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We were first introduced to Johnny and Ann Barrett, from Charleville, Co. Cork, by telephone in 1996; this was in connection with their son Pat's illness.

Pat was then in the latter stages of cancer.

We were in the US at the time, and were made aware of the state of the Barrett family's turmoil by a very good friend, Mary Desmond, who also is a resident of Cork, and had known Johnny for a good number of years.

Johnny was a singer of great renown in Ireland and the US and both Mary Desmond and he have been intertwined within the music world for many years stretching back to the sixties in Ireland.

johnny barret with mary desmond and mary malone jpgSome years earlier Mary Desmond had seen Mary on Irish TV, and heard Mary on National and local Radio on such shows as The Pat Kenny Show 1990, and before that on The Gerry Ryan show. Also Cork's local Radio when it was just starting out in White Plains in the mid Eighties.

Mary Malone was, as Johnny and Ann put it later, a great consoling influence at that time, and although Mary was thousands of miles away she was able to connect with, and guide them through that particular period in their lives.

Mary was only one person that helped Johnny and Ann in that sad time, there were many other folks involved that gathered around to support them.

Mary is well aware that when a traumatic event happens in someone’s life they can sometimes get a little disoriented, and perhaps also disheartened with life in general.

The phone calls to Johnny after Pat passed away looked like something that Mary had experienced before, mainly that Johnny said he would be giving up his music.

We had not heard Johnny play or sing his songs, but according to Mary Desmond he was the best.


Upon our arrival back in the UK, we had a few days rest, then hopped on a plane to see Mary Desmond, and go and see Johnny and Ann.

The top and tail of our visit to Johnny’s was to persuade him to get involved with his music again.

Not to go into details, (and putting no halos over Mary Malone’s head) Mary, with a hand full of other concerned friends and relations persuaded Johnny to return to his music.

At this time there was a nucleus of several people that were instrumental in “getting Johnny back on track” with his music. Prominent in this group were

  • Anne Barrett
  • Mary Malone
  • Pat O’Brien from Chicago
  • Michael and Rita Barrett
  • Joe and Maureen
  • Mary Desmond
  • John and Mary Cook
  • and a great guy from Listowel, Martin McCarthy and his wife Eileen.

johnny barret with mary malone and friend jpgBefore I get on to our own “Johnny Barrett reflections” I would like to end this part of our tribute to Johnny by including the notice read out at a packed to capacity Church in Charleville for Johnny’s funeral Mass.

The following words were written by local newspaper reporter Michael McGrath and spoken most eloquently by Martin McCarthy.

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Johnny Barrett was a legend in his own lifetime, and today, though we mourn his passing, we also celebrate his life in which he gave immeasurable pleasure to a huge number of people, both locally and throughout Ireland, as a music maker and entertainer.

A native of Dromina, Charleville, Johnny rose to become one of the most sought after entertainers in the country. Although he achieved this outstanding success and rubbed shoulders with the most famous names in Irish entertainment, he always remained a family man and retained the values he grew up with in Dromina and the sense of community he experienced there. Indeed he referred to this fact when he launched the parish booklet in Dromina last October.

Johnny had an early introduction to music, playing the mouth organ at school and later on at concerts in the local hall. He grew up in an era when work was scarce in Ireland but was able to dovetail his music with work in County Cork Council. When time came to choose between the two, Johnny took the brave step of opting for music. What a wise choice that proved to be because he had found his niche in life and never looked back.

He worked hard at honing his stage act and his ready wit and engaging personality coupled with his music talent soon made him a firm favourite with audiences all over the country. He went on to receive many entertainment awards.

Johnny's idol in music was Elvis Presley and he got great pleasure when he and Anne visited Memphis, Tennesee and Graceland, the home of Elvis, Last year.

Johnny's wife Anne was the love of his life and they adored their only son, Pat. He was following Johnny's footsteps pursuing a career in music, but it was not to be. Their lives were devastated when Pat was cruelly taken from them at an early age. This was a terrible blow for them but the love and support they got from their immediate family, from friends and neighbours and the wider community, and Johnny's huge fan base country-wide, helped in some measure to deal wth their grief.

Johnny was a dedicated community man and he gave generously of his time and talent to help many community causes. He was always able to slot these charitable events into his busy schedule. Chief among these were the

  • Friends of Mallow Hospital
  • Charleville Day Centre
  • Buttevant Day Centre
  • Bruree and Newmarket Day Centres for the elderly
  • St Joseph's Foundation

to mention but a few.

In recognition for this work for the community, Johnny was awarded a Charleville People of the Year Award by Charleville Chamber of Commerce and Charleville Credit Union in 2007. He was eagerly looking forward to the launch of Ballyhoura Community Radio and had worked to raise funds for the voluntary committee.

Though Johnny has passed from our midst, he will be remembered as a larger than life character with a heart of gold and a tremendous zest for life. He has left us with a great fund of memories in his recordings, videos and DVD's which will be cherished by all who were privileged to know him and not least by his widow Anne and other relatives, to whom we tender sincere sympathy on their sad loss.

After these words there was not a dry eye in the Church, and Martin quite deservedly received a great round of applause.

Our meeting with Johnny

It was shortly after their son Pat's passing when we met the Barrett’s. We were met at Shannon Airport by Mary Desmond who drove us to Charleville.

We stayed with Mary Desmond for a couple of days, and then quite unexpectedly Johnny called to ask if we would like to spend a couple of days with them in Charleville.

We were both conscious of their grief, and after talking this aspect over with Mary (Malone) we thought that spending a few days with the Barrett’s might be just the tonic needed for them.jpg johnny and anne barrett with mary malone andlimo

From the moment we met, to the day of his death we never heard Johnny say a bad word about anyone. In word or deed we never knew him to be anything but a gentleman in every sense of the word. All I will say in regard to Johnny Barrett is this, he was the most charismatic man we had ever met. People were drawn to Johnny by his charisma and good natured charm.

The four of us spent many happy days in several countries around the world, and we were with Johnny in the Mercy Hospital in Cork City when, at 7am on the morning of Tuesday the 30th of December 2008, he passed away peacefully after a short illness.

I do not claim to be a “wordsmith” so I would like to enclose instead a “photo reflection” tribute to Johnny. These photos are not in any particular order; they are just a celebration of our lives being fuller, and richer in spirit, with our association with Johnny and Anne Barrett.

As a last word about Johnny we both would like to state that:

“Johnny, It’s been a pleasure to bask in the radiance of your personality”.

May God bless you Johnny Barrett.

Malcolm and Mary.


jpg johnny barrett on stage jpg johnny barrett on  stage jpg johnny barrett performing jpg johnny barrett on stage jpeg johnnybarrett performing live jpeg johnny barrett performinglive
jpeg johnny barrett on stage jpeg johnny barrett on stage johnny barrett performing jpeg johnny barrett performing jpeg jpeg johnnybarrett performing live jpeg johnnybarrett performing live
jpeg johnny barrett on stage jpeg johnny barrett on stage johnny barrett performing jpg johnny barrett performing jpeg jpeg johnnybarrett performing live jpeg johnnybarrett performing live
Above:Johny Barrett as his many fans will remember him
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johnny barrett with two marys on  stage in tipparary Johnny and the two Marys taken in 1997 as he prepares to play a medley of polkas at a small gig in County Tipparary.
johnny with both marys in las vegas Johnny with the two Marys once again, on one of Johnny's first visits to the fabulous city of Las Vegas with the newly refurbished Ceasar's Palace casino in the background
johnny and anne barrett with  mary and malcolm malone in las vegas hotel

Whilst Johnny and Anne were visiting with Mary and Malcolm in the Oleans Hotel in Las Vegas, Daniel O'Donell was performing a one night show in the Orleans.

Seated at the table are Daniel's friend Sally Blake, Mary, Malcolm, Anne and Johnny.

The highlight of this tour was meeting Daniel O'Donnell. On the days before his show, Mary's husband Malcolm gave Johnny, Anne and Sally a guided tour of Las Vegas including the night time lights, which are one of the seven wonders of the modern world.

johnny barrett and friends in Trallee, county kerry This photo was taken just before Johnny's session in the Balingary House Hotel, Trallee, County Kerry. Seated are Mary Malone, Anne and Johnny Barrett, Mary Desmond, Mary O'Regan and Charlie O'Connell.
johnny and anne barrett  on their last visit to las vegas Johnny and Anne's last visit to Las Vegas in 2008. This was taken in the posh restaurant in the Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino.