Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy 2018

The 46th Willie Clancy Summer School, Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare, Ireland. Saturday 7th July to Sunday 15th July, 2018.

Sráid na Cathrach, Co. an Chláir  7ú Iúil - 15ú Iúil.

Lectures and Seminars

All lectures and seminars will be held in the Community Centre.


Saturday 1st July

8.00 pm - Oscailt Oifigiúil/Official Opening by James Keane, co-founder of the

Castle Céilí band.


8.30 pm - Breandán Breathnach Memorial Lecture: Out of darkness:

remembering Garret Barry the blind piper of Inagh (1847-1899)

Presented by Howard Marshall, musician, film maker and author, and Ben

Taylor, musician and photographer.


Monday 3rd July 3.00 pm

Lecture: The genius of John McGettigan: emigrant musician, balladeer and entrepreneur. Presented by Marcas Ó Murchú, musician, publisher and broadcaster.


Tuesday 4th July 3.00 pm

A tribute to musician and singer Séamus Mac Mathúna:

Musicians, singers, dancers and friends will participate. Presented by Mick

O'Connor, musician and researcher in traditional music.


Wednesday 5th July 3.00 pm

Lecture: The evolution of fiddle music in North Longford c.1825-1975 Presented by Doctor Conor Ward, musician and researcher in traditional music.


Thursday 6th July 2.00 pm

Lecture: 'Tell me a song': narrative song in Ireland. Presented by Jim Carroll, song collector, author and publisher.


Saturday 8th July 2.30 pm

Lecture: Harp Studies: a millennium of  harping in Ireland. Presented by Dr Sandra Joyce, Director Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick, and Dr Helen Lawlor, lecturer in ethnomusicology and Irish music at Dundalk institute of Technology.

James Keane will open Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy 2017 on Saturday 1st July.

Photo: Tony Kearns.



‘Out of Darkness’: remembering Garrett Barry the blind piper of Inagh (1847-1899):

Howard Marshall and Ben Taylor.


Howard Marshall is a traditional musician and retired documentary film maker. He was born in southeast England and developed an interest in the traditional music and song of Britain and Ireland while still at school. In the early 1970s, as a student in North Wales, he began to visit Ireland regularly, although he has no family roots here. He came in contact with many traditional Irish musicians while living in London and working in television production. Together with photographer Ben Taylor he began to research the life and times of the blind piper from Inagh, Garrett Barry. The travelling piper was well known in the oral tradition of West Clare but, apart from some radio programmes, he remained largely outside of documented history. Howard’s research resulted in the publication of Out of Darkness: the blind piper of Inagh (Cottier Press, 2016), the first comprehensive written narrative of piper Garrett Barry. The text is complemented by the design work of Tara Doswell and the vivid and evocative photography of Ben Taylor.


Ben Taylor is a traditional musician and professional freelance photographer. He has been involved in teaching photography for many years in the UK at both undergraduate and post graduate level, and works with designers and art directors.


Howard and Ben will deliver the Breandán Breathnach Memorial Lecture at the opening of the 45th annual Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy on Saturday 1st July. ‘Out of Darkness’: remembering Garrett Barry the blind piper of Inagh (1847-1899) will draw on the research work contained in the book. Garrett Barry’s life is placed in the context of the social, historical and cultural developments in Ireland during the latter half of the 19th century. He is viewed as an exceptional person - musician, singer, storyteller, genealogist and oral historian - who overcame his own handicap and inspired the imagination of a community. In examining Barry’s life and music the presenters will show how Irish traditional music changed and evolved through some of the most challenging periods in its history.


The genius of John McGettigan: emigrant musician, balladeer and entrepreneur (1882-1958): Marcas Ó Murchú


Marcas Ó Murchu is a well known flute player, researcher in Irish traditional music, and   collector of traditional music material.  A native of Belfast, he teaches Irish and Spanish at St Columb’s College, Derry.  In 2013, when the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil was held in that city, he was selected as Ard-Ollamh (Chief Bard) in recognition of his contribution to traditional music and the Irish langauge, through his teaching, broadcasting and research work.


He has broadcast on the BBC and RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta, presented traditional music programmes on TG4, and performed at various international festivals like the Pan Celtic Festival in Scotland and An Cruinnaght Festival in the Isle of Man. He was solo flute player for the specially arranged third movement of Shaun Davey’s Relief of Derry, originally composed for piper Liam Ó Flynn. He has taught at the main traditional music workshops and festivals throughout Ireland and Europe, coached many All-Ireland champions, and is a senior flute tutor at Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy. Recently he donated more than 700 hours of his own field recordings to the Irish Traditional Music Archive.


On Monday 3rd July Marcas will give an illustrated talk on the life and times of John McGettigan (1882-1958) from Glenree, near Carrigart, County Donegal, who emigrated to the USA in the early 20th century where he became one of the most celebrated musicians and singers of his day and built a successful business empire on the east coast.  McGettigan is credited with having been a major influence on fiddler Hughie Gillespie and his recordings introduced many ballads and rare tunes to massive new audiences. He was once a household name among Irish-Americans and well known in Irish homes as well, but is little remembered these days. This lecture, using original recordings, rare photos and live performances, should rekindle some interest in a remarkable personality.


The evolution of fiddle music in North Longford (c1828-1975): Conor Ward


Conor Ward is a fiddler from south Leitrim/north Longford, a region steeped in Irish traditional music. He is a member of Ceolus, a céilí band mentored by Fr John Quinn, and teaches fiddle locally. He took a career break from 2011 to 2015 to pursue a PhD study at Dundalk Institute of Technology on the evolution of fiddle music in North Longford. His research is based on manuscripts and recordings produced by fiddlers with links to master fiddler Thomas ‘Blind’ Kiernan (1807-1887).


Eleven unique collections of manuscripts have been located in the south Leitrim/north Longford area, and four of these were transcribed by fiddle players all of whom share a common fiddle heritage with Thomas ‘Blind’ Kiernan of Drumlish, Co.Longford. In fact the earliest of these collections, the Leonard-Kiernan MS, was written by Kiernan and his student Michael Leonard (1835-1886) in the period 1844-1846 during the course of fiddle lessons. In addition to the manuscripts there are  several commercial recordings of fiddle players with links to Kiernan, namely Packie Dolan (1904-1932), Frank ‘Patrolman’ Quinn (1893-1967) and James Clarke (c1887-1936). These fiddlers were also natives of Drumlish parish. They emigrated to America and recorded 78rpm records in New York in the 1920s and 1930s.


Conor will be analysing these manuscripts and  commercial recordings  and the connections with master fiddler Thomas Kiernan in his lecture on  Wednesday 5th July.


Tell me a song’: narrative song in Ireland: Jim Carroll


Jim Carroll has been involved in traditional singing since the early 1960s, initially as a singer and later as a researcher and collector. He and his partner, Pat Mackenzie, met as members of Ewan MacColl’s singing workshop, The Critics Group, and, in 1973, began collecting songs, stories and information from Irish Travellers in London and from the older generation of singers in West Clare.  Copies of their  collection are housed at the Irish Traditional Music Archive, Dublin, the National Folklore Collection at University College Dublin, and the University of Limerick.  Copies are also in The National Sound Archive at the British Library, London, and the Oidhreacht an Chláir Archive, Flag Road, Miltown Malbay, will soon have copies. Their recordings of Clare singers can be accessed on The Clare County Library website, The Carroll/Mackenzie Collection, at


Selections from their recordings have been issued in albums such as Paddy’s Panacea (West Clare singer Tom Lenihan, 1978, LP); Around the Hills of Clare (West Clare singers, 2004, double CD); From Puck to Appleby (Irish Travellers in London, 2003, double CD); and That’s My Story (featuring examples of British and Irish storytelling from their own and other collectors’ recordings, 1991, cassette).


In his lecture on Thursday 6th July Jim will compare the different types of English -language traditional songs in Ireland, concentrating mainly on their narrative or story-telling aspects. The talk will be illustrated with examples from the older generation of singers, drawn largely from the Carroll /Mackenzie collection of Clare and Traveller songs. He will also include examples from English and Scottish source singers to demonstrate differences and similarities of approach, and an example of a cante-fable, a song/story using both speech and singing, to demonstrate how the genres very occasionally merge.


Harp Studies:  a millennium of harping in Ireland: Sandra Joyce and Helen Lawlor


Sandra Joyce is Director of the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick. She holds a BA and BMus from UCC and a PhD from UL. With Niall Keegan and Micheál Ó Súilleabháin she founded the BA Irish Music and Dance and MA Irish Traditional Music Performance at the University, and has been course director of both these programmes. She is a traditional singer and bodhrán player and artistic director of the a cappella female vocal ensemble Hazelwell, which explores repertoire from the Irish and related traditions. Sandra’s research areas include the Irish harp tradition, the Irish song tradition, and historical sources of Irish traditional music.


Helen Lawlor is a musician and academic who specialises in Irish harping.  She has a BA in music education from Trinity College, Dublin, an MA in musicology and a PhD in music from University College Dublin. She is programme director for the MA Traditional Music Studies at Dundalk Institute of Technology and also lectures in ethnomusicology, music education and Irish music.  Her monograph Irish Harping 1900-2010 was published in 2012, and she has contributed to many publications, including the encyclopaedia of music in Ireland and The companion to Irish traditional music, and lectured at various universities and institutions including the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and Harvard University.


Helen and Sandra co-edited a recent publication Harp Studies (Four Courts Press, 2016) and their co-presentation on Saturday  8th July will demonstrate that the Irish harp has been a vehicle for the expression of music, culture, song, history, politics and the Irish imagination for almost 1000 years.  In its long history the instrument has undergone change and revival, flourished and declined, altered and developed. But one constant has been its association with Ireland, musically and ideologically. In this talk they will look at how the harp has been viewed and played through the centuries, illustrated with musical examples and visual imagery. They draw on new research that sheds light on the history and music of the national instrument, and how it has been re-imagined through poetry, song, literature and film.  They examine the ways in which the harp is now played, drawing on the legacy of the great collectors and harper-composers of centuries past.


Séamus Mac Mathúna, the subject of the Summer School's tribute on Tuesday 5th July.

Photo: Tony Kearns.

Howard Marshall, left, and Ben Taylor.

Marcas Ó Murchú

Conor Ward

Jim Carroll and Pat Mackenzie

Sandra Joyce

Helen Lawlor

Photo: Tony Kearns

© Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy 2017   Website: Tony Kearns