The uileann piper was probably best known as a member of Na Filí, along with fiddler Matt Cranitch and whistle player Tom Barry, who brought Irish traditional music to an international audience in the 1970s. The Derry native was an engineering lecturer and in the early 1970s moved to work at University College Cork, where he also studied for a music degree with Seán Ó Riada as one of his teachers.
Tomás Ó Canainn had many works published, including books on Irish traditional music, poetry in English and Irish, a biography on Ó Riada, and an autobiography, A Lifetime of Notes. He was a music critic for the Cork Examiner for many years and worked as dean of the engineering faculty of UCC.
He lived in Glanmire, Co Cork, and was survived by wife Helen and daughters Nuala, Úna, and Niamh.