Martin McGinley is one of the best-known fiddlers in Donegal and has also been teaching fiddle for many years. His first solo CD, ‘Full Circle’, was released in May 2021 by Donegal fiddle organisation Cairdeas na bhFidiléirí.
Martin was born in 1961 and brought up in Raphoe. His mother Kathleen (1930-2011) was a well-known fiddler.
He began taking classical violins lessons locally with Maureen McGranaghan. In the 1970s he attended the weekly traditional session in the Central Hotel in Raphoe. It was the beginning of a lifetime of friendships with musicians, from east Donegal and beyond. In those early days Martin asked a visiting fiddler, Dinny McLaughlin, Buncrana, about the secret of fiddleplaying. The reply was disappointing – ‘practice’. An early venture into fiddle teaching was during the early 1980s at Pilot’s Row centre in the Bogside in Derry, where students included an exceptional trio of Harrigans from Burnfoot – Róisín, Damian and Paul. At around this time Martin was also fortunate enough to encounter a remarkable generation of musicians emerging in Buncrana, including Ciarán
Tourish (fiddle), Kevin Doherty (guitar), Michael Carey (whistle), Michael Gallinagh (guitar) and others.
Martin has lived in Derry, Belfast and various parts of Donegal. He has performed at concerts and festivals in Ireland, Britain, Europe and North America. He has presented television and radio programmes on traditional music on RTÉ and BBC. Recordings over the years have included the (very) early Dervish CD, ‘The Boys of Sligo’ (1989) and ‘The Fiddle Music of Donegal Volume 1’ (1996).
During some years living in Fahan, from around 2009, Martin struck up a playing partnership with Tom Byrne (accordion/ mouth organ), including regular gigs in Flaherty’s and the Drift Inn, both in Buncrana.
Now living in Ramelton, Martin manages the Donegal Music Education Partnership, part of the Donegal Education and Training Board. The DMEP organises classical music tuition across Donegal.
He continues to be active on the fiddle scene, performing for concerts and events online and offline.
Martin teaches most years at Donegal Fiddle Week, Glencolumbkille; the Winter School, Gaoth Dobhair; and Fiddlers’ Farm, in North Holland.
In 2020, he received a Masters in Music from the Open University for a thesis on east Donegal fiddle playing. He has contributed an east Donegal section to the Donegal fiddle