Tribute to Cork's piano man Jack Brierley

A legendary figure on the Cork musical scene, Mr Brierley passed away on Friday at the age of 91
Tribute to Cork's piano man Jack Brierley

Jack and Francis Brierley from Carrigaline at a Cork 2005 reception at the Silversprings Moran Hotel.Pic: Gavin Browne

There was sometimes a small glass of whiskey on Jack Brierley’s piano when he played his afternoon set in the Hayfield Manor, and over the weekend his old friends in the hotel raised a glass to his honour.

A legendary figure on the Cork musical scene, Mr Brierley passed away on Friday at the age of 91.

A professional musician from the days of the showbands until his retirement as resident pianist in the Hayfield Manor last year, the Cobh native had a career which spanned more than half a century.

His song Kinsale, which he co-wrote with George Crosbie and which was sung by Pat Lynch, narrowly missed out on being chosen to represent Ireland in the 1968 Eurovision, losing by a single point in the National Song Contest.

Mr Brierley always said he had many favourite songs, but he admitted that his all-time favourite was one of his own, Do I Dream, a song also co-written with George Crosbie.

Do I Dream was Ireland’s entry in the 1973 Eurovision Song Contest, and was performed by Maxi.

Jack Brierley and Sonny Knowles sing tunes at the launch of the Cork City Jazz Band and guests CD called "Actons Live", at the Guinness House. Pic: Gavin Browne
Jack Brierley and Sonny Knowles sing tunes at the launch of the Cork City Jazz Band and guests CD called "Actons Live", at the Guinness House. Pic: Gavin Browne

The song came 10th in the competition, and Mr Brierley said it remained his favourite song to perform.

Speaking to The Echo, Maxi said she was deeply saddened to hear of her friend’s passing.

“That smile is still my memory after all those years, and I have beautiful memories of a multi-talented musician and an absolute gentleman at all times,” the singer and broadcaster said.

“I just remember the beauty of the man, he absolutely loved what he did, and he loved Cork, and he loved music, and he loved his family.” Maxi, who was born Irene McCoubrey, said Mr Brierley, to her, was “the epitome of greatness”, and she said that although saddened to hear of his passing, she was heartened at his long life, and she would always carry fond memories of him.

“It’s a lovely legacy when you smile just to hear someone’s name,” she said.

Evander Brennan, hotel manager in the Hayfield Manor, said staff and guests at the five-star hotel had been saddened to hear of Mr Brierley’s passing.

“Jack’s music entertained our guests for afternoon tea for years, and many of them knew him personally, and he will be dearly missed,” Mr Brennan said.

“He was a lovely man, he knew all the staff, and we all loved him. Our deepest sympathies are with Jack’s family at this time.” Kinsale pianist Billy Crosbie said Cork had lost a legend, and a gentleman.

“Jack was an old style piano player, and we won’t see his like again,” Mr Crosbie said.

Musician and composer Jack Brierley, second right, is presented with the Music Industry Companion Award by Stephen Travers of the Miami Showband and his wife Frances receives a bouquet of flowers from Tuxedo Junction band member Kirsty Tobin, at a special function in the Clayton Hotel, Silver Springs. Picture: David Keane.
Musician and composer Jack Brierley, second right, is presented with the Music Industry Companion Award by Stephen Travers of the Miami Showband and his wife Frances receives a bouquet of flowers from Tuxedo Junction band member Kirsty Tobin, at a special function in the Clayton Hotel, Silver Springs. Picture: David Keane.

“He was one of the best piano players ever produced in Cork, without doubt. He had a phenomenal musical ear, and he could play anything.” Mr Crosbie said he would greatly miss Mr Brierley, whom he described as “a true friend and a lovely man”.

Showband veteran Joe Mac described Mr Brierley as “one of a kind” and said he had been a huge fan.

“He could play anything, he could back anyone, he knew the chords of any song anyone wanted to sing, he was a great jazz man,” he said.

“He was a natural born musician, classical, jazz, pop, anything at all, and he was a thorough gentleman.” Mr Brierley is survived by his wife Frances and their children Frankie, Karen, Lilian, Brenda, Marion, and Emer, grandchildren and great-grandson, and predeceased by his late daughter Jackie.

Reposing at Forde’s Funeral Home Old Waterpark, Carrigaline on Monday 9 January from 5pm to 6pm. Requiem Mass on Tuesday 10 January at 12.15pm in the Church of Our Lady and St. John, Carrigaline. Funeral afterwards to The Island Crematorium, Ringaskiddy.

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