Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Eireann in Galway was formed in the mid-fifties by schools inspector Pádraic Ó h-Eidhin and by Dr Galligan. Groups of musicians began to meet in St Patrick’s School, the Industrial School, and Mattie Forde’s Eagle Bar on the corner of Henry Street and William Street West. This represented the first stirrings of general interest in Irish traditional music in the city.
In the early days, a number of practice sessions were held in St Patrick’s School and also in the Industrial School where Eddie Moloney taught, but gradually the Eagle Bar became the headquarters for the group, which used to meet every Tuesday. There was a terrific energy and excitement about these sessions.
Our photograph today shows the original Lough Lurgan Céilí Band taken in the Eagle c1956. They are, from left: Anne Hynes on piano, Tommy Mulhaire on fiddle, Tommy Coen on fiddle, Brendan Mulhaire on box, Eamonn Ryan on drums, Eddie Moloney on flute, Lar Kelly (in front ), flute and piccolo, and Mícheál Ó h-Eidhin on the box. The band was put together by Mícheál Ó h-Eidhin in 1956 and he ran it until 1959 when he handed over the reins to Brendan Mulhaire who kept it going for another few years. They played all over the county and when they appeared in the city it was usually in the Hangar, the Astaire, or the Commercial.
Lar Kelly originally played with other bands in the Kiltormer/Killimor area. He drove for Esso on oil deliveries. Tommy Coen lived in Lower Salthill and composed a number of tunes including ‘The Christmas Reel’ which for a long time was known as ‘Tommy Coen’s Reel’. Tom Mulhaire lived in Father Griffin Road. He, and later his son Martin, also composed a lot of tunes, but did not always write them down, and so they were known as ‘Mulhaire 1’, ‘Mulhaire 2’, etc. Mícheál Ó h-Eidhin lived in Devon Park, was an inspector of music, and was made Ard Ollamh in 2006 for services rendered to Comhaltas over a lifetime. Eamonn Ryan was from Mervue.
Some other personnel who played with this band from time to time were Mick Hession, a piper from Kingshill; Paddy Farrell, a fiddle player from Woodquay; Jimmy Commins, a box player from College Road; May Staunton, Spiddal, who played fiddle; and Aggie White from Ballinakill, who also played fiddle.
Among other musicians who joined Comhaltas in the late fifties were the Rabbitte brothers, Eamonn and Martin, Dicky Byrne, and Padraic O’Carra. The pioneering work of these musicians and many more has borne wonderful fruit in the form of The Galway Sessions Festival which takes place all this week. It is a celebration of the traditional music and culture of Stirling in Scotland, and Galway, thanks to a chance meeting some years ago between Fergus Woods, the Provost (Mayor ) of Stirling, and Mick Crehan of the Crane Bar. The result is a remarkable programme of events taking place in The Crane, Róisín Dubh, Monroe’s, The Quays, Tigh Chóilí, Taaffe’s, the Western Hotel, Murty Rabbitt’s, the Town Hall, and on the streets of Galway. There is an exhibition and a series of talks and lectures in the museum. A true ceiliúradh of ceol, craic agus cultúir. Check it all out on www.galwaysessions.com
The Old Galway Society’s annual bus tour takes place this Saturday, going to Goldsmith Country. It takes in Glasson and other areas associated with Oliver Goldsmith. It will be led by Donal Taheny. The bus leaves the Cathedral car park at 10am. If you are interested, contact Elizabeth Byrnes at (091 ) 794 435.
On the following Saturday, June 26, An Taisce is organising a tour called Ramblings in Mayo. It will be led by Peadar O’Dowd and will take in Foxford Woollen Mills, Mayo Abbey, etc. The bus leaves the station at 10am and will return at 7pm. If you are interested contact Martin Byrnes at (091 ) 794 435.