Lord of Dance star pays tribute at funeral of celebrated flautist Seamus Tansey
Michael Flatley playing the flute in Larne around the Twelfth? Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.
The Lord of the Dance star was in the seaside town last week to attend the funeral service of celebrated flautist Seamus Tansey, who he described as “one of the greatest Irish flute players that ever lived”.
He paid tribute to his dear friend by playing the flute twice at the Mass in The Oratory in Larne, which was led by Bishop Pat Buckley.
He told Sunday Life: “It’s not every day Michael Flatley comes to Larne around the Twelfth.
“The service was on the 13th, but Seamus came on the 11th. Seamus himself, who was quite republican, was reposing in loyalist Larne for two nights.
“Michael drove up from Cork and he played the flute. The Mass is on my channel on YouTube and you’ll see him playing the flute.
“You see, Seamus taught Michael to play the flute. Seamus was kind of like a second dad to him. Michael played the flute twice because Seamus had asked him to play the Colleen.”
Seamus, who won the All-Ireland flute title in 1965, was born in Gorteen, Co Sligo, in 1943 — and his ashes were buried there after the service.
In recent years, he had been living in Craigavon, and it was at Craigavon Area Hospital where he passed away aged 78.
Bishop Pat explained: “I did his wedding 31 years ago and he had been coming to Mass here ever since with his wife.
“He just made it out in his will that he wanted to go from the undertaker’s and spend two nights here in Larne.
“We had a lot of musicians, including Matt Molloy and Jim McKillop from the Glens. I’d say there were about 20 musicians there to pay tribute.
“There was about 70 there overall, but I also streamed it on Facebook Live so that anybody around the world could watch it.
“In my tribute I used a bit of humour and I didn’t pretend that Seamus was any saint and I called it as it was. We regarded it really as a celebration of Seamus’s life.
“And then there was a bit of a meal afterwards and then his body was laid to rest in Gorteen on Sunday — and I didn’t manage to get there because somebody gave me Covid at the funeral. I’ve recovered now.”
Bishop Pat had earlier announced the death on his website of his “long-time friend and renowned performer of the Irish flute” and said it had come “unexpectedly”.
In his eulogy, he added: “Seamus was from Gorteen in Sligo. He spent part of his life as a postman in his area.
“For personal reasons, he left Sligo and came to live in Northern Ireland. Thirty-one years ago I celebrated his marriage to his wife, Joan, from Ballyclare. From then, they lived in Craigavon.
“Seamus was initially part of the music and drama group The Armagh Rhymers.
“But for a long time he had been regarded as an expert in the Irish flute and was renowned.
“He had a long-term connection with the Flatley family and taught Michael Flatley to play the flute.
“Apart from his music, Seamus was an old-fashioned republican.
“He had a mischievous sense of humour. One time a court in the Republic forwarded a series of three summons to him.
“Seamus sent a letter to the judge [saying], ‘Dear Judge, I wish to acknowledge the three summons you sent me. I have only one request. Could you please print all future summons on softer paper. Sincerely yours, Seamus Tansey’.
“Seamus was very loyal to me and to The Oratory. Every Holy Week and every Christmas Eve Seamus played at our Masses.
“Like myself, nobody was neutral about Seamus. You either loved or hated him. But he was mightier than all his enemies put together.”