The death has taken place in England of Tony ‘Tubby’ Reynolds, the leader of the famed Morris Dancers troupe who performed frequently at the former Letterkenny International Folk Festivals.
The popular entertainer indeed could have been said to be the originator of the event having arrived in Letterkenny one day in 1968 with five fellow Morris dancers and put in a request with the then Donegal Tourist Officer, Tom Broderick, to sing, dance and entertain on the streets of the town.
The group received permission from the Gardai and proved so popular that the Tourist Officer subsequently approached the then Urban Council with a view to initiating a festival attracting similar dancing troupes.
Thus was the birth of the Letterkenny International Folk Festival which drew thousands to the town every year, including Tubby Reynolds and his band of Morris dancers. He was subsequently appointed Honorary President of the festival and was also asked to perform the official opening on one occasion.
In article in the 1995 Letterkenny Christmas Annual, highlighting the history of the festival which ran from 1969 to 1994, former committee member, Deace Mackey recalled a number of the festival founder members, including Barney Doherty, Breda Winston, Joe Patterson and Patsy Ward, travelling to the Reynolds family home in Somerset where plans were set in place to get the first Letterkenny Festival off the ground.
In subsequent years, the Reynolds Family Trophy was presented to the best exponent of Irish traditional music, song and dance at the festival with the trophy presented to the winner by Mr. Reynolds. “An Englishman, Tubby did this so as to ensure that Ireland’s own folk culture would not be overlooked during the festival,” Deace Mackey related.
On the website announcing Mr. Reynolds’ recent death - he passed away peacefully while working on his beloved allotment - one forum contributor declared: “Sad news indeed. Tubby was a legend in Letterkenny, Donegal where he somehow persuaded the bishop to allow all the kids there an extra half day off school to attend the festival which had just started. I remember a local telling me that, at the first festival, nothing much seemed to be happening until Tubby and his team arrived. Then things took off.”
Richard and Sally Hardaker of the Carlisle Rapper & Sword Team and Throstles Nest morris team, recalled meeting Tubby Reynolds at the Letterkenny Festival in 1979.
Described as the ‘Godfather’ of Morris, he inspired many to take up folk dancing.
He was predeceased by his wife, Betty, in February 2010. A son also predeceased him in a traffic accident in South Africa.