Forever Young - Paddy
Moville teacher looking
forward to retirement, Westport and Dylan
by Caoimhinn Barr, Inishowen
I can’t ever think of Bob Dylan without thinking of my
uncle, Paddy McLaughlin, from Moville.
It is fitting that the local school
master, who has just retired after 35 years in the
classroom, undertook this interview just as last
weekend's DylanFest began in his hometown.
Synonymous with Dylan and Moville, Paddy has amassed a
collection of thousands of recordings by the US singer,
songwriter. Now, at the age of 55, he is looking forward
a new chapter in his life.
Born in ‘The Square’ in 1955, the youngest child of
Patrick and Ellen McLaughlin, Paddy was earmarked for
music at a young age.
“My mother wanted a musician in the house so I suppose I
was the last chance. She always encouraged me to learn
an instrument. I was sent to violin lessons, which I
didn’t really like to be honest,” he said.
After hearing his brother Jim playing Bob Dylan records
as a teenager Paddy’s life as a musician began.
“Jim used to play Dylan music in our shop all the time.
He even blared it out over ‘The Square’ with loud
speakers sometimes. At first I hated the sound but I
soon grew to love it.” he said.
When Jim bought a guitar in
the late sixties it was his youngest brother who found a
groove on the instrument he still loves forty years on.
At Carndonagh Community School Paddy hooked up with
Carrowhugh teenager, Paddy McCartney, and the two became
inseparable as they learned Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen
songs, playing records at half-speed to perfect the
On March 18, 1972 Paddy, aged 16, saw his first real
concert, when he travelled to the National Stadium to
see Cohen with his sister Carmel and her boyfriend,
Brian. Last year he discovered a recording of the
historic show on ebay.
“That was a big thing because nobody went to gigs in
those days and I never thought I would be able to see
someone of the calibre of Leonard Cohen,” Paddy said.
A teacher in Moville for the past 25 years, Paddy
secured his first classroom job thanks to his burgeoning
guitar skills at St. Pat’s in Dublin.
“I was playing music one
day when the head of the college, Fr. Sam Cline, walked
by. The next day a note came under my dormroom door
telling me to go to head office right away. Fr. Cline
then told me I had a job in Foxrock because the
principal there wanted a music teacher,” he said.
It was while in St. Pat’s that Paddy began to hone his
craft, with friends and musicians, Tom Shanahan, Aodan
O’Dubhghaill, Brian Kenny and Paul Flynn. The quintet
regularly held sessions at O’Donohue’s, Dublin, where
the Dubliners started out.
“I latched onto the bohemian types in Dublin. I loved
going to pubs to play music, it was great being the
centre of attention. I didn’t even drink until I was 23.
There was enough of a high from the music. I used to
joke that I was anyone’s after two Britvics!” he said.
Teaching by day and playing music by night Paddy, a
founder member of the Folk Mass at the Pro Cathedral,
could often be seen scouring the record shops of Dublin.
“Instead of buying mince, I’d eat peanut butter
sandwiches so I would have more money for LPs!” he
Today Paddy is surrounded by thousands of recordings in
his home at Riverwood, Moville.
After ten years in the capital Paddy became increasingly
disenchanted with grey, dull Dublin in the late
“I could see no future in Dublin then. It was the only
time I ever felt lonely. My sister Evelyn became ill so
I wanted to go home straight away,” he said.
Evelyn, a decade earlier had been instrumental in
helping seventeen year-old Paddy get into St. Pat’s
after he mistakenly decided to study in Manchester
before quickly becoming homesick and returning to
After a stint at Drumaweir in Greencastle Paddy, at 29,
became the first ever male principal of St. Brigid’s
National School in Moville.
“I didn’t really expect to get the job but it worked out
well for me,” he said.
For much of the next three
decades Paddy taught fifth and sixth classes at the
Moville school, which was later amalgamated with St.
Joseph’s NS boys school and renamed Scoil Eoghain.
Paddy often hosted extra-curricular music classes to
help budding guitarists, tin whistlers and banjo
The now retired headmaster was quick to pay tribute to
another local principal, who helped him in his new role.
“Seamus McTague, who was principal at the Moville boys
school at the time, was a constant source of inspiration
to me. I thought – ‘If I can follow him, I’ll be fine’ -
and I was,” Paddy said.
Continuing to perform locally and watch concerts all
over the country, Paddy has seen his idol, Bob Dylan,
more than thirty times since 1984, when he played to
100,000 at Slane.
In a real highlight Paddy recalled a trip to France in
1984 when he ended up on stage with the Jimi Hendrix of
uilleann pipers in front of 7,000 live on a national
“I took a trip to a Pan-Celtic Festival in Brittany
where I bumped into Paddy Keenan from the Bothy Band. He
heard me playing and asked me to back him during his
concert, which was broadcast to millions on Radio
France,” he said.
Continuing to keep in touch with his old St. Pat’s
musical friends, in 1993 Paddy bought a house in
Westport, where he regularly plays Irish traditional
sessions with Aodan and Tom among others. His Co. Mayo
home on Altamount Street is the one with a Moville
Pottery mug on the window.
Chieftains flautist Matt Molloy once grabbed Paddy by
the arm and frog marched him up the street to play a gig
in his famous Westport pub.
A regular on his bike in Westport and Mayo, Paddy swims
almost every day of the year; at the pool in Redcastle
or over the shore at Glenburnie. He is also a keen
nature enthusiast; another thing he inherited from
“It’s funny but many of my former pupils remember me
more for the nature walks over Moville Green than
anything else I taught them,” he said.
As for retirement – Paddy said he has no plans; he never
“I find things I like to do and I keep doing them,” he
said with a smile.