Vinny Walsh, jazz musician, painter and woodwind tutor to Banna Chluain Meala, has died at the age of 82.
Vinny, of Gortmalogue and latterly Parnell Street, Clonmel, was a jazz musician of some repute and considered a gifted tenor sax player by many of his peers. His music tastes ran the gamut of Dixieland and Satchmo to Miles Davis, Theolonius Monk and The Beatles.
In a career spanning some 40 years he played with many of the leading big band artists of his day including Chris Lamb, Des Smith and The College Men, Sonny Knowles and Peter Cusack and his Orchestra, later becoming an indispensable member of Mick Delahunty’s Big Band.
Vincent David Walsh was born in 1929 in Dungarvan, the youngest in a family of seven, to parents Mary McCarthy and Matthew Walsh, who owned a small tobacco factory and were extensively involved in the social and cultural life of the Waterford seaside town. Music was a big interest of the family and young Vinny would follow his father and brothers, Bernard and Matt, into the Dungarvan Brass and Reed Band, where he played cornet as a teenager.
After the Second World War he did a stint as a merchant seaman in the Irish Navy, followed by a course in radio engineering at Kevin Street College of Technology, Dublin. Music however was always his first passion and by the mid 50s he was working as a full-time professional, having earlier traded in his first car for a tenor saxophone (the saxophone cost IR£72 in 1950).
When performing with Peter Cusack and his Orchestra at Butlin’s, Mosney, he met his future wife, Sylvia Byrne. Work opportunities brought them to Clonmel where they lived for a while at Spring Gardens, Old Bridge. Later on they settled at newly-built Gortmalogue, a small estate on the outer edge of late 60s Clonmel.
The second half of that decade was spent playing in Mick Delahunty’s Big Band, then at the height of its fame and appeal. Vinny’s innate modesty, combined with a gift for flawless sight-reading, made for a winning combination and easy style both as a tenor sax and clarinet jazz player. Later Vinny took up residency with Mick Del Jnr., who had set up his own Big Band, followed some years later by the Sounds International Big Band. He also found time to indulge a distinct flair for cooking, gardening and oil painting.
He was a regular orchestra member of St. Mary’s Choral Society productions at the Regal and White Memorial Theatres. His colleague and conductor, Danny Carroll, brought him on board when Banna Chluain Meala, Clonmel’s youth band expanded in the late 70s and opened up to woodwind players. Vinny would remain lead woodwind instructor with Banna Chluain Meala until declining health made it impossible to continue.
One of his last public gigs - at the Clonmel Arms Hotel - was with Richie Ryan, Tony Lonergan and fellow Banna colleague Declan O’Dwyer.
Over the past decade Vinny’s health progressively declined as Alzheimer’s took its toll. For the last five years he was expertly cared for by Verona Mullarkey and her team at St. Anthony’s Unit, Glenconnor.
He is survived by his wife Sylvia, seven children and five grandchildren, many of whom continue his passion for all things creative and musical.