Memories Through Music: A Tribute to Claire

Posted: 14/05/2013 in Uncategorized

 ClaireBlogHeader.jpgOn Wednesday 1st May 2013 – the first day of summer – the brightest ray of sunshine I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing passed away peacefully following an arduous 40 month battle with cancer. We had known that the day would inevitably come – but nothing can properly prepare you for it. I am heartbroken beyond repair.

My beloved cousin and dear friend Claire would’ve celebrated her 34th birthday on this day, Tuesday 14th May. A lifetime far too brief, but one which left its indelible mark on countless others.

Claire’s story was documented beautifully by The Mayo News last week with a stunning tribute to her wonderful life, and an evocative account of the funeral that she herself had had such an integral role in planning which brought the town of Westport to a standstill. To read it is to get to know her; and to understand the extremity of the loss.

In the weeks subsequent to the March day when Claire found out that her illness was terminal, all I wanted to do was chat to her and spend quality time with her, and I feel so grateful to have been able to do so. She and her amazing husband Mark talked openly about her fate with a level of acceptance and valiance that was devastatingly admirable. Dotted around their home were cards from family & friends who had begun putting their feelings and farewells into words. I wanted to write one to her myself, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do so. The sense of finality was just too much for me.

I decided that instead I would make her a CD of ‘Claire’s Greatest Hits’ – five carefully chosen songs that held special sentiment throughout our friendship – as a positive trip down memory lane. I had Tuesday 30th April booked off work to drive to Westport at the crack o’ dawn for a few hours of “cuzzy chats & cuddles”, as Claire had requested by text… Little did I know that as we finalised that plan it would be the last message I would ever receive from her, and the day we had earmarked would be her penultimate one in life – Claire’s condition began to worsen at a rapid pace, and all too soon the end was nigh.

I was just past Longford on the road West when I got ‘the call’. Claire had passed away peacefully and pain-free, in her own bed and surrounded by family and friends, just as she’d wanted it to be. I cried more than I have ever thought was possible that day. Yet there was enormous comfort to be found in simply being in Westport – her beautiful homestead, and the town I love so well. The next morning, without knowing what else to do, I drove out to Old Head – a fabulous beach near Louisburgh where Claire & I had enjoyed long walks with her dog Sammy – and I sat on the sand listening to those five special songs I’d chosen for her but didn’t get to give her. Over and over again.


• Old Head beach in Louisburgh, Co. Mayo •

It really is astounding the comfort that music can provide in times of despair; how a song can vividly transport you right back to a moment in fond memory. These songs proved therapeutic for me in the immediate aftermath of coming to terms with this devastating loss, and now I can think of no better way to pay tribute to Claire than by sharing these happy memories. In life she was my beloved cousin and dear friend, and in death she is my heroine.

May she rest in beautiful peace.


Sharon Shannon – ‘Blackbird’

In the summer of 2008 I moved to Boston for a few months, where Claire was living on a career break from teaching. We developed an unbreakable bond that summer, and the craic was relentless. She looked out for me no end from day one, and secured me a job in the bar she worked in – The Burren, in Somerville. One of the shifts we worked together was on Saturday mornings – usually a quiet one, laden with chats over iced-coffees and games of Scrabble (she always won). But those mornings always started the same way, with ‘The Blackbird’ blaring over the bar’s speakers whilst setting up to open. Majestic.


Neil Young – ‘Out On The Weekend’

Weekends spent in Westport with Claire in good health were incomparable. She never hesitated to welcome a crowd into her home. A talented cook, she frequently dazzled with her delectable dishes. I always offered to help her but she politely declined – my reputation in the kitchen ain’t the best, to be fair –  all she requested was that I soundtrack the proceedings. No matter how many times I flicked through the iPod I would always settle on Neil Young’s ‘Harvest’ album to begin with – an album we both passionately love, with an opening track that became synonymous with enjoying a pre-dinner beer as the sun set over Clew Bay of a Friday evening.


The Dixie Chicks – ‘Landslide’

‘Twas often that we sat around Claire’s living room, but TV was never part of it. Conversation and music were key (and copious amounts of wine!) and it ALWAYS ended up in the very wee hours. Claire had a great love for country music, and one night she played me this Dixie Chicks version of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Landslide’ and it blew my mind. Normally I’d scoff at the mere notion of ANYONE covering Fleetwood Mac – but I’ve loved this since that first listen. Of course the song’s emotive lyrics take on a whole new meaning now – but that just makes me love it even more.


Damien Dempsey – ‘Your Pretty Smile’

Claire had a fascination with Damien Dempsey long before I ever realised his mighty talent, and she used to try to convert me… I was having NONE of it, much to her dismay. She had an impeccable skill in imitating his distinctive accent – and on a weekend away in Kilkenny in 2008, she played me this song upon our return from the pub, and sang along verbatim as the two of us absolutely fell around the place laughing. It just kinda became ‘our’ song after that – and the classic line of “Darlin’, don’t you ever stop with that smilin’…” resonates now more than ever.


The Traveling Wilburys – ‘Handle With Care’

Claire’s mother, my aunty Ger, passed away in September ’08 after a long battle with cancer. With her impossibly charismatic presence and larger-than-life personality, Ger was the life & soul of every party – a true character, with a heart of gold. She loved her music and her tastes certainly rubbed off on her family… In August 2010 I celebrated my birthday in Westport, and Cousin Niamh invited myself & my friends to her house for a BBQ. She and her partner Tom pulled out all the stops with a veritable feast of treats, and Claire baked me a cake. It was the best birthday I have ever had. As the beers flowed and darkness fell we lit a fire and broke out the guitars under the stars. I played this song – a Buckley family favourite – and myself, Niamh and Claire sang it at the tops of our voices. “Jaysus, I could feel my mother coming out of me for that one Elaine!” said Niamh and Claire afterwards… and now, I’ll always imagine both Claire & Ger are havin’ a dance wherever they are when I listen to this one!



  1. Elly says:

    An incredibly touching article- brought a tear to my eye.

  2. liz says:

    Everyone needs a friend like Elaine Buckley. RIP Claire

  3. Gay McCourt says:

    Dear Elaine,

    What a wonderful beautiful tribute to Claire. It made me wish I had known her. My heart was aching for you as I read it, all I can hope for you is that all those wonderful memories will sustain you in the days to come.


  4. Helena says:

    Absolutely beautiful and beautifully written.

  5. Niamh Ledsham says:

    Hi Elaine

    I am so lucky to have known Claire, your tribute to her is not only perfect but so beautiful.

    Niamh x

  6. Orla says:

    We are all do fortunate that we met such a wonderful and beautiful lady .

  7. Deirdre Nevin says:

    Elaine, your tribute is stunning, so fitting for beautiful Claire. I’m sure Claire is enjoying the ‘Greatest Hits’ from her new home in heaven. May her gentle soul rest in peace xx

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