Patrick Clancy (7 March 1922 – 11 November 1998), usually called "Paddy" or "Pat" Clancy, was an Irish folk singer best known as a member of The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem.
Pat Clancy was one of eleven children and the eldest of four boys born to Johanna McGrath and Bob Clancy in Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary. During World War II he served as a flight engineer in the Royal Air Force in India; he also reportedly had been a member of the Irish Republican Army. After his demobilization, Clancy worked as a baker in London. In 1947 he immigrated to Toronto, Canada with his brother Tom. The following year, the two brothers moved to Cleveland, Ohio to stay with relatives. Later, they attempted to move to California, but their car broke down and they relocated to New York City instead.
After moving to Greenwich Village in 1951, both Paddy and Tom Clancy devoted themselves primarily to careers in the theater. In addition to appearing in various Off-Broadway productions and television shows, they produced and starred in plays at the Cherry Lane Theatre in Greenwich Village and at a playhouse in Martha's Vineyard. Their productions included a 22-week run of Seán O'Casey's The Plough and the Stars. After losing money on some unsuccessful plays, the brothers began singing concerts of folk songs after their evening acting jobs were over. They soon dubbed these concerts "Midnight Specials." Paddy and Tom were often joined by other prominent folk singers of the day, including Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and Jean Ritchie.
In 1956 their younger brother Liam Clancy immigrated to New York, where he teamed up with Tommy Makem, whom he had met while collecting folk songs in Ireland. The two began singing together at Gerde's Folk City, a club in Greenwich Village. Pat and Tom Clancy sang with them on occasion, usually in informal folk 'sing-songs' in the Village. Around the same time, Pat founded Tradition Records with folk-song collector and heiress Diane Hamilton, and in 1956 the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem released their first album, The Rising of the Moon, with only Paddy's harmonica as musical accompaniment. However, the Clancys and Makem did not become a permanent singing group until 1959. In the meanwhile, Paddy signed and recorded established folk artists for Tradition, including Jean Ritchie, Alan Lomax, Odetta, and Ewan MacColl. He also went as a cameraman on an expedition to Venezuela in search of alluvial diamonds, ostensibly as part of a documentary crew.
In the late 1950s, Pat Clancy with his brothers and Makem began to take singing more seriously as a permanent career, and soon they recorded their second album, Come Fill Your Glass with Us. This album proved to be more successful than their debut album, and they began receiving job offers as singers at important nightclubs, including The Gate of Horn in Chicago and The Blue Angel in New York City. The group garnered nation-wide fame in the United States after an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, which led to a contract with Columbia Records in 1961. They continued performing together to great acclaim in the United States, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia until Tommy Makem left the group to pursue a solo career in 1969. The group continued first with Bobby Clancy and then with Louis Killen until Liam left in 1975 to pursue a solo career. In 1977 after a short hiatus, the group reformed with Paddy, Tom, and Bobby Clancy and their nephew Robbie O'Connell.
In a 2008 documentary, The Yellow Bittern, Liam Clancy recalled Paddy as the "alpha male" of the group, who "quietly laid down the law" that his younger brothers and Makem followed "without question." Paddy also often acted as the spokesman for the Clancy Brothers. His signature song was the classic Irish drinking song, "A Jug of Punch." He was also well known for his renditions of "Mountain Dew," "Rosin the Bow," the humorous songs, "The Old Woman from Wexford" and "Mr. Moses Ri-Tooral-I-Ay," the Scottish song, "Johnny Lad," and several others.
After almost two decades in North America, in 1964 Pat Clancy returned to live in Carrick-on-Suir, where he bought a dairy farm and bred exotic cattle. When not on tour or working on his farm, he spent much of his time fishing, reading, and doing crossword puzzles. In the late 1990s, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The tumor was successfully removed, but he was also striken with terminal lung cancer around the same time. He continued performing until his failing health prevented him from doing so any longer.
Patrick Clancy died at home of lung cancer on 11 November 1998 at the age of 76. He was buried, wearing his trademark white cap, in the tiny village of Faugheen, near Carrick-on-Suir. He was survived by his widow, Mary Clancy, and their four children, Rory, Maura, Orla, and Conor. He was also survived by a daughter from his first marriage, Leish Clancy (Haller), and four siblings, Liam, Bobby, Peg, and Joan.
Solo discography/Guest appearances
- 1959 – Folk Festival at Newport, Volume 1 – Vanguard LP
- 1961 – Folk Music of the Newport Folk Festival: 1959-1960, Volume 1 – Folkways LP/CD
- 1984 – Mick Moloney: Uncommon Bonds – Green Linnet LP/CD
- 2000 – Cherish the Ladies: The Girls Won’t Leave the Boys Alone – Windham Hill CD
- Other appearances listed in Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem articles