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Cathaoirleach remembers the late Leo Brennan

Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council, Cllr. Terence Slowey has conveyed his sincere condolences to the Brennan family on the death of their beloved Leo.

“On behalf of the elected members, management and staff of Donegal County Council, I would like to convey my sincerest condolences to the family and friends of the late Leo Brennan.

“In July 2005, Donegal County Council afforded a Civic Reception and the Freedom of County Donegal to the late Leo Brennan and his wife Baba, in recognition of their immense contribution to the musical and linguistic culture of County Donegal.

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“I recall this wonderful occasion with the fondest of memories as the life and times of Leo and Baba were shared with all of us.”

Continuing, Mr Slowey recalled how Mr Brennan led a life less ordinary.

“Leo Brennan was born into a musical family. His mother and father, along with his two brothers, Lawrence and Tony and his sister, Rose Marie traveled the length and breath of the country – particularly the border counties, The West of Ireland and Donegal – as the Connacht Concert Company.  Led by Leo’s Dad – a popular comedian, singer and piano player known affectionately as Happy Harry – a typical Connacht Concert Company evening would begin with a opening chorus and move swiftly and energetically through a variety of topical sketches, ballads and popular songs of the day, comedy and dance music. 

“Leo’s family settled in Donegal in the mid 1940s and soon after he was running the family band having taken over the reins from his father.

“He formed the Slieve Foy Showband and continued to play the dancehalls and parish halls of Donegal throughout the 1950’s and 60’s – an exotic circuit that extended from Foxhall to Drumkeen, Termon, Dunlewey, Derrybeg, Kilmacrennan, Annagry, Creeslough, McFadden’s of Gortahork, Glenfin, The Forresters in Killybegs, The Saddlers Hall in Ardara, Edeninfagh in the Big Glen of Glenties, the Spink Hall in Glencolmcille and all points between.  Admission charges at the time ranged from the relatively inexpensive 4d for a ‘4 Penny Hop’ to upwards of 2s / 6d or a Half a Crown for the more upmarket Golf Club occasions.”

He added: “Leo and Baba were married in 1952 and the next generation of the Brennan Family –firstly Máire, Ciarán, Pól and thereafter Deirdre, Enya, Olive, Bartley, Leon and Bridín began to assimilate the music that came to them through their parents – Irish traditional, classical, operetta, music hall, jazz and also through their various teachers which Baba in particular, sought out – including  James McCafferty of the Gaelic Singers in Derry, Miss Winston – also of Derry – who taught ballet and dance and the late Canon Cathal O’Callaghan, Parish Priest of Dungloe – a Doctor of Music from Maynooth College and a noted authority on classical music and opera.

“In the late 1960’s Leo and Baba took over what is now the world-famous Tabhairne Leo/ Leo’s Tavern in Mín na Leice. Having retired from the showband circuit, Leo continued to perform to visiting audiences at the Tavern where he regularly included the old music hall songs he learned from his Father and Mother in the days of the old Connacht Concert Company.’

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“We in Donegal County Council extend our condolences to Leo’s wife Baba, to his children Máire, Ciarán, Pól, Deirdre, Enya, Barltey, Leon, Olive and Bridín and to the extended Brennan family.”

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