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Martin Howley, Fanore (1902-1981)


Martin Howley

Photo courtesy Joe Queally

Martin Howley was somebody we were able to visit on only three occasions, but each time we received a great welcome. He was a general labourer living in a council cottage in north Clare, on the edge of the Burren.

Martin was passionately interested in songs from a very early age and was more than happy to share them with anybody. He had an excellent memory, not only in being able to remember the songs but also where he first heard them, and he related several anecdotes about learning them. He got a number of them from Travellers, including the extremely rare Fair Margaret and Sweet William, which he knew as 'The Old Armchair'. Our last visit to him, after we had heard he was very ill, was intended to be a short call to let him know we were thinking of him but soon the conversation soon got round to song. On his asking if we had a tape recorder with us, we protested that we were not there to bother him, as he was ill, to which he replied, "But I want to give them to you - I'm a poor man and they are all I have to leave". It was very moving to see the importance Martin attached to the songs he had kept alive for so long, and we proceeded to record him for the last time. As well as being a singer with a large repertoire, Martin was also a fine old-style concertina player.

Taken from ‘Around the Hills of Clare: Songs and Recitations from the Jim Carroll and Pat Mackenzie Collection’ (2004) Musical Traditions Records MTCD331-2/Góilín Records 005-6.

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