Connor O’Callaghan is being remembered as a child prodigy of the violin and a young man who had the potential to become a strong political and social force.
O’Callaghan drowned in a small lake in Nova Scotia on Sunday, July 8. Police say he had been on a flotation device with a woman and was not wearing a life-jacket when he fell in the water.
He was 28.
Born in Toronto, he grew up in the village of Mount Stewart, P.E.I.
He studied violin and fiddle under the tutelage of many renowned Maritime musicians, including the late Buddy MacMaster.
In 2000, O’Callaghan won the CBC/Guardian Great Island Kids award in the personal best category for his devotion to the violin and the charitable work he had accomplished by the age of 10.
He performed with the colourful late Island entertainer Urban Carmichael for several years in Celtic reviews based in Orwell Cove.
“He was eager and happy and diligent about the fiddle,’’ said Carmichael’s sister, musician Margie Carmichael.
“He was a great kid — a great boy. He loved playing.’’
O’Callaghan, the great-grandson of internationally famous Irish musician and band leader Tim Maurice O’Callaghan, was among the youngest performers ever to play the ECMAs and the Stan Rogers Festival in Canso, N.S.
He performed on radio and television with many great Canadian musicians.
Carmichael says she feels deeply sorry for O’Callaghan’s mother, Suzanne.
“It’s the worst loss a person can have,’’ she said.
After graduating with honours from Morell Regional High School in 2008, O’Callaghan went on to graduate from Dalhousie University in Halifax then completed his master’s degree in social and political thought at York University and had been working toward the completion of his PhD.
He was described as a man looking to forge global intellectual friendships.
“He was coming from little P.E.I. and I think he was going to change the world,’’ says Carmichael. “The world sorely needs people like him.’’
A GoFundMe page set up for the family had raised about $14,000 as of mid-afternoon Monday.
Christa Flynn wrote on the page she is aiming to raise money for family of “an extraordinary young man’’ who had “so much ahead of him.’’
She noted O’Callaghan had travelled from his home in Toronto to surprise his mother, an artist who moved to P.E.I. in 1992 and began painting for a living while actively promoting and supporting women’s causes.
Sadly, the visit ended in tragedy with the young man’s drowning in Chocolate Lake.
“Please let’s help Suzanne with some of the difficult finances she has to face,’’ wrote Flynn.
Donations can be made at ca.gofundme.com/Chocolate-Lake-Drowninv.
A celebration of O’Callaghan’s life will be held on Saturday, July 21 at 10 a.m. at St. Theresa’s Roman Catholic Church, 6351 North St. in Halifax.