Legendary fiddler Maurice Lennon from Rossinver became a local champion in Illinois this year after he coached a group of American students to become All Ireland Scor Champions at the Fleadh in Cavan.
Son of the amazing 84 year old Ben Lennon, Maurice is fighting cancer and receiving treatment in the USA. Winner of the Gradam, the highest honour in traditional Irish music, Maurice has suffered from skin cancer for the past seven years but is still battling returning tumours. The fight for his health however has not hindered his creativity and wonderful talent.
The NorthWest Herald, newspaper for McHenry County, Illinois earlier this month ran a feature on his recent honour coaching a group from the Murphy Roche School of Music to All Ireland status.
Journalist Jami Kunzer met with Maurice and heard the legendary Lennon play a melody effortlessly “just as it has done since the age of 13, when he first began playing in Ireland.”
At age 17, Maurice became the Senior All Ireland Fiddle Champion. He went on to co-found a famous Irish group Stockton’s Wing, to compose music, to record albums and become known as a legendary fiddler in Ireland. Stockton’s Wing, flourished in the 1980s, sharing the stage with artists such as Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli, Sammy Davis Jr. and Michael Jackson. The band appeared in the Irish film, The Field.
Now 54 and living in Lakemoor, Lennon is still making music and passing on his talents to the younger generation.
“But at 6 feet tall, he’s down to 128 pounds. His body has been beaten by rounds of surgery to remove tumours, to fight the skin cancer he’s suffered from for the past seven years. Physically, he said, “I’m not in a good place. I have a number of tumours that have returned, so the battle is on.”
But it hasn’t stop him from reaching success. Maurice arranged a seven-minute performance piece for the Murphy Roche School of Music group. “He worked one-on-one with a couple of them, guided them through rehearsals, encouraged them throughout the year. Too sick to travel with them to compete in Ireland, he hand-wrote them a letter:
Remember this, go on with the same passion and desire ... what a joy, take it with both hands, harbor no fear, and let the chips fall where they will.
At least then, you can do everything in the knowledge that you will have no regrets. You cannot see me, but I will be there in spirit to the end. I am so proud of every one of you.”
The group became the second only US ensemble in history to win the world title for Irish music at a competition at The All Ireland Fleadh in Co Cavan.
“Being from America, they weren’t expecting anything, and they won it,” Lennon told the NorthWest Herald. “It’s a really big coup for somebody coming from the States. For them to walk away with the trophy was a really big deal.”
The Lennons are well-known all over Ireland for their flair for music, and here in Leitrim they have celebrity status.
Maurice has been receiving treatment at the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minnesota with Dr Michael Carney for two years. Without this treatment, Maurice told the paper “he believes he would have died.”
“Love and prayer and spirituality,” has kept him going. “I’m not afraid, funny enough. I’m ready for whatever’s coming for me. I’ve had a good stint here. I’d be leaving happy knowing that I’m leaving something here behind.”