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Traditional Music Sessions from the Carroll Mackenzie Music Collection
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About the Carroll Mackenzie Collection
Pat Mackenzie and Jim Carroll

By all accounts, London in the 1950s was awash with some of the best Irish musicians who had been obliged to leave home to seek work. From Clare there where Willie Clancy, Miltown Malbay; Paddy Breen, Kilmihil; Michael Falsey, Quilty; Mick O’Dea, Lissycasey; Tom McCarthy, Shyan, Kilmihil and Bobby Casey, Crosses of Annagh. From elsewhere there were Paddy Taylor, Roger Sherlock, Raymond Rowland, Martin Byrnes, Seamus Ennis, Michael Gorman…. a seemingly endless wealth of talent. By the mid sixties, Pat was listening to some of these at Irish sessions in London while Jim, still living in Manchester, had only ever encountered Irish music through hearing Travelling piper, Felix Doran, play at Connolly Association meetings.

Throughout the 1960s, Ewan MacColl’s Singers Club was booking Irish musicians and singers and Pat was listening to players and singers there such as Dominic Behan, Seamus Ennis, Joe Heaney, Festy Conlon, Tim Lyons, Joe Heaney, and others. Our close association with Irish musicians was largely due to our being part of the folk scene. In the early seventies, the Club booked the young and up-and-coming London/Sligo fiddler, Kevin Burke who brought Clare flute player, P.J. Crotty along as support – they gave us several memorable nights which we were able to record.

We also booked Bobby Casey and Tom McCarthy as a pair – they were to become regular visitors to the club and Tom and his family became friends, and later, close neighbours when we eventually moved to Clare. Tom was a wonderful raconteur with the ability to hold audiences spellbound with his stories of his early days as a musician in Clare and in London – Bobby tended to prefer to play rather than talk – both took to the novel experience of playing to quiet, attentive audiences like ducks to water. We spent some time recording Tom at our home and his, playing and talking about his music.

Other guest at the Singers’, and other Clubs we helped to run, included young Paul Boyle, a fine fiddler and a friend, who died at a tragically early age; Brendan McGlinchey from Armagh, Galway flute-player Gabe Sullivan and Offaly box player, John Bowe. Seamus Ennis was a regular and filled the club to capacity each time he appeared. Our recordings of Irish music also included those made in other folk clubs we were involved with, notably the West London Cub in Hammersmith, the Tradition Club in Fulham and the Court Sessions in Wandsworth.

One of the most memorable nights for us was some time in the early eighties when we sat with Tom McCarthy, Fermanagh fiddle player Fergus McTeggart and Kerry Traveller, singer and storyteller, Mikeen McCathy in front of a rapt audience at Cecil Sharp House in Camden Town, where they sang, played, told stories and swapped reminiscences and views on their respective arts for over two hours. Our job was to prompt them but we proved to be somewhat redundant!

We were lucky that were able to hear Tom, Bobby, Fergus and many, many other fine musicians in sessions at The White Hart in Fulham, Con Curtin’s Balloon in Chelsea, The Favourite in Holloway and particularly The Victoria on Holloway Road where Tom and his three daughters, Jacqueline, Marion and Bernadette played on Friday nights. Tom’s death in 2000, came as a great blow; the loss of a good friend and a fine musician.
In London, we also became friendly with P.J. Crotty and his wife Angela, Junior Crehan’s daughter.
The recordings of P.J. playing solo were made in the kitchen of their takeaway in Lahinch, where, during a passing visit, he insisted that we got out the tape recorder so he could play us the tunes he had always intended to give us.

As our main interest has always been singing, we began recording musicians somewhat sporadically in Clare in 1973. We had turned up to session at The Quilty Tavern one Friday night to hear the musicians who later established themselves as regulars at Gleesons in Coore: Junior Crehan, John Joe Healy, Paddy Galvin, Michael Downes, Pat Kelly and others. Junior spotted us during the evening and saw we were taken by the music, so he invited us to meet him in the kitchen of The Crosses of Annagh Bar the following Tuesday for “a few tunes”. We spent a glorious evening with our tape recorder, listening to him and his friend, John Joe Healy, playing, singing, telling stories and talking about the old days in Clare. We continued to visit Junior through the years, mainly taking down his stories rather than his music. John Joe and his wife Peggy became close friends back in London.

External Link: Irish Music in London by Reg Hall


Pat Mackenzie & Jim Carroll

Pat Mackenzie & Jim Carroll

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