Last updated
Dec 27, 2007



Junior Crehan 1908-98
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 dances.
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 Munnelly.
Like Willie Clancy he loved the richness and lore of the Irish language.

House dances
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 gCais.
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 sa Bhádóg
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 Ryan.
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."
Discography
Ceoil an Chlair, with Patrick Kelly, Bobby Casey and Joe Ryan

 


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