The Terry Rafferty Recording Collection

ITMA's latest digital exhibition "From the Bridge: a view of Irish traditional music in New York" has been richly enhanced by video footage recorded by Terry Rafferty in New York between 1986 and 2002. Married to Mike Rafferty (1926–2011), a hugely influential east Galway flute player, Terry attended most of Mike's music gatherings and decided to record as many as possible on video. In this blog their daughter Mary shares some personal background to Terry's unique contribution to traditional music collecting in New York.

Terry rafferty
Terry Rafferty

Terry Rafferty was born in New York in 1934. She was introduced to Irish traditional music when she met her late husband, Mike Rafferty on New Year’s Eve 1951 in Purchase, New York.

They began dating and Mike brought her along to her first music session. They took a train and a bus out to Pat Murphy’s house in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Her first session lasted two days. She fell in love with Mike and the music.

They were married 10 months later, had five children and were together for 59 years until Mike’s death in 2011.


In the early 60’s, a few of Mike’s fellow musician friends emigrated from Ireland to the New York area and soon there were a lot more sessions that they were going to. Mike always had a cassette tape recorder that he would bring around with him. Terry soon became the operator of that and has an extensive collection of cassettes.


Terry found another family in the Irish culture and immersed herself completely.
Mary Rafferty


She began having sessions at the house and annual New Year’s Eve sessions. They bought a reel-to-reel recorder and recorded all of the house sessions over the years. Another invaluable collection.

1980 was when Terry bought her first video camera. It was heavy and cumbersome, but she persevered and recorded every musician she came across in Ireland and the USA. Pub sessions, festivals, Fleadh Cheoils, house parties, concerts, weddings, funerals - no stopping her, even though it involved holding a heavy camera for hours on end. I remember as a teenager, I wasn’t exactly happy about a video being done, but I couldn’t be more proud and happy that she did what she did back then.

She eventually moved on to a smaller camera and the process of digitalising that collection hasn’t even started yet. Her entire video collection ranges from 1980 until 2010.

Terry & Mike joined the Michael Coleman CCE Club in the Bronx in the 1980’s. She then became the Mid Atlantic Regional Fleadh Secretary in 1989 and she is still currently doing it …

In 1993, she started a CCE branch in New Jersey and called it after Mike Rafferty.

Mary Rafferty, June 2022

View the Terry Rafferty Video Collection here

Read more about Mike Rafferty (1926–2011) here


Mary Rafferty, accordion; Mike Rafferty, flute / Unidentified photographer. New Jersey, 1980s - 1990s. Image courtesy Rafferty family

"From the Bridge: a view of Irish traditional music in New York" is a major digital exhibition from ITMA celebrating New York's unique and enduring relationship with Irish traditional music. Supported by the Government of Ireland - Emigration Support Programme, it was launched in ITMA on 29 June 2022.

Enjoy a short video on the exhibition launch.

Visit the free online exhibition here




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