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Martin Junior Crehan, Bonavilla, Mullagh (1908 – 1998)

Photo courtesy Pat Mackenzie

Martin ‘Junior’ Crehan, a farmer from Bonavilla, Mullagh was a fiddle and concertina player, storyteller, singer, song and tune-maker, and dancer, is still internationally recognised as having had a huge influence on the preservation and dissemination of traditional music in Ireland throughout his life. He was one of the handful of West Clare musicians who kept the music alive throughout the period when Ireland was losing much of its population to emigration in the first half of the 20th century. When piper, Willie Clancy died in 1973, several of his friends, including ‘Junior’ got together and established the first Willie Clancy Summer School in his honour. ‘Junior’ became treasurer of the organising committee. The school has been one of the major influences in changing the fortunes of traditional music in Ireland and over forty years later (2015), it is still running and making an invaluable contribution to Irish music.

In many ways, Junior was one of the reasons for our taking up the recording of songs, music and stories in the county. On our first visit to Clare in 1973, we went to the regular session in the bar at Quilty; Junior noticed our interest and invited us to meet him at the Crosses of Annagh a few days later, “for a few tunes”; that was the first time we recorded here. On each visit, we became regulars when Junior and his fellow musicians moved to the Crosses of Annagh, and then Gleesons in Coore a couple of years later, planning our holiday so we could take in as many Sundays as possible. Junior was the M.C. right up to his death in 1998.

In 2006, a book, ‘Martin Junior Crehan, Musical compositions and memories’, was produced by his daughter, Angela Crotty, to commemorate his life in music and, in 2007, another daughter, Ita, assembled examples of his playing and issued them on a double C.D., ‘The Last House in Ballymackea’. More recently, a long, detailed article on the life and art of Junior, written by folklorist Tom Munnelly, was published in a collection of Tom’s essays, ‘The Singing Will Never be Done’, by the Miltown Malbay local history group, The Old Kilfarboy Society.

Jim Carroll and Pat Mackenzie

See also: Martin Junior Crehan by Ita Crehan

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