Relatives and friends of the late Irish dancing champion, Ron Plummer, have paid tribute describing him as “one of Derry’s true gentleman” following his passing in Toronto.
Born Henry Robert Plummer, Ron was renowned across Ireland and beyond as one of the greatest Irish dancers ever to emerge from these shores.
As a boy in the 1950s, the Derry native performed with the ‘Little Gaelic Singers,’ touring across the U.S. and even performing at the Carnegie Hall in New York.
While part of the tour Ron, who grew up in Bishop Street, met a string of global celebrities including Elvis Presley and Bing Crosby.
Having won the All-Ireland title - at the time the biggest Irish dancing accolade in the world - Ron emigrated to Canada and opened his own dance studio in Toronto and would go on to take a string of other awards, including the North American championships.
He had lived in Toronto for the past 50 years.
His son, Ciaran, has also followed in his father’s footsteps and achieved acclaim as a member of the famous Taptronic group and has featured in Michael Flatley’s ‘Lord of the Dance.’
Friends and family say Ron returned to Derry frequently for Féis Dhoíre Cholmcílle and never forgot his roots.
Local woman, Sandra Cairns, a relative of Ron Plummer, said the family was deeply saddened at his passing, adding that they were all extremely proud of the legacy Ron has left behind.
Mrs Cairns said: “Ron was such a gentleman. He just came across as a very loving person. He cared about everybody. He came back to Derry to do the Feis and he was here on holidays in 2012 and stayed with us for 10 days. His sisters also came home and stayed too. They are all such lovely people and they all loved coming back to Derry.
“He was famous in Derry in his youth. Everyone knew about him and a lot of the older Irish dancers would know him. He was very, very talented. Everybody said he was a gentleman. He was such a placid man and he never forgot his heritage, where he was from.
“He was very charismatic and calming to be around, very quiet and never took his fame seriously. He would go out of his way to help people. He started my daughter and granddaughter in Irish dancing. My granddaughter is still competing, all because of him.”
Sandra said the last time Ron was home, he had taken a great interest in local archeology and always made sure to visit with all his relatives here.
“Every Christmas he sent Christmas cards. He was a good family man and a gentleman.
“He opened the dance studio after he arrived in Toronto and that became famous. His son Ciaran is famous too for dancing and Ron taught him to dance. We are really proud of Ciaran as well. “
Derry sisters Ursula and Angela O’Doherty, life long friends and dancing colleagues of Ron’s, have also expressed condolences to his family on his passing.
Ursula, also a former member of the ‘Little Gaelic Singers,’ said: “He would ring me once a month from Canada. He never lost touch. He was a very private man and he died the same way he lived, with dignity. It is very, very sad
“He was a legend He was very, very famous in Derry and a brilliant dancer.
“In his youth he would have done three month stints in America. They played the Carnegie Hall and on one of the tours, he met Elvis Presley, Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby.
“As a boy he lived locally in Bishop Street and then later they moved to Eastway Road. Then he emigrated. He was one of Derry’s true gentlemen and he was very big in the Feis.
“He, and his senior dance partner, Pat Henderson-Bond, they were Irish dancing champions and when she moved on my sister, Angela O’Doherty, was his dance partner and they were All-Ireland champions.”
During a visit to Derry in 2012, Ron recalled how he had started his Irish dancing career with well-known Derry teacher, Brendan De Glin.
He said at the time that he had so many fond memories of Derry adding: “It’s lovely to see how the city has grown and changed for the better in recent years,” he noted.
Ron, father of Damien, Ciaran and Sinead; brother of Chrissie, Eamon, Pauline, Liz and the late Seamus and Gerry, passed away on October 10 and was due to be laid to rest yesterday in Toronto.