Celebrated Irish musician Paul Brady awarded UCD Ulysses Medal

One of Ireland’s most celebrated and beloved musicians Paul Brady has received the UCD Ulysses Medal, the highest honour UCD can bestow.

Pictured from left is Paul Brady with UCD Ulysses Medal and Associate Professor PJ Mathews, UCD School of English, Drama and Film and Director of the Creative Futures Academy. Photo Chris Bellew / Fennell Photography

On 18 March, Paul Brady was due to be awarded his Ulysses Medal but could not attend. On that day, celebrating some of the stellar talents in Irish music and in recognition of their outstanding contribution to arts and culture, the University awarded honorary doctorates to Mary Bergin, Mary Black, Finbar Furey, Paddy Glackin, Andy Irvine, Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill and Mary O’Hara.

In recognition of Paul’s immense contribution and leadership in the performing and recording arts, the Tyrone native was awarded honour during September’s conferrings.

“His distinguished career has been characterised by an unrivalled ability to rediscover and reimagine great songs from the storehouse of tradition and to place them at the epicentre of Irish cultural life once more,” said Associate Professor PJ MathewUCD School of English, Drama and Film, delivering his citation.

“Paul’s gift as a maker of melodies is matched by his flair as a lyricist. His well-crafted words have engaged, consoled, excited, and inspired us for decades. If anything characterises his music, it is a relentless drive to follow his own creative instincts and break through the often-rigid demarcations and expectations of the Irish musical landscape.”

Adding: “As a distinguished UCD Creative Fellow [Paul] gives generously of his time to contribute to Creative Futures Academy programmes in the creative and performing arts and is immensely generous in sharing his experience and insights with our students in masterclasses and seminars.”

In his response, Paul said: “I came into this musical world in the mid-60s (when I was supposed to be at lectures!) having been involved with many other musical genres previously. I learned from the best, gave of myself, eventually moving into the world of contemporary song writing, but always staying close to the wellspring of our own folk music. I remain astonished at the wealth of Irish music of all genres that exists in this country. OK! We are indeed a wonderfully musical little country!

“I’d like to congratulate all you new graduates today. You’ve worked so hard and so deserve to be here. I’m a little envious too as, having spent three years as a UCD student in the mid-60s, I left these august halls in disgrace, having sabotaged my finals and refused to repeat. It just didn’t suit me at that time of my life, I’m afraid.

“But life is strange. Here I am holding the highest honour this great university can bestow. Given my academic record it’s hard to believe. But there are many different ways to leave a mark on this world and I am very touched and grateful for this acknowledgement.”

The UCD Ulysses Medal was inaugurated in 2005, as part of the university’s sesquicentennial celebrations, to highlight the ‘creative brilliance’ of UCD alumnus James Joyce.

Previous recipients of the UCD Ulysses Medal include former US President Bill Clinton, Professor Noam Chomsky, novelist Frank McGuinness, Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney, and former Irish President Mary McAleese.

“As a musician spanning genres from folk and traditional music to rock and pop, and a songwriter of national and international distinction, he has played an exceptional role as a performing and recording artist for over five decades. Paul’s place as one of Ireland’s most celebrated and beloved musicians is without question. His distinguished career has been characterised by an unrivalled ability to rediscover and reimagine great songs from the storehouse of tradition and to place them at the epicentre of Irish cultural life once more. Moreover, he has excelled in having many of his own original compositions earn their place within the ‘Great Irish Songbook’, and within the hearts of generations of fans in Ireland and across the world. Paul’s work has been internationally recognised and acclaimed for many decades. He is highly regarded and emulated by international recording artists of the calibre of Bob Dylan, Tina Turner, Mark Knopfler, Carole King, and Bonnie Raitt, many of whom have covered his original songs.”

-Citation by Dr. PJ Matthews