The Music Master of Glenfarne

A nostalgic and moving weekend programme was organised in Glenfarne, Co Leitrim, to honour one of its native sons, the late Tommy Maguire. Held on the 13 - 15 August under the effective and professional guidance of the genial Gerry Finneran, and involving Tommy’s family, the weekend consisted of concert, céilí, workshop, sessions and lectures and Mass. Much of the activity took place in the famous ‘Ballroom of Romance’.

At the time of Tommy’s death in 1986, the Leitrim Observer recalled the genius and greatness of this master musician.

The sudden passing of Tommy Maguire in the early hours of Monday 3rd March at his home in Holloway, London was not alone, a tragic loss to his wife and family, but to the traditional music throughout Ireland and Britain, and to his native county of Leitrim which he loved and cherished.

One of nine children of the late Johnny and Annabelle maguire formerly Keaney from Belcoo, Tommy attended Brockagh NS Glenfarne where his grandmother, wife of his grandfather Matthew John Maguire formerly taught. His grandfather owned a public house in East Bars, Glenfarne.

His father was a noted fiddle player and his uncle Mick was trainer of the one time Glenfarne Fife and Drum Band and the Manorhamilton Band. It can be truthfully said, therefore, that it wasn’t off the wind that he acquired the tradition, interest and love of Irish music.

Following the death of his mother at a young age, his father married Margaret Smith, who still resides at Lacoon, Glenfarne. His father died about twenty years ago. Like many Leitrim families before and since, living on small farm holdings the members of the Maguire family had no option but to seek their livelihood outside of their native country. Tommy and his brothers and sisters chose England where he resided over the past forty years.

An accordion player in his own right and always conscious of his country’s heritage and traditions, he decided to share his talents and skill as a musican with others, particularly the younger genration, thus ensuring the handing on of Ireland’s culture.

As reported in the Irish Post ‘With Brendan Mulkere, Tommy Maguire was the leading teacher in Britain of Irish Music. Based in the Irish Centre, Camden, he, over the years tutored probably thousands of children and many of them went on to win All-Britain and All-Ireland titles both as solo perfomers and as members of céilí bands. In recognition of his outstanding work he received an Irish Post Community Award for the year 1977.

In the same year the winners of the u-11 Céilí Band section at the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil in Ennis, was the TMTNL (Tommy Maguire Tuition North London) Céilí Band. The winning of the competition was indeed a great honour for Tommy as his band competed against eleven other bands, not only were they from all over Irealnd, but some of them came from as far away as Australia, as well as the US and Britain. One of the competitors was Mary Kilkenny of Johnny Kilkenny from Blackmountain, another was Mary Kilkenny (formerly Mary Dolan from Carrickcrevagh).

At that time Tommy had the honour of having nine Céilí Bands from Juvenile to Senior in London.

According to Drumshanbo born Fr Jim Butler of OMI, former Chaplain of the Irish Centre in London, Tommy composed a stirring tune called ‘Leitrim’.

It was usually played officially for the distribution of the Shamrock on the 16/17 March at the annual Leitrim St Patrick’s feast function. He organised many concerts for the Irish Centre, which were always a great success. At Irish night at the Prince of Wales Theatre, he always opened the show with his pupils.

His dedication to Irish music was evident to the end because ‘The Irish Post’ reports that on the Sunday evening preceding his death, Tommy played at the regular céilí at the Irish Centre and was his usual good-humoured self.

He seemed in great form’, said the Centre’s Director Fr Claude Malone OMI. ‘He even turned up early to get in some practice -as if Tommy needed practice’.

Tommy is survived by his wife Mai, a native of Galway and their children Margaret, Patricia and John.