Lucy Farr (1911-2003)
By Pauline Jackson
Lucy Farr, nee Kirwan, was born in Ballinakill near
Loughrea, Co. Galway. She was born in 1911, the third oldest of seven
children. Her father Martin played the melodeon and flute and her Aunt
Margaret played the fiddle.
Lucy’s farmhouse was always full of music, in fact it was the
only one in the area to have a barn big enough to hold dances.
Ballinakill and its surrounding area, had plenty of musicians including
the famous Ballinakill Ceili Band.
Lucy heard players of all kinds during her early days and she and her
brother and sisters were encouraged to sing for visitors and to join in
with the sessions. She was taught to play fiddle by Paddy
Doorey, a neighbour, and Jack Mulkere who
used to cycle over to the National School in Ballinakill to give
lessons, at the cost of £1 a term.
In 1936 Lucy left home to train as a nurse and went to South East
London. She was very homesick and gradually stopped playing the fiddle,
at least in public, for several years.
She married in 1940 and three children soon followed. The pressure of
her job and bringing up her children took precedence over a social life
and playing the fiddle for many years.
It was in 1956 ,when her sister Anne came to live in London, that
Lucy’s interested in music was rekindled. Anne encouraged her
to play again and they both enjoyed regular visits to the Irish music
pubs all over London. The birth of Comhalthas Ceoltoiri Eireann also
provided a stimulus. Lucy even found herself on the committee of the
The next highpoint was a visit to London of The Leitrim Ceili Band.
Lucy was reintroduced to its members and started to practice and play
with interest again. At this time she played along with such great
musicians as Paddy Carthy and Tony Molloy,both
from Loughrea. It was around 1959 that Lucy became a regular player at
The Bedford Arms pub in North London. She played too in various bands,
The Four Courts and The Rakes being two of the most well-known.
In 1965 on one of her holidays to Loughrea, she again met up with Paddy
Carthy , Tony Molloy and John Joe Forde, and with
these players and many others, often played in the sessions in
Moylan’s pub in the centre of the town. The pub is still
there, but it is alas, now without the music .
Lucy continued to play with The Rakes and was involved in sessions for
many years until her move to Berkshire. Her tape entitled Heart
and Home was released in 1991 to coincide with her 80th
While being very modest about her playing, she continued to play and
swop tunes and tapes with students and musicians from all over the
world. By the turn of the century she was one of the few
‘old’ players still around with this vast wealth of
tunes and the sweet playing style of East Galway. Her good humour and
generosity of spirit enabled her to share them with all that were
Lucy Farr died on January 7, 2003, and is buried in her native Co
Heart and Home (tape) 1991
Paddy in the Smoke, Topic, 1997. (four tracks,
with Bobby Casey and Jimmy