Kennedy, Frank (‘Frankie’) (1955–94), flute player, was born 30 September 1955 into the family of three girls and two boys of Bill and Agnes Kennedy, of Andersonstown, Belfast. He became interested in traditional music when he was around eighteen and was influenced initially by groups such as Horslips, Planxty, and the Chieftains.
While on a trip to the Donegal Gaeltacht Kennedy met the fiddle player Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, who introduced him to the Donegal music style and to her native Gaoth Dobhair: they married in 1981. With Mairéad, he taught in St Oliver Plunkett's primary school in Grove Road, Malahide, Co. Dublin. The couple were deeply committed to the Tradition Club in Slattery's pub in Dublin in the 1980s and played all over Ireland and in Brittany. In 1983 they recorded Ceol aduaidh on the Gael Linn label and in 1987 recorded their first album with the American Green Linnet label; this was entitled Altan. They had played with Ceoltóirí Altann, a group founded by Mairéad's father, Proinsias, and subsequently they named their own group Altan. Its line-up changed at various stages, but included Ciaran Curran, Daithi Sproule, and Ciaran Tourish, among others. The group released four albums with Green Linnet (1989–93) to international acclaim and success. Kennedy can also be heard on a compilation album, Flight of the green linnet (1988), and on Clannad's 1993 album Banba. His philosophy seems to be well captured in the comment: ‘we take the music seriously, but we take ourselves very light-heartedly’ (Folk roots, nos. 128/129, 39).
Kennedy was diagnosed with cancer in 1991 and died 19 September 1994 at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, having continued to play with the group during his treatment. He was buried in Na Doirí Beaga in Co. Donegal. Altan has carried on recording, and the annual Frankie Kennedy Winter School/Scoil Gheimhridh, in celebration of his life and music, was established in Gaoth Dobhair in 1994.
More information on this entry is available at the National Database of Irish-language biographies (Ainm.ie).