South Inishowen – Buncrana, Burnfoot, Bridgend

Pat Mulhern from Fallask outside Buncrana was a fiddler and a significant figure in traditional music in Inishowen in modern times. Pat’s earliest recollection of music being played was hearing his uncle James Mulhern. James learnt the fiddle from Neil Mc Kinney, who lived in Owenboy, outside Buncrana.

Pat got a lot of his music from his uncle James and also had lessons on how to read music from a man called Anderson, who worked in the train station house in Ballymagan.

Other musicians who made an impression on Pat included Pat Mc Donald, a travelling fiddle player who performed at fair days throughout Inishowen and also at the quayside in Derry when people were leaving for America.

Musicians who played at events throughout Buncrana in Pat Mulhern’s time included Jimmy Donaghy (Meentahaillie), and Manny and Paddy Grant, all accordion players who played in Illies Hall. Also noted were Peter McGowan, a barber and fiddle player from Buncrana; Sonny Donaghy, accordion; and Willie Doherty (Gill), who was the leader of the Kinnego Flute Band. Paddy Kelly from the Illies near Buncrana was a noted piano accordion player and accompanied Dinny McLaughlin to perform throughout the North West.

Pat Mulhern (1990-1997), Buncrana

The Buncrana Céilí Band was formed in the early 1950s and members included Joe McLaughlin (Dick) on accordion, and Pat Mulhern, Dinny McLaughlin, and John McCracken, all on fiddles. Johnny Doherty played drums and Sadie Cutliffe played piano. Later Rita Cutliffe joined the band on piano. In later years John McCracken became a prominent figure in the Irish music organisation Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and helped to bring the All-Ireland Fleadh to Buncrana in the 1970s.

Back Row L-R, Standing Fr McGlinchey, Pat Mulhern (fiddle), Dinny McLaughlin (fiddle), Front row seated L-R, John McCracken, Rita Cutliffe (piano), Paddy Kelly (Piano Accordion) and Frankie Doherty (drums)

In Buncrana and in the Inishowen area in general no-one has made as much of a contribution to traditional music and dancing as Dinny McLaughlin (White Harra). Dinny began teaching in 1958 at the age of 23 and continued for over 40 years. He is a renowned fiddler and plays other instruments, including piano. Dinny taught in nearly every primary school in Inishowen, producing many fine musicians. He produced many groups for fleadh competition. Under the banner of Craobh na h-Inse CCÉ his groups won All-Ireland titles consecutively in the late 1970s-80s. Solo musicians who have credited Dinny’s teaching include Jimmy Mc Bride, Ciarán Tourish, Liz Doherty, Mairead Mooney, Michael Carey, Teresa McClure (nee Doherty), Brenda Barron, and Roisin Mc Grory (nee Harrigan).

Click here to view Dinny McLaughlin Tribute Video

L-R, Dinny McLaughlin and Tom Byrne 2013

For over thirty years Teresa McClure has been teaching music throughout Inishowen. Since the formation of Seamus Mac Giolla Bhríde CCE, in honour of her close friend Jimmy McBride, she has brought many musicians and groups to All-Ireland success. Teresa’s son Paul McClure carries on the tradition in Galway. Teresa McClure – A musical tribute – read more

Inishowen has an impressive roll of honour of winners at All-Ireland Fleadh competitions. The musicians have represented the various Comhaltas branches that have been active in the peninsula over the years.

Other musicians to note from Buncrana area include Kevin Doherty, Michael Gallanagh, Michael and Paul Rodden, and P.V. O Donnell (who played with the group Barley Bree in Canada and the US) and Oliver O’ Donnell, Buncrana. Over the years Buncrana has welcomed many musicians to the area, among them Mick Denieffe, Tom Byrne, Jim Woods and Keenan Barrett. Well-known fiddler Simon Bradley, of Manchester and Uist, was inspired to take up trad after hearing sessions in Buncrana, home town of his dad Pearse.

Scoil Trad Bhuncranncha, established by Liz Doherty and her husband Jim Woods, is producing a new generation of great musicians.

Around the Burnfoot and Muff area céilí dancing produced many bands including  The Boys of the Hill Céilí Band. Among its members were John Arbuckle and Benny Deehan on piano accordions and Willie John Hegarty on fiddle.

The Cottage Céilí Band from Muff featured the McColgan family.

Just a few miles west of Burnfoot lies Inch Island. Jimmy Durning from Inch was a gifted fiddler and played often with Pat Mulhern. Jimmy formed the Inch Céilí Band and other members included Ted Murphy (accordion), Patrick McGlynn (fiddle), Tommy Doherty (fiddle), Kathleen Doherty (fiddle), John McLaughlin (Drums), Kathleen (Nurse) Reilly (Fiddle), Pat Mulhern (fiddle) and Mary Murphy (piano).

Younger musicians from the Burt & Burnfoot area carrying on the tradition today include Dermot Byrne from Burt and members of the Harrigan family, Roisin McGrory (fiddle), Paul Harrigan(uilleann pipes and piano accordion) and Damien (fiddle); Thomas Strain (fiddle); Edel McLaughlin (piano accordion, piano, whistle); and Louise McKinney (flute, whistle, vocals)

In Newtowncunningham the music has been carried on by musicians such as Evelyn Boyce (accordion) and the Gibson brothers, Seamus (accordion) and Billy (fiddle). The young players from the area include Joseph Gibson (fiddle), and Shannon and Saoirse Duggan (banjo and button accordion).