Friday 23 March
by Kevin McGonigle, Chairperson
“All the days of his life: the songs of Eddie Butcher”, Magilligan, Co. Derry (1900-1980) / Brian Doyle
Home & Away Session
hosted by Colm Toland and Jim MacFarland
Saturday 24 March
to the Isle of Doagh townland led by Colm Toland
Departs Ballyliffin Hotel
Inishowen Singers’ Circle Session
McFeeley’s Bar, Clonmany
featuring: Mairead Walls; Alan Woods; Nellie Weldon; Annie Power; Luke Cheevers; Members of the Inishowen Traditional Singers’ Circle; Cloontagh & Rashenny National Schools; Michael Gallanagh & Tom Byrne
hosted by Eleanor Lamb
Sunday 25 March
The North Pole Bar, Drumfries
North Pole Session
The North Pole Bar, Drumfries
Mac Tam’s Session
Mac Tam‘s Bar, Clonmany
Saturday & Sunday
Irish Traditional Music Archive Pop-up archive
Monday 26 March
The Rusty Nail, Crossconnell, Clonmany
Festival Guests 2018
Details of the 2018 guests will be available shortly
Mairéad is originally from the small village of Dunloy in North Antrim. She began playing traditional Irish music on the tin whistle at the age of 10 at the local branch of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann. She was taught by Sinead and Maire McGrath before ‘graduating’ to the senior class under the tuition of John Kennedy of Cullybackey. It was during this time, around the age of 12, that John introduced her to traditional singing and her love of traditional song was born.
Mairéad, along with her parents and sisters Berni and Patricia attended many sessions, fleadhs and festivals all over Ireland. Mairéad won the Ulster Senior Ladies Singing Title two years in a row in 1987 and 1988. She was also awarded the Ulster Senior Tin Whistle title in 1987 and was runner up at the All Ireland Fleadh that same year.
She enjoys passing on the tradition to others, some of whom have enjoyed success at Fleadhs and festivals throughout Ireland including several All Ireland champions and prize winners. She has been the singing tutor at the Ulster Traditional Singers Festival for the past 10 years and was awarded the ‘Keeper of the Tradition’ Award at this event in 2011.
Mairéad loves and sings the traditional songs of Ulster and County Antrim in particular. Many of these songs have been learned from local singers, including John Kennedy, Len Graham, Jeannie McGrath and the singing of the late Joe Holmes of Ballymoney.
Her quest for a good singing/music session has taken her to all parts of Ireland and Europe. She has also performed on various music programs over the years with recent recordings including the TG4 programme ‘Hup’ in Sept 2016 and Radio Ulster programme ‘The Ulster Song Book’ in June 2017 both of which featured her singing with her daughter Ethlinn (All Ireland Singing Champion 2012). Mairéad has performed with various groups over the years, travelling and performing all over Ireland and France; she is a founder member of the group Déanta.
Annie Power is a traditional singer, born in London of Irish parents. Her father was from Tipperary, and her mother from Buttevant, Cork. Her maternal grandmother came from Eyeries, West Cork, and she has always felt a strong connection to this region and her mother’s people. Annie was a regular singer in sessions around London including the Elgin in Ladbroke Grove, the Sugawn, and the Favourite pub in Holloway on a Sunday morning, with Jimmy Power calling her up to sing each week with the fond refrain “she’s no relative of mine!” Jimmy and wife Kathleen encouraged her to enter the local Fleadh Cheoil, which she did, going on to win the All-England Fleadh Cheoil in Liverpool.
Annie sang with the Irish group Shegui for three years in Irish pubs and venues around North London and beyond, and in 1983 performed two songs written by Sandra Kerr for a Channel 4 film series People to People, ‘The Irish In Britain’, about the women and men who came to England in the 50’s and 60’s.
If Yeats had Maud Gonne, and Dali had Gala, then it‘s no surprise that Liam Weldon had to have Nellie!
Nellie inspired Liam to compose some of his best known love songs, particularly the stand-out “Via Extasia” and “My Love is a Well”. Nowadays, Nellie reciprocates by singing those songs to excited new audiences. Particularly the young folk at “The Night before Larry Got Stretched” singing collective, where Nellie‘s emotional singing style is massively appreciated, and where she’s treated like Royalty!
Now in her 80th year and living in Ballyfermot, in Dublin, Nellie is making her maiden voyage to be with us in Inishowen as a solo singer.
Not content with being the authentic interpretive voice to Liam‘s songs, Nellie is also a fine singer of traditional Irish songs – sung in the English language. Nellie has an interesting and varied repertoire of songs, with many coming from the Traveller tradition, as well as traditional songs made popular by Maggie Barry and Delia Murphy.
Nellie, after many years of living and singing in the shadows, has slowly emerged from the chrysalis and unfurled her singing “wings”.
In 2018 the ITSC unanimously appointed Luke Cheevers as our our perpetual Honorary Guest, in recognition of the special place he holds among Inishowen singers and his unflagging support for our Singing Weekend. Luke is a wonderful successor to Mick Quinn who previously received this recognition. Born in 1940 in the parish of Ringsend in Dublin, he cannot remember a time when he was not interested in singing: from a boy listening to his Aunts and Uncles at hoolies. right up to the present day. His mother sang the old Irish balllads, Galway Bay, Teddy O’Neill etc, and his Da, cowboy and music hall songs. Over the years he has travelled the country o’er, been a stalwart of the Góilín from the very early days and is one of the true characters of the traditional music, recitation and singing scene.
Brian Doyle walks out this year from behind the Festival sound desk and cameras to deliver the opening lecture of the weekend. Brian has held a long time admiration for the singing and songs of Magilligan singer Eddie Butcher. Using archival footage and calling on live singers on the night, he will present his own perspective on the life and songs of this enormously influential Ulster man. Brian himself is a true Dub supporter, a fine singer, musician, occasional song writer and the Field Recording Officer at the Irish Traditional Music Archive – with a ‘hint’ of Inishowen thrown in!
Inishowen Traditional Singers’ Circle
Members of the Singers‘ Circle . The Circle meets the second Friday of the months September to June in either the North Pole Bar or McFeeley‘s Bar.
Cloontagh NS and Rashenny NS, Inishowen
Two local primary schools will take the stage singing songs learned from the Inishowen Song Project. These choirs are made up of local children some of whose parents and grandparents feature in the project. The schools have annually wholeheartedly taken up our invitation to perform and with support from teachers and parents are a highlight of our Festival.