About Joe Cooley (excerpts taken from the festival's 25th year programme)

Joe Cooley AccordionJoe Cooley was born in Peterswell. County Galway in 1924. He learned to play the button accordion from his mother, who played the concertina, and later from a well known local music teacher, Jack Mulkere. There were twelve children in the Cooley household, most of them were musicians and singers.
Joe played with the Peterswell band in the 1940's, and with The Galway Rovers Céilí Band in Dublin, where he met musicians Sonny Brogan and Johnny Doran, both of whom were to influence Cooley's musical style. He worked and played music with Joe Leary, Charlie, Johnny and Kevin Doyle and Joe Howley in Clare, Galway and Dublin.
The Cooleys played with Sonny Mullins, Paddy Burke and Kit O'Connor and many more musicians for house parties all over South Galway and Clare.
Joe and his brother Séamus played in the original Tulla Céilí Band when it was founded in 1946. Joe emigrated to England in the late 40s and to America in 1954. He spent time in San Francisco where he taught many young people to play music of which Patricia Connelly was a very talented musician of note. Some recordings and images of Joe playing in San Francisco can be found on this website:
Joe and Séamus Cooley played with many fine musicians all over the States and finally settled in Chicago. He taught many students during his years in America and particularly loved to observe "the coloured people stamp their feet" in response to his music. He married Nancy McMahon from Killanena Co. Clare.
Due to ill health, they returned to Ireland in 1972. For the next 18 months he played music with Des Mulkere (son of Joe's former teacher Jack Mulkere), until his untimely death on 20th December 1973 aged 49 years. A brief film was made for RTE on 29th of November 1973 at Lahiff's pub, Peterswell just three weeks before he passed on. The following is an excerpt from this film.




About Kieran Collins


Kieran Collins WhistleKieran Collins was born in Gort, Co. Galway on the 23rd of September, 1938. His parents were Packie Collins from Peterswell and Maggie Gallagher from Derrybrien. Both were keenly interested in music and had a discerning ear for a good musician or singer. 
He began to play from about the age of six years, with the encouragement of his parents. His mother was given to singing and humming tunes while attending to her duties about the house and no doubt this influenced the young Kieran. He fell under the influence of the Cooley family from Peterswell, in particular learning much from the playing and encouragement of Séamus Cooley (RIP 1997). Kieran and Joe Cooley also became great friends and enjoyed each other's company through many music sessions.
Kieran's musical ability was very evident and he developed a distinctive and innovative style of whistle playing. His virtuosity was such that music recorded over fifty years ago is as fresh and captivating now as it was then.
Kieran moved to London around 1957 and began a career in electronics, working initially for BOAC. He eventually returned to Ireland in the late 1960's, taking up a position at the growing Shannon Airport. He ultimately moved to Dublin Airport and lived and worked in Dublin until his untimely death on November 2nd, 1983 aged 45 years. In the years since Kieran's passing, the warmth and affection held for him by his friends has not diminished in the least. The sadness at his passing is in solemn contrast with the pleasure experienced in listening to his music, even to this day.

Great tin whistle player Kieran Collins (opens in new window)