Teresa Mc Clure

 A Musical Tribute by Edel Mc Laughlin

Teresa Mc Clure was born on the 4th of February, 1961 to parents Joe Doherty (Minogue) and Bridget Doherty in Desertegney, Buncrana. Both her parents had a great interest in Irish music, in particular her father who had a special interest in music and was a constant encouragement for her. They were highly involved in the singers club and brought Teresa to many sessions as a child. Teresa learned her first tune ‘The Boys of Blue Hill’ from her grandmother Bridget Mary Doherty on her melodeon as well as many songs. With musical roots like this, it was no surprise that Teresa became immersed in traditional music. Her parents bought her first piano accordion when she was eight. At the age of nine, she was brought to local teacher Dinny Mc Laughlin for lessons in the Buncrana tech.

As a young girl she listened to recordings of Joe Burke and the like who were constant visitors to the town at the time. She grew up through Dinnys’ classes playing with friends like Michael Carey, Gerard Bonner, Noel Mc Laughlin, Paul Mc Laughlin, Rita, Kathleen and Madeline O’Dowd, and Jimmy Mc Bride, Annie Lynch, Patricia Mc Gonagle, Philip Doherty, Anne-Marie Doherty to name a few. Teresa recalls many a night there were sessions in their wee thatched house in Leophin. Dinny would bring all his friends and whatever musicians were around that night. “I remember on several occasions my father getting a lift to work the next morning with whoever was last to leave!” Lots of great musicians were known to have played here over the years.

Coming up to the Fleadh time, Dinny was a regular visitor to our house, making me play and play and play my Fleadh tunes on both piano accordion and piano until my arms were ready to drop off. I’ll never forget those tunes. Though I must thank Dinny for all the hard work he put into my playing, even though at the time I did not feel like thanking him” she laughs. Teresa took part in many competitions attending many Fleadh Cheoil around the country. She won three All Ireland titles on piano accordion and at least a further fifteen titles with various ensembles ranging from duets and trios to Grupaí Cheoil. Her first All-Ireland title was won in Listowel in the under 12 age group, awarded to her by renowned fiddler Seán Keane. She won her second All-Ireland in the U-15 age group in Buncrana, and she won the Slógadh All-Ireland title in 1973. “I used to go to the Fleadh with everyone on the big bus to Listowel or wherever – we had sessions and singing all the way. We picked people up on the way like Ann and Francie Broley from Dungiven. Half the bus would have been very merry by the time we arrived.” She loved playing with other musicians, particularly the late Jimmy Mc Bride. She would have learned a lot of tunes from Jimmy who was influenced by Jim Mc Killops Antrim style playing. Teresa would have played a lot with Jimmy and Mc Killop through the years. With regard to style, Teresa never tried to imitate anyone, just always listening to good music. She never missed a night at the music club in the White Strand where she had the opportunity of listening too many of the great musicians, groups and singers from Ireland and abroad. From the American Bluegrass sound of Pumpkin Head, to a more familiar Aileach. These nights were always followed by great sessions.

During her teenage years, Teresa started teaching traditional music, beginning a vocation of passing on the music she loved to other people. At the age of seventeen, she started teaching in the GAA Hall in Letterkenny. She used to borrow her father’s car to drive to Letterkenny until she could afford her own. Her dedication and commitment to the music was evident from this early stage, while her school of music grew from strength to strength. She took many young musicians under her wing including a young Kate Forde. Kate recalls all the young musicians sitting around Teresa in a circle full of enthusiasm to learn the new tune for the week.

She completed her adjudicator’s exam in Dún Uladh in Omagh, and did a lot of adjudicating at feis and Fleadh all over the country for many years until she started teaching more. Teresa travelled to Dublin in 1980 to the HQ of Comhaltas in Monkstown where she gained her TTCT diploma in teaching Irish Traditional Music presented to her by Minister for Education at the time, Gemma Hussey. Here she studied under the leadership of Míchéal Ó hÉidhin (RIP), Course Director. “I made a lot of friends from all over the country and it was a great week’s craic.” Her tutor there was Martin Power from Cork. Teresa was among the first ever group to do this course. Since then, Teresa has been teaching all over the county passing on her love of traditional music for over thirty years. She has taught classes from Malin to Letterkenny to Bloody Foreland and everywhere in between. Over the years, she has taught thousands. Many of her pupils being successful in winning at County, Provincial and All Ireland level, whilst many are currently teaching traditional music themselves

Teresa has taken a large number of her pupils through the SCT Comhaltas exams and continues to do so. In recent years, she has been working closely with Róisín Mc Grory in bringing traditional music alive for young people via the successful group Ceoltóirí Dhún na nGall. This group features many excellent young musicians, singers and dancers performing together with a shared love and enjoyment for the music. Although the music is always taken seriously Teresa has a great way of incorporating fun and enjoyment into the classroom. She always encourages her pupils to attend sessions and to play music for pleasure. She presently teaches in national schools around North Donegal and teaches some evening classes in the Inishowen area. She is highly regarded as one of the greatest teachers in the county, and her classes have always been in high demand all over Inishowen and Derry. Long may this continue.

“I was fortunate enough to have been taught by Teresa from an early age and would like to thank and congratulate her on her marvellous achievement of sharing so much music, enjoyment and fun with all of us. I wish her every success and continued fulfilment into the future.”    

Below are some tributes to honour Teresa from past pupils and musicians:

I’ve known Teresa for over 20 years when I first attended her music class in the Aileach Youth Club, Burnfoot. For over 30 years Teresa has played a pivotal role in the musical heritage of Inishowen carrying on the tradition passed on to her from her teacher Dinny Mc Laughlin. In the Burnfoot area alone many All Ireland Champions can credit Teresa with their introduction to music, among these are members of Harrigan, Mc Laughlin, Mc Kinney, Strain, and Lynch families. Through St. Eunan’s branch of Comhaltas, and since the mid 1980’s Craobh Sheamuis Mhic Giolla Bhríde, Teresa has taken many young musicians to All Ireland Fleadh Cheoil each year. Teresa’s kindness, wit and patience in teaching music has been a great foundation for many musicians she has helped on their musical journey.”
Róisín Mc Grory

“Teresa is an extraordinary teacher with a great ability to pass on her gift of music to her pupils. She has been very much involved in the traditional music exams of Comhaltas, and her contribution to the tradition is highly regarded and respected.”
John Lee

“A heartfelt thank you to Teresa Doherty Mc Clure for all the hard work and dedication she put into her classes in Letterkenny which paved my way in music down through the years. May you have many more years of teaching and producing All Ireland Champions like you have in the past.”
Kate Forde

“I’m delighted that Teresa is keeping the flag for traditional music in Inishowen flying! I remember having great craic teaching her especially the run to Listowel on the bus with a bus load concert all the way there and back. The fact that Teresa won the All Ireland that year on the accordion added greatly to the excitement on the way home. Good luck to Teresa and I wish her and her pupils every success in the future.”
Dinny Mc Laughlin

“Teresa Doherty and myself played our first note together on the very same night many years ago, under the expert guidance of Dinny Mc Laughlin. Indeed, Teresa was a wonderful student, attentive in class, and she always had her homework done, which in our case was, practising our instrument. It wasn’t long before Teresa and the O’Dowd family, along with myself had formed Donegal’s first Ceilí Band, and we toured the county. I even remember us all competing in numerous Slógadh and in the first Fleadh Cheoil in the county, it was in Malin town, and needless to say Teresa won her county Fleadh Cheoil, both on piano and the accordion. Teresa is to be credited with the important task of passing on her music to many a generation since that Fleadh in Malin all those years ago. May she continue to teach for many more years and I always look forward to meeting up with Teresa for tunes whenever pole.”
Michael Carey