THE death of the last founder member of The Dubliners, Barney McKenna, affectionately known as Banjo Barney, brought a natural end to the veteran folk group, one of Ireland’s most famous exports.

It marked the conclusion of a remarkable musical era and Sean Cannon, along with fans of Irish folk across the world felt the loss deeply, coming so soon after the ensemble had celebrated 50 glorious years together with a Lifetime Achievement prize at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and a sell-out tour.

“I’d known Barney since the 1960s and he was a great friend, and we all miss him hugely,” said singer Sean, who became a full-time member of the Dubliners 30 years ago.

“He would tell great stories and anecdotes and he was an incredible player.

“I was going to say musician but I’m not sure what musician means, whether it’s someone who can read music or compose pieces or someone who could play a banjo like Barney.

“He couldn’t read music, he didn’t have that kind of training. He was a natural — a wonderful man who was at the heart of the Dubs’ sound.”

Barney’s passing, in April 2012, forced the remaining members of the Dubliners to reassess their lives and come to a decision on their future together.

“The morning after the funeral John Sheahan asked us collectively and individually what we were going to do,” recalled Sean.

“We saw out all our commitments and on New Year’s Eve we played our last concert in Vicars Street in Dublin, 50 years after The Dubliners formed in the snug of O’Donoghue’s pub in the city.

“John had decided he’d bow out. He’d done 48 years with the band and that was it.

“But the rest of us thought we might take it a bit further because we weren’t ready to quit.

“Now the Dubliners is a kind of protected name so that’s why we are called the Dublin Legends.”

Sean, who has lived for many years in Coventry, hopes The Dubliners’ loyal fans will continue to support the band when they roll out those famous Irish anthems again, from Whisky in The Jar and Dirty Old Town to Molly Malone and the Irish Rover on their latest tour.

“There’s still the same manic energy about our music and our loyal following is in the nature of the music,” he said. “Mostly we play a repertoire of upbeat, happier tunes, the jigs, the reels, the hornpipes and lively drinking songs.

“There was a set format with the Dubliners which was a tried and tested formula that worked well, so why interfere with it.

“It’s what appeals to people. It’s quite remarkable really.”

Sean, who also has a keen interest in cooking and classical opera, adds: “I’m 74 now but I still love life.

“I have a great passion for languages and I’m learning Latin.

“I write Latin and if I sign an autograph I often put ‘carmina non morietur’, which means songs do not die.”

The Dublin Legends, Preston Charter Theatre, February 25. Details from 0844 844 7710.