Thomas Joseph Clancy, a member of the Irish folk group the Clancy Brothers, dies in Cork, County Cork, on November 7, 1990. He has the most powerful voice of the brothers and has previously been an actor in numerous stage productions, appearing with Orson Welles in King Lear. He also performs often on television and occasionally in the movies.
Clancy is born on October 29, 1924, one of eleven children born to Johanna McGrath and Bob Clancy in Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary. After being apprenticed as a baker, he follows his older brother Patrick “Paddy” Clancy into the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1943 during World War II, despite both having been members of the Irish Republican Army. In the RAF, he works as a radio operator on bombing runs over Germany.
Discharged from the RAF at the end of the war, Clancy tours with a British repertory company. In 1947 he and his brother Paddy emigrate to Canada. They then move to New York where he meets his first wife and his oldest daughter is born in 1950. They then soon move to Cleveland, Ohio, to live with relatives. He works for a while as a repertory actor at the Cleveland Play House, before returning temporarily to Ireland. While in Ireland, Clancy works for the Shakespeareana Internationale company run by English actor and manager Geoffrey Kendal. After Paddy sends him extra money, he returns to the United States. The brothers plan to move to California, but their car breaks down. They decide to try New York City instead and find work as actors, both on and off Broadway.
In 1956 their brother Liam Clancy joins them, accompanied by his friend Tommy Makem. Liam and Tommy begin singing together, and in 1959 are joined by the older Clancy brothers as The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. The group performs together until Liam leaves in 1976. Makem had left in 1969 to be replaced for a brief time by Bobby Clancy and later Louis Killen.
Clancy continues singing with The Clancy Brothers until 1976, when the group is disbanded. The group reforms in 1977 with a new line-up. Clancy performs with his brothers Paddy and Bobby and their nephew Robbie O’Connell until his death. He also performs with Paddy, Liam, and Tommy Makem during their reunion tour from 1984 to 1985.
Clancy takes the lead vocals on many of the group’s songs, such as “The Rising of the Moon,” “The Moonshiner,” “Haul Away Joe,” “Red Haired Mary,” “The Barnyards of Delgaty,” “Carrickfergus,” “I Once Loved a Lass,” “The Bold Fenian Men,” among others.
Clancy continues to act during his singing career, appearing in the movies The Killer Elite (1975) and Swashbuckler (1976). He also appears on episodes of Little House on the Prairie, Starsky and Hutch, and The Incredible Hulk, among others. He acts in several TV movies as well.
After an absence of fifteen years, Clancy returns to Broadway in May 1974 in Eugene O’Neill‘s A Moon for the Misbegotten. The Irish Times reviews his performance of Phil Hogan: “In ‘Moon’ he deftly measures up to the formidable company in which he finds himself – a wily, sly rogue with a whimsical humour and a genuine concern for his daughter.” The play is a hit and wins three Tony Awards.
Clancy dies from stomach cancer at the age of 66 on November 7, 1990 at Mercy University Hospital in Cork, County Cork. He is survived by his wife Joan and their three daughters, Rayleen, Blawneen and Rosie. Prior to his marriage to Joan, he has children, Eileen and Thomas, with Yvonne Marcus, in Cleveland, Ohio. He also has a daughter, Cait, with his second wife Laine, in the mid-1950s.
Clancy’s last recording is made in 1988 with Robbie O’Connell, Bobby Clancy, and Paddy Clancy at Saint Anselm College in Goffstown, New Hampshire. Unfortunately, the recording is marred by unevenly mixed instruments and voices. After his death, Liam returns to the Clancy Brothers to fill in his place.