Johnny Doherty (1900-1980)

24 November 2006, 9:11 PM GMT

Johnny Doherty (1900-1980)

Johnny Doherty was born at Ardara, Co. Donegal at the close of the 19th c. into a family steeped in musical traditions. His grandfather Simon played the fiddle, uilleann and highland pipes; his father Michael also played the fiddle, while his mother Mary McConnell had two famous brothers who also played. In turn they were descended from the Gallaghers and McSweeneys, the most famed of whom is Tarlach Mac Suibhne, An Píobaire Mór, of the 18th c. Johnny was the youngest of a family of nine, most of whom became noted players. With such a background, it’s hardly surprising that Johnny is reputed to have reached out and touched a bow shortly after his birth!!

The Doherty and McConnell families were well known tinsmiths, highly skilled in their trade, who travelled throughout the county of Donegal plying their wares for the farming communities. Johnny, with his brother Simon and later with Mickey, established a regular circuit, working the tin by day and later at night playing the fiddle with the locals and retelling tales when the people gathered for a dance or two. Therefore Johnny had access to the many varied traditions and music of the town-lands, and in turn helped to bring new tunes into the areas. Therefore the Doherty’s were eagerly looked forward to and “big nights” became a regular feature to coincide with their visits. Johnny rarely left Donegal county and only travelled to Dublin and Belfast on one occasion. Still playing reels to the very end, he died on January 23rd 1980.

His Music

Donegal music is generally recognised for its strong clear tone, skilful bowing with little finger ornamentation. Johnny’s style bore all those hallmarks but was made much more dramatic by his aggressive staccato bowing and frequent use of double stopping. He was entirely self taught, read music, and key changes seemed unchallenging to him, no matter how awkward fingering became. The influence of the strong highland piping tradition in his family was noticeable by his vast repertoire of marches and strathspeys.

Useful References

Posted By other

[Leave A Comment]

RSS Feed (What is this?)


Billeog, Biography