Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy 2020

The 48th Willie Clancy Summer School, Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare, Ireland. Saturday 4th July to Sunday 12th July, 2020.

Sráid na Cathrach, Co. an Chláir  4ú Iúil - 12ú Iúil.

Ben Lennon (1928-2020)


The influential fiddler player Ben Lennon began tutoring at Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy in 1998 and rapidly made a huge impact on the students. His warm personality, communication skills, and deep knowledge of Irish traditional music and its history made him an effective teacher. Today there are hundreds of fiddlers worldwide who acknowledge the influence of Ben Lennon in their traditional music development. He was the subject of the annual tribute at the summer school in 2005,  officially opened the school in 2009, and his birthday, which fell in early July, was always celebrated during Willie Clancy week.


Ben Lennon was born in Kiltyclogher, Co Leitrim. His father, Jim, was a fiddler and early musical influences included the Fermanagh fiddlers John Timoney and John Gordon, and piper, flute player and fiddler John McGovern. The recordings of the masters -  Michael Coleman, James Morrison, Paddy Killoran and Hughie Gillespie - were a major source of inspiration and a formative influence in his traditional music journey.

Ben playing in Friel's, July 2001.

Ben with Connie Patten playing for Máire O'Keefe's fiddle class, July 2009.

He followed his father into the tailoring trade and, after serving his apprenticeship, spent five years (1949-1954) in London studying and working at the clothing industry. While in London he married Patsy Eames from Rossinver, Co Leitrim, a near neighbour. On his return he worked in Limerick and Cork and finally became a manager with the well-known Donegal based Magee company. While working in Limerick he often travelled into Clare, got to know many musicians, observed the various styles in the county, and enjoyed sessions with the likes of the Russell brothers and Paddy Canny.


In 2011 he was the subject of a major study, Ben Lennon: The Tailor’s Twist, with text by Fintan Vallely and photographs by Nutan Jacques Pirapez, and the same year he received a TG4 Gradam Ceoil Lifetime Achievement Award.  His style, which has been described as ‘thoughtful and rhythmic… full of inventive ornamentation and variation’  lives on in the recordings he made and with the many people who will fondly remember him.


Our sympathies to his family, Maurice, John, Brian and David, brothers Charlie and Joe, and the extended family.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis

Ben Lennon, July 2011.

All photos: Tony Kearns

© Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy 2020   Website: Tony Kearns