The Clonmany area has a strong musicial tradition. A noted musician in the Clonmany area up until his passing in the 1920s was the blind fiddler Paddy Kelly who played at many local house dances. Another fiddler influential in the music of Clonmany was Neily McColgan, a blind fiddler from Ballyliffen. When not entertaining on pleasure boat trips on the Foyle or boat trips to Scotland, Neily was called upon to play for big events in the community. Travelling musicians by the name of McGinley and Gallagher were frequent visitors to the area as well as Pat McDonald and the famous Doherty brothers.
Seamus Grant (1934 – 2005) recalls as a boy that in nearly every house in his townland an instrument could be found usually a melodeon or fiddle. Seamus Grant himself learnt much of his music from his parents, his uncle, Willie Joe Grant and neighbour (White) Dan Doherty who was later to become his father in law. White Dan was a fiddler, singer and dancer and a great source of tunes, many learned during harvest time in Scotland.
Clonmany Céilí Band
The Clonmany Céilí Band was formed in 1956 by local curate Fr. Desmond Mullan to promote céilí dancing. The early members, along with Seamus were Jimmy and Ned Doherty (drums and double bass), his lifelong friend Maeliosa Doherty (button accordion), John McCarron (button accordion), Neil Mc Gonigle (fiddle) and Desmond Kavanagh (piano) and in later years Pat Hughes (piano). Dinny McLaughlin (fiddle) also joined them regularly for céilí dances and Feiseanna in the early days. Connie Doherty (piano accordion) carried on the great work of the ceili band with Seamus up until the late 70s.
The Sweeney Family
The Sweeney family made an enormous contribution to music in the Clonmany area. Clement Mac Suibhne from Ardara south Donegal married Josie (Lavin) and began teaching music in the Malin school where he was principal and in Ballyliffen. Later Damhnait and Blaithin carried on this work through the 80s and 90s bringing through another generation of musicians. In west Inishowen a triving traditional music scene exists and familys such as the Mc Gonigles and Tolands have encouraged and ensured this tradition is alive. Currently the Inishowen Traditional singing circle is growing in popularity enjoying attention throughout countries with also a great culture of traditional singing, it has one of the biggest colections of english songs archived, visit the website inishowensinging.ie
Today the fruits of teaching by the Sweeney family can be heard in a younger group of musicians such as Mary Doherty, the Mc Daid, and Devlin families passing on the tradition.
Carndonagh it’s Jimmy Clingan, a Carndonagh fiddler. James Kearney button accordion and his wife Nelly Kearney (nee O’Connor ) origionally from the Illies was a piano player. Two melodion players who performed at social events in the mid 1900s were Denis Doherty and Pat Mc Closkey. Victor Gillespe, Peter Clark were also noted musicians of their day.
Another fiddler influential in the music of Clonmany was Neily McColgan, a blind fiddler from Ballyliffen. When not entertaining on pleasure boat trips on the Foyle or boat trips to Scotland, Neily was called upon to play for big events in the community. Travelling musicians by the name of McGinley and Gallagher were frequent visitors to the area as well as Pat McDonald and the famous Doherty brothers.