MID-Cork man and legendary set dance teacher, Timmy ‘The Brit’ McCarthy was an inspiration to so many people throughout his life not just in Cork but throughout the world, mourners at his cremation service in Ringaskiddy were told.
Timmy’s close friend, Dave McMahon paid tribute to his mentor when he recalled at the service how he first met him at a set dance workshop in Landshut in Bavaria in 1996 when, with an accordion on his lap, he was calling out the Blue Bonnet Polka to encourage the dancers.
‘Just as Arnold Schwartzenegger was the Terminator, Timmy was ‘The Inspirator’ the driving force behind so many dreams that were made reality through him,’ Dave told the hundreds of mourners who thronged the Island Crematorium on Rocky Island near Ringaskiddy to pay their respects.
Timmy’s son, Tony explained how his father had asked Dave some time back to speak at his funeral and Dave did not disappoint with a simple but heartfelt eulogy in which he spoke about the loss felt by Timmy’s partner, Rhona and his adult children Tony, Susan and Niamh and their mother Clair.
‘Timmy told me many times the three women he loved most were his mother, Kitty, his wife, Clair and his partner, Rhona – he’s with his mum now, dancing a polka set with Dan O’Connell, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Princess Diana, JFK and Jacqueline Onassis,’ said Dave to loud laughter.
Born in London to Cork parents, Kitty from Fair Hlill and Ernest from Blackpool, Timmy retained his accent when he moved to Leeside in the 1960s to work as a butcher, earning him the nickname ‘Timmy the Brit’ as he became an unlikely champion of the set dancing of Cork and Kerry.
As he told in a newspaper interview earlier this year, he was already involved with the Cork Folk Festival when he took a trip to Dan O’Connell’s pub in Knocknagree but it was a journey that was to lead him from Europe to America and Australia to teach people the joy of sets.
‘I went down to Dan O’Connell’s pub one day in Knocknagree. A woman called Eily Buckley saw me sitting down and she took me up and threw me round the floor. I didn’t know what the hell had happened to me, but that was the Sliabh Luachra set, and it changed my life.
‘I never set out to teach set dancing but people asked me to teach.
‘I had a passion for the music of Sliabh Luachra, Corca Dhuibhne, Múscraí, and the dances that went with it,’ said Timmy who settled with Rhona at Direenauling in Baile Mhuirne, just shy of the county bounds.
And it was at the Mills Inn in Baile Mhuirne on Friday night that Timmy had his wish for a traditional Irish wake met by owner, Don O’Leary who set aside a room where he lay in a wicker coffin beside a single red rose and a poster for the Cork Folk Festival which he founded almost 40 years ago.
Among the many to pay their respects in Baile Mhuirne were local Sinn Fein MEP and presidential candidate, Liadh Ni Riada from Cuil Aodha and local Fianna Fail TD, Aindrias Moynihan from Cill na Martra as well as Jim Walsh of the Cork Folk Festival and former Labour senator, Brendan Ryan.