From London to The Crane with fiddle great John Carty

FIDDLE PLAYER John Carty is one of the greatest practitioners of Irish traditional music and his virtuosity has been much praised. In 2003 he was TG4’s Traditional Musician of the Year and joined the ranks of previous winners such as Tommy Peoples, Matt Molloy and Paddy Keenan.

Carty grew up in an Irish household in East London and was hugely influenced by his father, John P, who played with the Glenside Ceili Band.

“My father was a flute player from Roscommon and my mother came from a musical family in Connemara,” he says. “From the word go I was surrounded by traditional music and throughout the 1960s and 1970s went back and over between Ireland and England for music.”

Carty is now based in Ireland permanently and will play a much-anticipated show alongside Matt Molloy and Arty McGlynn at The Crane Bar, Sea Road on Thursday July 30 at 9pm.

The second half of the 1960s saw the music and cultural hub of London in full swing as The Beatles and the Rolling Stones shocked and entertained the world. In another part of the city John Carty was immersing himself in a much older tradition and was undergoing his own cultural revolution.

“I totally immersed myself in traditional Irish music, probably to a freakish degree,” says Carty. “It was the second big period of emigration from Ireland and so you had this mass exodus of people coming over and bringing their music with them.

“My father’s band would have played the dancehall scene around London such as The Galtymore in Cricklewood and The National in Kilburn. Then they won the All-Ireland Ceili Band competition in his home town of Boyle in 1966. The influence of the Irish in London was tremendous. Living through that time was quite exciting.”

At 16 John Carty began playing regularly at pub sessions throughout Britain and Ireland and rubbed shoulders with some of the biggest names in traditional music. He had always entertained the idea of going back to his roots and relocating to Ireland permanently. In 1990 he realised that dream when he took over the family farm in north Roscommon.

“My neighbour has described me as ‘Ireland’s worst farmer’ and that’s not entirely untrue,” he says, with a wry smile. “Where I live now is my father’s home place and all my family grew up there but I’m sure we were quite amusing when we first moved over. There’s definitely a lovely artistic feel to the town and for the visual arts apparently the Boyle Arts Festival is one of the big festivals to exhibit at. There’s a lovely and interesting mix of people.”

One of the attractions of moving to the area for Carty was its close proximity to the Sligo border and ‘Coleman Country’. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s Michael Coleman travelled to many major US cities as a performer and is without doubt one of the most influential traditional musicians of the 20th century.

The famed fiddle and flute playing tradition of North Connacht first championed by Coleman has been carried on by Carty and Ballaghaderreen-native Matt Molloy. In 2007 Carty and Molloy, accompanied by Arty McGlynn on guitar, explored the music they love on the album Pathway To The Well.

“When Matt and I recorded the album we certainly stuck to that theme,” says Carty. “We were both born and bred in that tradition and so it was a very natural progression that we should delve into what was most comfortable.”

Accomplished flute player Matt Molloy is famous for his work with iconic groups such as The Chieftains, The Bothy Band, and Planxty and is a musical hero to Carty. Over the past 30 years Carty has collaborated with many of the people he first listened to in his teens.

“It’s an absolute privilege to play with people like Matt Molloy, Kevin Burke, Andy Irvine, and Alec Finn because they are the people I looked up to when I was starting off,” he says. “My first meeting with Matt would’ve been about 20 years ago.

“It could have been quite daunting meeting someone of that stature but after a while you’re sharing a pint with them and they show you due respect for your music. You end up doing projects together and it becomes a shared thing.”

The shared talents of John Carty, Arty McGlynn, and Matt Molloy are sure to draw music enthusiasts from far and wide.

“Galway is such a lovely place for us to visit,” says Carthy. “To actually get to play Mick Crehan’s Crane Bar is a real treat and we’re really looking forward to it. It’ll be a very special gig for everyone involved.”

For more information and tickets contact The Crane on 091 - 587419 or go to



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