President Michael D Higgins was among those who paid a fond and heartfelt tribute to the late Tom Feeney – President of St Patrick’s Brass Band – at a special memorial concert held in his honour in July. Tom was known for his love of music, his renowned music collection and as a strong fundraising advocate for Galway’s historic band, which has taken part in every St Patrick’s Day Parade in Galway since 1903, played for Presidents Kennedy and Reagan, and for the visit of Pope John Paul II.
Born in Galway in 1927, Tom moved to England before returning to Ireland in the 1960s. Using his experience with the Royal Air Force band, Tom joined St Patrick’s Brass Band, where he marched and played all over Ireland. He dedicated his time and energy to the band and always wore the uniform with pride, ensuring that presentation was a top priority. He later became an honorary life President of the band.
“Tom gave music to Galway,” said President Higgins. “He was a great public person and he loved to give music to the public. Anytime I visited him in Bohermore, he would be taking out the earphones. I know him just short of half a century and know first-hand his commitment to justice and fairness. He had incredible loyalty to the Labour party and would always appear impeccably dressed.”
As the band played piece after piece at their base in St Patrick’s Band Hall, President Higgins remarked that Tom, who passed away in 2014, “would have preferred no other tribute”. No one minded crossing party lines when Senator Hildegarde Naughton sang a beautiful rendition of Nella Fantasia accompanied by the band as part of their evening recital for Tom.
Tom’s daughter Madeline said her father’s “passion for music was amazing” and how “he loved this band, and President Higgins” with equal measure. “He is here in spirit,” concluded President Higgins, “marching in front of the band. May you long make music”.