national Arts Festival Banner

Wednesday, January 10, 2024



(Above: Paul McIlroy (right) with his brother Damian McIlroy (centre) and Tony Fisher - The Blarney Brothers)


Tribute by Billy Suter……Courtesy of sosuterbill)

Tributes poured in last month after it was announced that Paul McIlroy, who headed the legendary South African-based Irish trio, The Blarney Brothers, had died at his home in Glenwood, Durban. 

McIlroy, who was 79, passed away around lunch time on December 16 after having been diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer a few months ago. He is survived by his wife Maggie, son Sean and daughter Susan, the latter of whom posted a moving message of Paul’s passing on her Facebook page. 

Together with his brother Damian McIlroy (father of Durban comic Aaron McIlroy) and friend Tony Fisher, Paul McIlroy formed The Blarney Brothers in the early 1970s, after all three Irish-born performers had settled in South Africa. 

The singer-musicians offered a popular blend of Irish ballads and jigs, singalong songs, pub favourites, hit tunes and novelty numbers. They became enormously successful over nearly five decades, time in which they toured both nationally and internationally. 

Writing on Facebook, musician Don Clarke wrote: “I recorded most of The Blarney Brothers’ albums in my studio in Westville in the ’80s. And what characters they were, especially Paul. He had us in stitches a lot of the time. I have so many stories about him.”

He added:” Fly well, old son! You and your team brought so much happiness and fun to this county.” 

Comedian Joe Parker said: “Truly saddened to hear this news. Sending peace and love to his family and loved ones", while actress Lisa Bobbert, wife of Aaron McIlroy, told me: "Paul was such a character. I will miss him."

The Blarney Brothers' first engagement was a six-month contract from August 1974, performing six nights a week at Durban’s Astra Hotel in Russell Street. The band then played at the Pool Bar at the Lonsdale Hotel, then the Killarney Hotel, before performing on a cruise ship to Cape Town in 1976.

Later, The Blarney Brothers landed a years-long deal with Southern Suns to join the hotel group’s national entertainment circuit. Who can forget their many successful stints at Durban’s Father’s Moustache, at the Malibu Hotel?

Paul McIlroy is on record as having once said: “We came in for a lot of publicity when we were invited to perform on the same bill as Pat Boone and his daughter, Debbie Boone, during their South African tour. This was in 1977, the year Debbie Boone hit the big time globally with You Light Up My Life”.

It wasn’t long after this that The Blarney Brothers made Durban their base and appeared regularly at The Barn at the Athlone Hotel, now the Riverside Hotel.

A highlight of the band’s career was a seven-part TV series, You Don’t Have To Be Irish, which was shot over a month in Ireland and shown on SABC3 in 1986. Other highlights included tours to the UK, the Far East, Taiwan, Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Australia.

For more information visit sosuterbill -