Fiddle and concertina player, singer, composer and storyteller, Martin
(Junior) Crehan was born on January 17, 1908, in Bonavilla, Mullagh, Co
Clare, into a house of flute players, concertina players and dancers.
His father was a teacher at Shanaway National School. Junior learned
concertina from his mother and later when learning fiddle was greatly
influenced by John 'Scully' Casey and his cousin Thady,
the dancing master, from Annagh, from whom he learned tunes, airs and
With Scully's son Bobby Casey
he played at crossroads dances, American wakes, house dances and
weddings. He also admired the music of Johnny
Doran whom he would hear playing the uilleann pipes at the
local fairs and races in the 1930s.
In 1941 he married Cissie Walsh, a noted dancer in
the Mullagh area. He played in the Laoichtín Naofa Ceili
Band with Willie Clancy,
Martin Talty and other musicians in the
Miltown Malbay area from 1954 to 1962. This was a follow-on from the
founding of Comhaltas in 1951 and its Miltown branch in 1953.
A noted composer, many of his tunes are now firmly in the traditional
music repertoire, including Caislean an Oir, Farewell to
Miltown, The Mist Covered Mountain and Junior
Crehan's Favourite (also known as The Knotter Chord)
which was recorded by Planxty in 1972.
He was a writer of songs, including one dedicated to Scully Casey and
another to Willie Clancy. Junior was also a master storyteller and an
accomplished set dancer. A farmer, he had a great store of farm lore,
local history and tradition, much of which was recorded from him by Tom
Like Willie Clancy he loved the richness and lore of the Irish language.
Quiet spoken, he was not afraid to express himself. He was trenchant in
his criticism of the 1935 law which outlawed the house dances where
music and dance styles were passed on. "The Dance Hall Act closed our
schools of tradition and left us a poorer people," he wrote in Dal
In his later years he became a father figure of Irish music in Co
Clare. He was involved in the founding of the Willie Clancy Summer
School in 1973 and served as its president up to his death, having
taught there for 25 years. He was also active in Comhaltas and, like
the Kilrush concertina player Elizabeth
Crotty, was its Co Clare president for a period.
The Crehan house was always open to musicians and students, which
probably was not surprising as Junior was one of the fourth generation
of Crehan musicians, a tradition proudly carried on by his own family.
His daughter Ita plays flute and Angela
plays concertina. He was also survived by his wife Cissie, son Patrick
and another daughter Margaret.
His son Tony, also a concertina player, passed away
in 1995. His nephew, flute player Mick Crehan, runs
the Crane Bar in Galway. Meanwhile Junior's grandson, Kevin
Crehan, who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 2001 released a CD
of solo fiddle music from West Clare titled Bhábóg
Junior featured in several national TV and radio programmes and was the
subject of a radio documentary in 1984. In 1976 he toured the USA for
three weeks as guest of the Smithsonian Institute. He was named
Clareman of the Year in 1989 and was honoured by the Arts Council on
his 80th birthday. His main recording, outside of several compilations,
is the Ceoil an Chlair LP which also featured
fiddlers Patrick Kelly, Bobby Casey and Joe
In his graveside oration Muiris O Rocháin
said: "With the death of Junior Crehan an era in the traditional life
of West Clare has come to an end." Fiddler, Martin Hayes
said: "He knew where the heart and soul of music was. If you could
understand Junior, you could understand the music."
Ceoil an Chlair, with Patrick Kelly, Bobby
Casey and Joe Ryan