The ‘Holy Trinity’ of Sligo Fiddle Masters

The ‘Holy Trinity’ of Sligo Fiddle Masters

Now playing: The Liffey banks, reel ; The Shaskeen, reel / Michael Coleman, fiddle ; Kathleen Brennan, piano
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  1. The Liffey banks, reel ; The Shaskeen, reel / Michael Coleman, fiddle ; Kathleen Brennan, piano
  2. Dunphy’s, hornpipe ; Flower of Ballymote, hornpipe / James Morrison, fiddle ; unidentified, piano
  3. The wheels of the world, reel ; Rakish Paddy, reel / James Morrison, fiddle ; unidentified, piano
  4. Lord McDonald’s, reel / Michael Coleman, fiddle ; Ed Geoghan, piano
  5. The Royal blackbird, hornpipe / Michael Coleman, fiddle ; Ed Geoghan, piano
  6. Cherish the Ladies, jig / Michael Coleman, fiddle ; Eileen O’Shea, piano
  7. Lark in the morning, jig ; wandering minstrel, jig / James Morrison, fiddle ; Claire Reardon, piano
  8. Flax in bloom, and other reels / James Morrison, fiddle ; Claire Reardon, piano
  9. Maguire’s fiddle, hornpipe ; O’Donnel’s, hornpipe / Paddy Killoran, fiddle ; unidentified, piano
  10. The enchanted lady, reel ; The holy land, reel / Paddy Killoran, fiddle ; Jim McGinn, piano
  11. The gold ring, jig ; Haste to the wedding, jig / Paddy Killoran, fiddle ; unidentified, piano
  12. Down the broom, reel ; Gatehouse maid, reel / Paddy Killoran, fiddle ; unidentified piano
  13. Paddy on the turnpike, reel ; The collier’s, reel / Paddy Killoran, fiddle ; Jim McGinn, piano
  14. Tell her I am, jig ; Richard Brennan’s, jig / Michael Coleman, fiddle ; Kathleen Brennan, piano
  15. Bonnie Kate, reel ; Jenny’s chicken, reel / Michael Coleman, fiddle ; Michael Andrews, guitar
  16. The maid of Mont Kisco, reel ; The hunter’s purse, reel / Paddy Killoran, fiddle ; Jim McGinn, piano
  17. Sligo maid lament, reel ; Malloy’s favourite, reel / Paddy Killoran, fiddle ; James Ryan, guitar
  18. Farrel O’Gara’s, reel ; Roll her in the bushes, reel / Michael Coleman, fiddle ; unidentified, piano

The ‘Holy Trinity’ of Sligo Fiddle Masters

North Connacht, and in particular South Sligo, has produced a disproportionate number of outstanding traditional musicians relative to its size. From an area measuring approximately 400 square miles, taking in north Roscommon, north east Mayo and south Leitrim, an abundance of outstanding musicians have emerged, most notably fiddle and flute players. Some of the most celebrated and influential traditional music comes from this area, with duets like fiddler Fred Finn and flute player Peter Horan. In an area of such rich musical heritage the three musicians heard here have achieved a special place in traditional music’s Hall of Fame.

Michael Coleman (1891 – 1945) Kilavil, Co. Sligo.
James Morrison (1891 – 1947) Riverstown, Co. Sligo.
Paddy Killoran (1904 – 1965) Ballymote, Co. Sligo.

They became known as the ‘Sligo Masters’ or the ‘Holy Trinity’ of Sligo fiddle players. A combination of circumstances led to this exalted position. All three were musicians of outstanding technical prowess and this fact alone may have served to make their music influential; however, a major factor in their universal popularity and influence was their commercial recordings. All three emigrated to the USA and recorded extensively with the Decca and Columbia labels, amongst others. These 78 rpm recordings were widely distributed in the USA and Ireland becoming hugely popular. Many tune combinations that are still widely played today were first put together on these seminal recordings. Renowned radio producer and researcher Harry Bradshaw has conducted extensive research on this subject and he concludes: ‘No other musician [as Coleman] in the history of traditional music has been so imitated. His influence pervades the entire Irish tradition today’ (Companion to Irish Traditional Music, Fintan Vallely).

Though the eighteen recordings featured here are a mere taster of the music of Sligo’s ‘Holy Trinity’ they illustrate beautifully the vibrancy and lyrical musicality of the music of South Sligo.

BD, 1 October 2015