makem & Clancy records now and play them. Just for old time’s sake. “Four Green Fields” was one of my favourite songs of all time.