Family members and friends gathered on Dec. 2 in St. Brendan’s Church in Dorchester for a funeral Mass for Patrick “Patsy” Whelan, a popular figure in the Greater Boston Irish music scene for many years who died on Oct. 7. Mr. Whelan had been in ill health for some time, and earlier in the year had endured a double lung transplant.
Following the Mass was “A Celebration of Life Concert” at Florian Hall, with performances by Devri, Pauline Wells, Kiernan Dalton, Brian Gaffney, and others who had known Whelan and enjoyed his company and music.
A Dublin native who lived in Massachusetts for some four decades, most recently in Brewster, Mr. Whelan – singer, guitarist, mandolinist, and fiddler – often turned up at area sessions and ceilis. He had numerous formal or informal musical collaborations, including the band Harvest Home, which released the album “From Galway to Boston.” His discography also included “Irish Folk Music” with Ted Furey and John Wright, “Live at Nanny O’Brien’s” with Gaffney, and a solo album, “Guitar, Fiddle and Songs,” on which his son Connor appeared.
“He doesn’t have to dress up in a suit and tie every morning and sit in rush hour traffic for two hours,” wrote Connor in a testimonial that appeared on Mr. Whelan’s website. “His office is a bar room, and in his briefcase he carries a guitar and fiddle. To me that seems like the life.”
Mr. Whelan summed up the enthusiasm he held for his career in a 2010 interview: “The music can take you anywhere. Everyone can get into it. I play in Boston every Sunday, and there are kids six years old to college kids to parents to grandparents coming in. I’m amazed by my audience.”
His audiences were not limited to Boston or Massachusetts: He became a veteran of festivals and events in many locales, including the Washington Irish Folk Festival. He also played with a range of well-known performers and acts, such as Paddy Reilly, Brendan Mulvilhill, The Waterboys, The Furey Brothers, Shea Duffin, Mance Grady, John Quilter, and Eamon Coyne.
Mr. Whelan’s other great passion was the sea, and he served as a part-time assistant harbormaster in Dennis.
“The ultimate Irish pub entertainer” was how he was described by Barrie Maguire, a Philadelphia artist who once painted a portrait of Mr. Whelan. “Laughing, sentimental, bawdy, full speed ahead, and one of the finest Irish fiddlers in the world.”
Patsy Whelan leaves survived by his wife, Patricia; son, Connor; grandsons Ronan Patrick and Finbar Joseph; a brother, Michael; and a sister, Philomena Anderson. He was pre-deceased by his parents, Patrick Joseph and Frances McHugh Whelan, and by his sisters, Margaret Palmer, Frances Plant, Delores Francis, and Rosaleen Moloney.