in County Mayo in the West
i gContae Mhaigh Eo in Iarthar na
3rd May - 6th May 2013
3 Bealtaine - 6 Bealtaine 2013
History of Music in
The Louisburgh area has a rich heritage in the
The following short extract from Annals of the Irish
Harpers 1911 proves that music, song and dance were all part
of the fabric of life in the locality at the start of the
From a chapter entitled "Diary
and Letters of Patrick Lynch"
Monday 21st June 1802
I went to Lewisburgh (sic) ten miles south
west of Westport to a Mr Ward the Parish Priest. I
proceeded to Lewisburgh and slept in a public house, Hugh
O'Donnell's cost 1s/7d.
I went three miles further on to Duach McKeon
in quest of an Owen O'Maily, a schoolmaster. In the
evening the schoolmaster brought me to a farmers house,
Patrick Gibbons, where I stayed at night and got two
songs but I lost my knife".
Thursday, Midsummer day
I came back to Lewisburgh, inquired for Mass,
was told it was to be said a mile and a half south
towards the mountains. (the Priest, Fr. Ward) had Mass in
a gentleman's house, a Mr. Garvay's. This gentleman kept
me for breakfast, it was one o'clock. I heard of a blind
piper, a Billy O'Mailly, who had the greatest variety of
Irish songs. I came to him, he had a house full of young
people dancing. .. I returned to O'Donnell's, got some
dinner, had some beer with Tom Byrne, a weaver, a quack
and a farrier.
Paid my bill, 2/2, and went to the house
where I had seen blind Billy yesterday, sent for him,
gave him a shilling and grog, took down six good songs,
cost me 2s 8d1/2, my money is near gone. I came to
(reproduced from "Louisburgh a History" by
(note: the knife was carried for the purpose of mending his
In "Wild Sports of the West of
Ireland", published in 1832, William Hamilton Maxwell
"The piper is merrily at work , for some of
the peasant girls have come to visit us, attracted by the
joyful news that a pieberagh (piper) was included in our
suite. .. The fondness of these mountain maidens for
dancing is incredible; .. whenever a travelling musician
passes through these wilds, they assemble from prodigious
distances, and dance for days and nights together".
The "maidens" of Louisburgh were lucky not to have had to
depend on visiting musicians.
According to James Berry in his "Tales of Old Ireland"
there were frequent social gatherings (in this area) up to
the year of the great famine (1846) and he added, with no
" the pipes in these days were as plentiful
as blackberries in Autumn".
He himself remembered the last social gathering held on
St. Patrick's Day before the Famine.
"The piper a young man sat on a chair in the
open air, playing haste to the wedding" .
This was Martin Moran an imposing man of 6'4"
though he was blind, the son of a local farmer. .
"considered to be the best player in
Connaught in his day. It was a wonderful and glorious
sight to see him seated and playing, sometimes sweeping
the keys of his pipes with great long fingers. Martin
became a great favourite of John McHale - the Lion of
Tuam - who presented him with a set of pipes which cost
35 pounds and in presenting them the Archbishop
christened Martin 'the last of the Minstrels".
A generation later and into the 20th century another
blind piper - Martin Reilly (of Falduff, approx 2
miles east of Louisburgh), was a familiar sight as he
"busked" at Old Head and played at local gatherings. Reputed
to be a top class musician, Martin appears to have been the
last of the pipers in the area. With the passing of the
pipes, the fiddle and the accordion became the popular
instruments and Dominick O'Toole, Falduff and Jim
Needham, Culleen were two of the many noteworthy
exponents in the early to mid 20th century.
In the early 19th century Seán Mac Conmara
of Tallabaun was a well-known gaelic poet. His compositions
Ruairí Ó Catháin and Neileach and
Neileach Mhór were recorded in "Amhráin
Chlainne Gael" and, perhaps his best known poem/song,
Antoine Mac Conmara was published in "An Stoc" 1918 - 1919.
Many other sean-nós songs (authors unknown) are
proper to this locality.
In the 1940 & 50s the parish could boast of its own
céilí and marching bands. The
Céilí Band was from Cregganbawn and among its
members were Pat & Anthony Kilcoyne and Mike
O'Grady (Cregganbawn), Petie Corrigan
(Altóir), Pat bán Kilcoyne
(Cregganawoddy) and Pat Kilcoyne (Cregganagopple).
The Culleen Fife and Drum band had among its members,
William McDonnell, Ownie Hynes, Tommy &
Eddie Joyce, John (Ted) Gibbons, Michael
Moran, Thomas O'Grady, Eddie Kitterick,
William O'Grady, Jim Needham, Mr Mc Govern
& Mr Conway and Drummer Tom Fergus. At that
time too there were Dance Halls in Ailemore, Mullagh,
Cregganbawn (The Dunkirk) and Lecanvey as well as the
Parochial Hall in Louisburgh.
O'Toole of Doughmakeon (1913 - 2010), was an
accomplished ballad singer and fiddle player and
released a CD/tape of ballads in 2002.
Present day musicians include: Seamus Heneghan of Bundorragha, an
outstanding accordion player who released a CD/Tape
"Caught in the surf" in 2002.
John Joe Mc Donnell of Mullagh, was an All-Ireland whistling champion on three occasions in recent years.
Birth of Féile Chois
With a view to preserving this rich heritage and
promoting traditional music among the youth of the area, a
small group got together in 1995 and organised Féile
Chois Cuain. Féile has helped reawaken interest in
the traditional Music and regular classes are now taking
place with very encouraging numbers taking part.
Masterclasses have been a feature of Féile Chois
Cuain and you can find out more about these on the
Classes are however but one aspect of Féile and
the almost non-stop music and singing sessions, featuring
great numbers of visiting and local musicians, together with
the Concerts and Céilí make it a wonderful
weekend for young and old.