Traditional Music In Peterswell Parish
By Mary Kearns Coen
Many families have played traditional music since the end of the 19th Century in the parish of Peterswell. The most notable of these were Mike and Tommy Collins of Knockoura. They played tin whistles and their sister Bridget (Biddy) sang. John, Chris and Kathleen Collins of Cappard learned their music from Jack Mulcair. Nora Cooley, Licknabegga, played concertina and her family, Jack, Joe, Mick, Agnes and Seamus, would have learned from her. Kate Fahey, Knockoura, played melodeon and Jimmy Fahy and Pat Kennedy, Calfhill, played the accordion. Ellen Mulkerrins, Ballinabucky (aunt to Bridget Sherry) played melodeon. Her children, Eddie played mouth organ and Fr Tom and Gretta played fiddles taught to them by Jack Mulcair. When Fr. Tom was a prisoner in Korea he whistled the tunes to keep sane. Today his nephew Tom Mulkern carries on that family tradition.
Jack Mulcair of Kiltartan and Crusheen Co. Clare taught music to children and adults in schools, halls and private houses. He cycled over south and east Galway and north Clare imparting his knowledge to his pupils. In Peterswell village school some of his students included Josie Cooney, John Moloney, Ciaran Moylan, John Willie and Kathleen Fitzgerald, Josie Diviney, Bridget and Sr. Mary Farrell, John, Kathleen and Chris Collins, Molly Farrell and Eileen Cooney. See photograph of 28 people taken in the mid-1920s at Peterswell N.S. all with fiddles.This teacher is J. O’Meara This reflects (i) the importance of passing on our culture to the next generation and (ii) even though money was scarce, the community thought it was worthwhile to invest it in musical instruments.
Joe Cooley worked and played with Joe Leary and Charlie, Johnny and Kevin Doyle and Joe Howley in Clare and in Dublin. Joe Cooley played with the Galway Rovers Ceilí Band in Dublin. Paddy Burke and Sonny Mullins from Gort played with the Cooley’s for house parties all over south Galway and Clare. Joe and Seamus Cooley played with the Tulla Ceilí Band until they emigrated to London and the U.S.A.
Due to ill health, Joe Cooley and his wife Nancy (McMahon) returned home for good in 1972. For the next 18 months Joe played with Des Mulcair (son of Jack, Crusheen) all over south Galway and north Clare until his untimely death on 23rd December 1973, aged only 49 years. Ironically the last place Joe Cooley played music was in Peterswell Hall with his long-time friend Dr. Bill Loughnane. Thosaigh sé agus chríochnaigh sé ina áit dhúchais. Ciaráin MacMathuna recorded Joe and Seamus Cooley. Tony McMahon and Cathal O’Shannon made a brief film for R.T.E. on November 29th 1973 in Lahiff’s Pub, Peterswell.
On the October Bank Holiday weekend, for the past 20 years, The Cooley-Collins Traditional Music Festival is held in Peterswell-Gort. This Festival endeavours to keep the music alive for many years to come.