Seamus Connolly, ten-time winner of the Irish National Fiddle Championship, opening the 2014 Boston College Arts Festival. (Christopher Huang)

Retired Sullivan Family Artist-in-Residence Séamus Connolly, whose leadership helped establish Boston College as a major venue and resource for Irish and other Gaelic music, has received a major honor from Irish public service TV broadcaster TG4.

Connolly, the former director of Irish music programs at BC, was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award in February at the TG4 Gradam Ceoil Awards event in Belfast. The Gradam Ceoil awards are considered to be the foremost recognition given to traditional Irish musicians.

A native of County Clare, Connolly is a 10-time All-Ireland champion fiddler widely regarded as among the most influential traditional Irish musicians of his generation, not only as a performer and recording artist but as a teacher and mentor. He began working at BC in 1990, launching music, song, and dance programs in the University’s Irish Studies Program. In 1993, Connolly founded the Gaelic Roots Summer School and Festival, a highly popular weeklong series of classes, workshops, and concerts; Gaelic Roots became an academic-year series in 2004.

Connolly championed BC’s Irish Music Center at the Burns Library, a trove of archival recordings, manuscripts, photos, and other materials, by facilitating numerous donations and donating many items from his own considerable collection. Working with Boston College Libraries, Connolly created The Séamus Connolly Collection of Irish Music, a groundbreaking online archive of recordings, music transcriptions, stories, and essays.

In a video produced by TG4 prior to the ceremony, Connolly reflected on his career as a musician and his work at BC (“I never went to college in my life. And I’m just thinking that if my mother was alive, she’d say, ‘Oh my God, he was at Boston College, was he?’”). Having lived in the U.S. for more than 40 years and developed strong bonds with the country and its people, he said, the TG4 honor held great personal significance for him.

“Getting [the award] from my homeland, that’s very special to me. Bringing back this award, and having it on my sideboard in America, I’d be very proud showing it off to the Americans who come into my home.”

View the video here.

Connolly’s many other accolades include a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, and a BC Faculty Arts Award. He retired from BC in 2015.

University Communications | March 2020