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Maggie Boyle 1956 – 2014

We were saddened to hear that, after her long battle with cancer, Maggie Boyle passed away on 6 November at the age of 57. Maggie was well known and well loved throughout the folk scene, known best for her work with her former husband, Steve Tilston, her singing trio, Grace Notes, and her recent duo work with Paul Downes, though she also worked and recorded with artists as diverse as John Renbourn, Bert Jansch, John Conolly, Les Barker, Damien Barber and Peter Bellamy, and even added her name to a couple of film soundtracks (Patriot Games and Legends Of The Fall).

Maggie was born in Battersea, London into the very strong ‘London-Irish’ musical community, her father being a fiddle player from Co Donegal and the source of much of Maggie’s early music. She got involved in the Comhaltas movement as well as the more informal music scene and soon established herself as a flute, whistle and bodhrán player and a singer of note. She married Steve Tilston in 1984 and throughout the 80s performed in a duo with him, recording some very well received albums.

Collaborating with others appeared to be something she was very much at ease with, but Maggie also released three solo albums - 1987’s Reaching Out, Gweebarra in 1998, and finally Won’t You Come Away in 2012. She recently featured in Mick Ryan’s excellent A Day’s Work, both on the CD and in the live performances this summer. And there were plans afoot for another outing of the Magical Christmas Tree Tour which featured Maggie alongside Pete Morton and Chris Parkinson.

Her recent Kitchen Songs project saw her adding another strand to her diverse and successful career. An online project that became an on air radio project, it saw Maggie visit songwriters in their own homes and interview them in their kitchens – the place where, often, much music is made. For this project she interviewed people like Pete Coe, Ralph McTell and Jez Lowe and brought her genuine, warm personality to the table. These interviews are still available on her website.

But for all the wonderful music she made, it is as a wonderful person that she will be remembered – the tributes being paid by those who knew her showing just how much she was admired and loved in the musical community.

In her obituary, Fay Hield expresses this well: “Revered for her ability to enchant a room with her ethereal voice, this captivating quality penetrated her very being; Maggie had a pure soul which brought joy and peace to others wherever she went. She was dedicated to her wider family and had a profound impact on many more. After touring the country constantly for the past three decades, Maggie is well known to many throughout the folk scene. Those who met her, even briefly, were greeted with an open warmth and generosity of spirit they haven’t forgotten. Maggie leaves behind an exceptional presence; her absence is felt most keenly by her devoted partner, Bill, two children, Molly and Joe, and beloved granddaughter, Betty Sue.”

The deep respect that exists for Maggie was evident to Bill and the family and Bill says on her website: “I would like you to know that in spirit you were with her. We are immeasurably grateful for the astounding love, care, kindness and generosity shown to Maggie over the past year by countless people in her extended family of the folk community and beyond. This was a mighty gift to her that I know moved her heart deeply.”

She will be sadly missed.