Eoin Butler: writer, journalist and Mayoman of the Year

Tripping Along The Ledge


Conor Walsh RIP

I first met Conor Walsh when we were both students in the Gaeltacht, at Eachléim, in the glorious summer of 1994. We shared a youthful enthusiasm for Nirvana, ripped jeans, cigarettes and speaking English as much as was humanly possible. (I remember being so taken with the methodical way he’d shredded his trousers, I copied it exactly and was called out for this act of sartorial plagiarism by the very girl we were both secretly trying to impress.)

If I had to sum up Conor the Teenager in one word, it would be: cool. He was intelligent, good looking, well read and popular. We stayed in touch. A few months later, by chance, I found myself marking him in an underage Gaelic football match between Ballyhaunis and Swinford. We chatted amiably before the game. But that didn’t stop him roasting me once the ball was thrown in. At the time, we were both in contention for places on the Mayo U-16 panel. I remember thinking, Jesus Christ, is this bollocks bad at anything?

Still, when he emailed me in August 2010, telling me he was now a “minimalist piano composer”, I was trepidacious. Conor was booked to pay a gig at the Hard Working Class Heroes festival in the Mercantile Bar, on Dame Street. He was a friend. I knew we’d have a drink afterwards. I’d heard nothing, up to that point, to suggest he had any interest in minimalist piano composition. I was afraid I wouldn’t like his music and I’d be forced to come up with some polite, disingenuous words to pawn him off with.

As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. Conor’s show wasn’t just good. It was mesmeric. I couldn’t believe the transformation in him. As a younger man, Conor had been brash and macho. (As he needed to be, where and when we grew up.) But Conor the Adult was a completely different character, unmistakably gentle and kind. I saw him many times after that, most often in the company of his great friend and collaborator, the poet Martin Dyar.

I took tremendous pride in all that Conor achieved. His death is a shock beyond all words. My deepest sympathies go out to his family and friends. He was a unique guy. I don’t know what else to say except that he joins an ever-extending list of people I wish I could speak to, long after the opportunity to do so has passed, and say, You were one of the people who lit up my life. I wish I’d had the gumption, when you were alive, to tell you how much I truly admired you and valued our acquaintance. RIP.

March 13th, 2016.

7 Responses to “Conor Walsh RIP”

  1. Lorri Says:

    Beautifully written, and I also share your every opinion expressed regarding Conor, a true friend, a genius so humble his own excellence, and an absolute gent. It’s a very sad day. X

  2. Kenneth Connor Says:

    His music and conversation provoked thoughts and images . I am shaken. RIP

  3. Lauren Norton Says:

    It is something of a tonic to read all of these tributes. Thank you Eoin.

  4. Eoin Says:

    Thanks Lauren.

    I really enjoyed the beautiful piece you wrote about him, which is here for anyone who hasn’t read it.


    I’m tempted to ask which side he took in the hijab debate, but on the other hand… maybe it’s better not to ask.


  5. Brian Durcan Says:

    I met Conor at a fleadh ceol in Swinford a few years ago,in O Connors Hotel of course . I remember reciting Song of the wandering Aengus,he joined me on piano that poem never sounded so good.I will cherish that memory forever.Slan leat mo chara ceol.

  6. Eoin Says:

    It must be a Mayo thing, Brian. My later father recited that poem so often when I was a child that I can recite it from memory to this day. “I went out in the hazel wood / Because a fire was in my head / I cut and peeled a hazel rod / And hooked a berry to a thread…”

  7. Owen Kilfeather Says:

    I moved away from Ireland in 2003 and just found out this was the same man I studied philosophy with in Dublin, 1998-99. Though he stayed just under a single academic year, Conor and I made fast friends; he and I and a couple of other characters spent many a long night wandering Ranelagh/Rathmines listening to and talking about music, partying and engaging in hilarity in general. (There was one night a friend managed to convince Conor that we were sitting outside a pub when really we were sitting inside a place that had the old pub front on the inside, something which still makes me smile.) A lot of faces would come and go over the course of a philosophy degree, but he was the one my friends and I missed the most when he dropped out, he was popular indeed. I ran into him in a Sligo nightclub in May 2001 and we were delighted to bump into each other again, but apart from a phonecall or two afterwards we lost touch, this in the days before social media when people could fall between the cracks easily. At first I found it hard to recognise the quiet presence of Conor as an adult on video, as when I knew him he was a head-the-ball (in the best sense of the word), always with a wild gleam in his eye and on the lookout for good times with friends. I’ll miss him loads, though am glad to hear he affected so many with his music and surrounded himself with such good people. Thanks for writing that piece. Slan leat, amigo mío, véte por la sombra.

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