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  • Writer's pictureLara O'Brien

The Celebration of Life for Daragh Aherne Clarke

Updated: Mar 24, 2023

The Bonny Men gave a beautiful tribute to our dear friend, Daragh Aherne Clarke, (who passed away so suddenly last week) on St Patrick’s night at Collins Barracks. 'They wrote.

Dara was the heart of the party. You’d spot him a mile away with his 3 piece suit, armed with a wheelbarrow of cans for the lads, a bottle of blowing bubbles for the kids, stories for the Ma’s and Da’s even a light up his sleeve for who knows why! He was always there with a giant smile, a giant hug and giant red mane personality to match.'

His mom Helen remembers Dara as a good child and easy boy, she sent pictures of his life with cows, cats, dogs, birds, … I noticed no seagulls, they were … as he recently called them ‘bastards’, and then again for effect, with a head shake, 'bastards.'

We see the pictures of family moments of a happy child who loved fishing and music and enchantment, even at the age of 12 he took up a fascination with the Money tree on the family property and he was always out looking for the fairies, forever under their spell.

His mom remembers Dara going to the Billie Barry stage school when he was a kid and dancing in shows in the Olympia and the Gaiety.

So the loss of our beloved Dara Rua will be felt throughout The Howth community he adored, one that embraced him since he was a little boy fishing on the Bernie and then on the bigger trawler the Dara-Liam. By the traditional music family of Ireland who nurtured his musical life, a life that began while watching and joining his father, Barney McKenna, on tour and it was a life he dedicated himself to, being on the road, working festivals, van-festivals, sessions and gigs, a beat that drove Dara onwards towards the music and people that lit up his life.

And of course this loss will be felt so deeply by all his friends and family.

This is no ordinary celebration of life, Dara’s life was bigger than most. His parties are famous, as much as his spoon playing. He once hosted a troupe of circus performers back to Church Street and they had such a legendary night they sent him a lifetime pass to the circus,(he was really proud of it).

If we could take a moment, close your eyes for Dara, bring him to the forefront of your mind and remember how you met, or the memory that comes to you strongest. And breathe.

To all Dara’s friends and family here today, grief will visit us like the fierce riptides off Ireland’s eye, but let us remember Dara in our nor’easters, spraying over the east pier, see his brilliance in those powerful waves, living their best lives and falling into a million creative drops.

We will see him forever on Church Street, on the east mountain in the springtime, up at Green Hollows around the Halloween fire, being a Bear.

We will remember him in the Bloody Stream and Harbour Bar having a pint a the black, we will hear his words and laughter in the fiddle and the bodhran, in his banging on beer trays and his snaps.

We will remember.

Grief will arrive for us all, strong and bitterly sharp, but we will remember Dara with warmth and music and love … and in our lowest moments we will ask ourselves ‘what would Dara do?’ and after we put on our three piece suits and tie up the hair, up high in a manbun, you too girls, the answer will come again and again - we will live, according to his expectations for us, because Dara was a secret heritage keeper in Howth, he loved his heritage, he loved his culture, his country, his people, his music, and most of all he loved you, he saw your light and potential and showed it off to the world with these four simple but deeply proud words … This is my friend.

So, let’s celebrate the power of his love for us and for his life.

It was Henry Miller, and his friend Arron, who said

To make living itself an art, that is the goal.

And Dara made his life a masterpiece.

Love to your my friend,


R.I. P The Bear.

Sadly missed by his family and friends in Howth, Ireland and around the world.

Music at the Ceremony was a collaboration of friends and musicians.

Speakers were Carlos, Sean, Saoirse and his brother Liam.

Celebrant Lara O'Brien

Abbey Tavern afters

Sound by Chris Boland

Video below and images of the most epic and beautiful community Spirit of Life Ceremony organized by musicians and friends of Dara's in Howth.

Song by Glen Dunne, Lee Page and Michelle Berrange.

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