LET it said, although there can be little reason to remind you, Benny McKay who died this year was a musician, a poet, a Francophile, a raconteur, a friend, a mountain man, a founder of the U3A in Newry on Catherine Street, a writer, and a down-right thoroughly decent human being.
Benny, unashamedly warm, passionate and emotional….just a wonderful guy.
And he died this year from an illness from which there would be no coming back, pancreatic cancer.
The Night for Benny will raise funds for research into the illness and, hopefully, good will come of the gathering in the Shamrocks next Friday night, September 28. The research money is greatly needed and I get to thinking that nothing much has changed since my dear mother died of the same disease on the last day of March in 1979, 39 years ago.
Why the lack of progress towards a cure, who can say, but, in the garnering of support on Friday the spirit of goodness that is Benny lives on.
And it will be a night of music, craic and friendship.
Members of U3A will be there, the Newry Writers’ Group there too, no doubt my friend, and Benny’s friend and personal Bodhran maker, Patsy Quinn, will be happily and proudly in attendance.
Technology can bring us many gifts. In the week after we laid to rest my friend, and Benny’s friend, John Donnelly, I tripped across a message left by John on my “answerphone machine”.
He had left it on the day he died: “Rowan, I’ll leave that ladder up with you next week”.
It was a comforting outreach from my friend John in the time after his passing.
Similarly, in the modern age, I came across today, on YouTube, half a dozen major interviews with Benny McKay and his friend Eddie McIntyre. The two lads had been appearing on my Destination Newry television programme and, as always, Benny was full of the stories, the music and the craic.
In one interview he recalled our flautist friend, Eddie Ruddy, and his lack of passion for the Bodhran, Benny’s much favoured instrument.
Benny told the story:
“Do you know Benny, you should get rid of the sticks for playing the Bodhran. It would be a better thing by far if you would play it using a Stanley Knife!”
That was Eddie for you and Benny laughed at the good of it.
Benny went on to sing a favourite Robbie Burns song, “I must Away now, For I can no Longer Tarry.”
Eddie loved that song and we sang it at his funeral. He was 89 years of age and was a big loss to the community. Eddie did a lot of work, not only in traditional music but classical as well. A key member of the Newry Musical Society.
There is undoubtedly a wonderment at the heart of this coterie of very special human beings, good friends all, in a togetherness that puts the business of dying in its place.
Friday, September 28, in the Shamrocks at 7.30pm we gather again to be immersed once more in the spirit and the goodness of Benny McKay.