John Donovan from Inistrahull was a major influence on the music in the Malin area. John was born 1914 (1949) and learnt his music primarily by ear John could read tonic solfa, and later his good friend Neil Toland taught him to read staff notation.
John Donovan a popular singer and entertainer who had recorded commercially in 1945 six songs accompanied by Mr Albert Healy. John was a fine fiddler but also used the fiddle like a ukelele to accompany his singing.
Neil Toland, 1911-2007 studied violin initially with the aid of the ‘Peter Wiper’ violin tutor book and later with Sheila White (nee Mc Gonigle) from Ballyliffen. John was Neil’s best man at his wedding. In 1932 The Victory Dance Band was formed after De Valeria’s winning the election. Following John Donavans early death the band took on many various formations such as the Seaside Serenader’s, the Old Time Favourites and Malin Head Folk group. Tommy Mc Gonigle (Laurence), Frances Fullerton, Patsy Kelly, Paddy, Michael and Cara Byrne, Joe Mc Laughlin (Closha), Philip, Charlie, Eugene and younger members of the Crampsey carried on the tradition. Grace Farren (Charlie Phil) played the accordion, she was a dancer and lilter and the source of many tunes to musicians around Culdaff and Malin. ‘Pat the Fiddler’, (Patrick Doherty), a travelling fiddler and tin smith from Sligo is reported to have spent a great deal of time around the Malin/Culdaff area in the 1950s-60s. Curently in the Malin area a new group of musicians are emerging such as Paula and Melanie Houton.