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Sean Reid (1907– 1978)

“So many men who were geniuses worked away in solitude and their hard-won knowledge and skill died with them. If we are to succeed this must not be allowed to continue." - Seán Reid 1968.

Seán Reid was born in Castlefin, County Donegal in 1907 but spent most of his life in Ennis, County Clare. In the words of the late P.J. Hayes all the musicians over the past fifty years have contributed to the Tulla Céilí Band but none more so than Seán Reid. He was leader of the band from 1947 until 1965 and the driving force in directing the band through the difficult days of the late forties and early fifties. Seán was an all-round musician who was equally adept within the band playing the piano, fiddle, and uilleann pipes.

He was delighted to be asked to be leader of the Tulla in 1947, but his employer, Clare County Council, made it clear that if he wanted to retain his position as Acting County Engineer he was to have nothing to do with the céilí band. This placed Seán in a difficult position and rather than risk his job, he decided not to play with them but agreed to organise their transport. However, he was spotted at a céilí in Galway and was duly demoted. He then felt free to join them wholeheartedly and led the band till the mid-fifties - he was the band's most important influence in their early years. He was also the only one with a car and carried six or seven musicians, their instruments and sound equipment to gigs in his Morris Minor car.

Seán’s son, Seán Óg Reid, recounts a story about his father at that time:

“Most locals who remember Seán Reid, after remarking on all he did for music and athletics, go on to tell of the funniest stories which, without exception, tell of how absent-minded he was.

As you would have known, he was given to working tirelessly for weeks on end, with very little time given to sleep, in trying to make the best possible use of his time. This could mean that he wasn’t one hundred percent alert on the ‘day’ job of chief assistant county engineer. I have been told of a time when he was to attend a function of some sort connected with the job. The county engineer drove him to our house where he was to change into a dress suit for the occasion. He went to his bedroom and changed out of his clothes and, being a ‘little’ forgetful, got into his pyjamas and into bed. About a half an hour later a slightly puzzled (and probably angry) county engineer knocked on the front door to tell my mother that he had been waiting in his car for Seán for some time and ‘would he be ready to go soon’”

Seán Reid’s interest in traditional music is legendary as was his kindness, generosity and help to many musicians, beginners and masters alike. Seán played with many of the greatest traditional musicians at one time or another, to name a few; Joe Cooley, Paddy Canny, P.J. Hayes, Peter O’Loughlin, Bobby Casey, Martin Talty, Martin Rochford and Willie Clancy. Seán was instrumental in arranging the band’s first recordings and in the late forties he set up the band’s first recording venture with Radio Éireann. He toured the USA and Great Britain extensively and was part of the band that captured the All-Ireland Titles in 1957 and 1960.

Chris Keane for permission to use material from his book ‘The Tulla Céilí Band 1946 - 1997’.
Seán Reid Society for permission to use material from their website:
Bill Lynch for permission to use material from the website:

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Sean Reid