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Ceoltoiri na Gael Ceildhe Band

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Ceoltoiri na Gael Ceildhe Band

Back in 2015 we published an interesting 78 rpm disc to our SoundCloud account that we came across in the David Giovannoni Collection. Our normal research methods for information about both the Ceoltoiri na Gael Ceildhe Band and the Irish Recording Company turned up dead ends, so we sent an email to our good friend Harry Bradshaw for any information.

Harry believed the recording may be the work of Bill Stapleton who set up a recording studio in Dublin's Moore Street after World War II. The number on the label is similar to the numbers that Stapleton used (his discs went up to 1070). We've also since released a couple other discs we believe to be produced by Stapleton's IRC label, including recordings by Tommy Potts and John Kelly.

In February 2020 we heard from Dermot O'Brien, whose mother May Keogh played fiddle in the Ceoltoiri na Gael Ceildhe Band. Here's Dermot's message:

"You were seeking information on the above ceilidhe band. I think the band was founded in the 1940s. As far as I know, all of the original members were Dubliners. They had previously played in the Colmcille Ceilidhe Band before leaving to form their own band. Ceoltoiri na nGael operated into the late 1960s. Membership varied from time to time but the core members were May Keogh (fiddle), May Kavanagh (fiddle), Teresa Moroney (piano), Joe Lawlor (drums), Jim Welch (piccolo). Other members in the early days were Tim Keogh (fiddle) and Tommy Brazil (uilleann pipes). The Colmcille Ceilidhe Band was among the first to broadcast on Ireland’s national radio station 2RN (later known as Radio Eireann) in the early years of the Irish State and Ceoltoiri na nGael frequently appeared on the station after it was formed.

Ceoltoiri na Gael Ceildhe Band

Ceoltoiri na Geal Ceili Band, courtesy of Declan Lawlor

I know all this because May Keogh (her maiden name) was my mother. She was a classically trained violinist but played traditional music all her life. She was a gold medal winner in the senior traditional fiddle category of the Feis Ceoil in 1930. Along with her ceilidhe band activities, she was also a popular accompanist at Irish dancing competitions from the 1940s into the 1990s, playing at the annual All-Ireland and World’s Irish dancing championships. She died in 2003 in her 93rd year. Tim Keogh, mentioned above, was her brother. He was also a Feis Ceoil gold medal winner in senior traditional fiddle. He also played uilleann pipes and bagpipes. He was pipe major of the famous Fintan Lalor Pipe Band of Dublin for many years, leading them to many competition wins both in Ireland and Scotland. He was a composer of pipe band music and a respected judge of pipe band competitions in Ireland and Scotland in his latter years. May Kavanagh, mentioned above, was first cousin of May and Tim Keogh.

I was delighted to find the recording of Ceoltoiri na nGael on your website. I know the Colmcille Ceilidhe Band made a couple of recordings when my mother was a member but I had not known that Ceoltoiri na nGael had also been recorded. Many thanks for publicising it."

And in April 2020 we received an email from Declan Lawlor, whose father Joe Lawlor was in the band as well. Declan also sent along some excellent photos of the band that we've included in this post.

Massive thanks to Dermot and Declan for sharing their families' stories.

From the David Giovannoni Collection, item DG 78 00-155.

If anyone else has information about the Ceoltoiri na Gael Ceildhe Band, feel free to pass along any info to us at archives@irishfest.com!

By Jeff Ksiazek

Published May 5, 2020

Ceoltoiri na Gael Ceildhe Band

Ceoltoiri na Geal Ceildhe Band, courtesy of Declan Lawlor

Ceoltoiri na Gael Ceildhe Band

Irish Independent, October 25, 1952, courtesy of Declan Lawlor

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