Clare County Library
Traditional Music Sessions from the John Joe Healy Collection
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About the John Joe Healy Collection
Pat Mackenzie and Jim Carroll

We first spoke with John Joe Healy and his wife, Peggy (Casey) one blustery day in the 1970s, all of us sheltering from the rain at Spanish Point. We had met him briefly a year or so previously when we were invited by Junior Crehan to The Crosses of Annagh Pub to record “a few tunes”. John Joe and Peggy lived the winter months just outside London, not far from our then home, and in the summer at Spanish Point, so we were able to spend time with them throughout the year. John Joe, a contemporary and good friend of Junior Crehan, was born in Quilty in 1915; he was a fiddle and concertina player and he made and repaired fiddles.

Peggy came from a musical background in Spanish Point; her father was the renowned dancing and music teacher, Thady Casey; both she and John Joe were excellent dancers.

John Joe left for England as a young man, a carpenter by trade; he and Peggy raised their family there and became well-known figures on the London-Irish music scene, along with other Clare musicians, including Bobby Casey, Tommy McCarthy, Michael Falsey, P.J. and Angela Crotty and Paddy Breen of Kilmihil.

Some time around the early 1960s, John Joe bought a reel-to-reel tape recorder which he used to record musicians in Clare such as Junior, Bobby Casey, Willie Clancy, and the old-style concertina player, Micho Doyle, presumably to take back to London to keep alive Clare music while they were away from it, and to learn and practise the tunes.

On his death in 1986, at 71, Peggy gave us his collection of tapes, saying he wanted us to have them.
She moved back to Clare where she lived until she died in 2011, aged 95.

John Joe was a lovely man, a “Clare gentleman”; not just our opinion, we’ve heard him described this way by others on many occasions. We have many fond memories of our friendship with them: one afternoon John Joe reeled off the names of over thirty women concertina players living within walking distance of his home when he was growing up in Quilty.

One of the most memorable occasions was the time we played them a recording we had made of the song ‘The Quilty Burning’ by fellow Quilty-man, Mikey Kelleher, also living in London, which described an incident during the War of Independence.

When the singer reached verse six:

Then Paddy Healy came out in the flames,
He could see nobody there but the peelers he'll blame,
He went in to Tom Clancy and told him the same,
By damned, said Tom Clancy, 'tis now we want rain

John Joe grinned broadly and said, “That’s my father he’s singing about”.

Pat Mackenzie and Jim Carroll
June 2016


John Joe Healy photo Pat MackenzieJohn Joe Healy, photo Pat Mackenzie

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