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Laichtín Naofa Céilí Band (1954-1964)

The Laichtín Naofa Céilí Band c.1960
The Laichtín Naofa Céilí Band c.1960

The establishment of Comhaltas Ceolteoiri Eireann's Clare County Board in April 1954 prompted the launch of local branches, including one in Miltown Malbay. One of the first acts performed by the branch was to form a Céilí Band. The band consisted of members of the local community and neighboring parishes. Taking the name of the holy well which lies on the border between Mullagh and Miltown as inspiration, they chose the name ‘The Laichtín Naofa Céilí Band’. Band members included J. C. Talty and Josie Hayes (flutes), Paddy Galvin, Junior Crehan, James Flynn and Christy Dixon (fiddles), Paddy Joe McMahon (accordion), Martin Talty (pipes), Colm O'Connor (piano), Angela Merry (double bass) and Paddy Malone (drums). Other additions throughout the years included Willie Clancy and Michael Falsey.

The Laichtín Naofa Céilí Band could be found competing at many competitions. At the time, they would have been competing against the well known Kilfenora and Tulla Céilí Bands. After a few years of being placed behind the Tulla and the Kilfenora, the Laichtín Naofa Céilí Band finally won the Munster Fleadh in 1958. They then went on to beat the Kilfenora and the Tulla Céilí Bands in the All Ireland Fleadh in 1958. Probably their biggest achievement in the competition world was when they won the coveted Oireachtas competition in Dublin in 1959. Junior Crehan is quoted as saying winning the Oireachtas was

as far as you could go in traditional music - the highest feather in your cap.”
Junior Crehan, ‘Come To An Irish Dance Party’ CD Sleeve Notes

After winning the Oireachtas, the Laichtín Naofa Céilí Band were asked to record an LP of their music for the New York based ‘Dublin Record Company’. This LP went on to make history, as it was the first LP recording of a Céilí Band to be recorded in Ireland. The players who made this recording were Willie Clancy, Martin Talty, Michael Falsey, J. C. Talty, Angela Merry, Colm O'Connor, Paddy Joe McMahon, Michael Sexton, Martin Malone, Junior Crehan, Christy Dixon, Paddy Galvin and Jimmy Ward. The LP was named ‘Come to an Irish Dance Party’ and was recorded in the ‘Irish Club’ in Parnell Square in Dublin.

In the 1950s, many bands turned to incorporating other styles of music in their performances. Many played music such as pop alongside their traditional music, to appeal to a wider audience’s musical tastes. The Laichtín Naofa Céilí Band however never went down this route, and always preferred to play the more traditional reels and jigs than the waltzes and quicksteps the other bands were playing. Talking about the Laichtín Naofa Céilí Band’s purpose throughout its existence, Barry Taylor says

In reality, the raison d'étre for the Laichtín Naofa was to provide local musicians with opportunities to play and also to participate in traditional music competitions.”
Barry Taylor, ‘Come to an Irish Dance Party’ CD Sleeve Notes

Although the Laichtín Naofa Céilí Band was primarily a local-based band, during the 1950s it suffered as emigration took its toll on the country. Also, the members of the band often found it hard to balance daily life with the band’s schedule. Junior Crehan remembers

We went to Clonmel one time, it was the night before a fair in Miltown. I was just barely home in time to bring a cow to the fair! It was tough, it was a hard job... but, I enjoyed it!”
Junior Crehan, ‘Come to an Irish Dance Party’ CD Sleeve Notes

As a result of a number of factors, including emigration, work commitments and retirement, the Laichtín Naofa Céilí Band slowly began to fade away in the early 1960s. Their last outing was at the County Clare Fleadh which was held in Scariff in 1964. Their LP ‘Come to an Irish Dance Party’ was re-released on CD in 2007 by Joe O'Connor, Reachtaire, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann for Cois na hAbhna Regional Archive by permission of James and John O'Neill of Dublin Records.

Music of Clare Project:
Music featuring the Laichtín Naofa Céilí Band

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