The Ballinakill coil band was founded in 1925 by Fr. Tommy Larkin, Stephen Moloney, Tommy Whelan, Tommy Whyte,Jerry Moloney and Anna Rafferty,
Stephen Moloney was father to Eddie Moloney who was born in 1920 originally from Ballinakill, Loughrea. He moved to Salthill from 1956. Eddie is considered to be the best traditional flute player of his time and a formidable violinist. He was also a member of the Mulhaire Céili Band, and the Shaskeen Céilí Band.
Eddie is also one of trad’s most overlooked and under-appreciated practitioners. However a serious attempt to rectify this situation was made this past summer when a double album of Eddie’s music was compiled and launched by his son Seán. The launch which was a musical extravaganza featured performances by Frankie and Sean Gavin, members of Shaskeen and the Mulhaire Ceili Band, Joe Burke and Anne Conroy, Carl Hession, Donal Standun, Ballinakill’s Fahey family, the Moloney family and many more.
In my interview with Seán he explained why he took on this venture
“My father died at the age of sixty and I only really got to play with him for about five years before he passed. I managed to capture my uncle Kevin but there were no commercial recordings ever done of my father’s individual playing. And I decided I needed to make an effort to compile any live recordings that had been done of his playing”
The new compilation album of Eddie’s music is drawn from solo recordings for radio and TV, as well as music from the National Folklore Collection; the RTÉ, Raidio na Gaeltachta, and Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann archives; the Irish Traditional Music Archive, and from collections by Mick O’Connor, Father Dan Lyons and Seamus McMathuna, Shaskeen’s Tom Cussen
And from recordings of Sean Moloney
“His playing captured East Galway flute and fiddle music, as he played both and played them very well,” says Frankie Gavin, renowned fiddle player of De Danann fame. “His versions of tunes were second to none. He had the best – whether they were his own, or variants of tunes, or someone else’s. His timing, punctuation, and phrasing were also second to none. There was a warmth to his style that swept you into his world. Eddie was a gentleman of Irish music. He was charming as a man, and as a musician. With that combination you couldn’t go wrong.”
Eddie grew up in Ballinakill, East Galway and had three brothers. He was the second oldest. Jim was the oldest and he played flute and uileannpipes and was not really involved in the band scene. Kevin was the third oldest and Ambrose was the youngest of the four boys. There were five daughters and they were mostly dancers and singers.
Kevin moved to Mayo and did not play out very much. In 1997 he recorded the well-known album Bridging The Gap. It was the last time that he recorded anything, he was 75 and passed away in 2004.
Jack Mulkere was a member ofThe Aughrim Slopes céilí band and he taught both Eddie and and Kevin Moloney. Mulkere moved to Clare and settled down in a small village between Tulla and Crusheen. He continued to cycle back over the Sliabh Aughty mountains, back to East Galway to continue teaching the young eager students such as Eddie and Kevin. The journey was thirty miles or more over rough and mountainous terrain; such was his love for and desire to pass on the East Galway Irish Music Tradition (EGIMT) to the youngsters of that area.
In my interview with Seán Moloney, Eddie’s son he recounted how both Stephen Moloney, his grandfather and Tommy Whelan who used to play the uileann pipes and war pipes would play tunes across the fields to each other. He explained that Ireland had just secured their freedom and up until that point musicians were not allowed to gather to play; they could only play solo. He said that the early 1900s the Black and Tans would burn a house down if the owner was known to play the uilleann pipes. The pipes had become a strong and vibrant symbol of Irish-ness and pipers always hid their sets in the rafters so that they could not be found. Such were the times back then.
James Moloney was Eddie’s grand-father and he spent time in England and USA between 1851 and 1884. Many years later, he inherited some land and he returned to Ireland where he lived out his remaining days where he was known to be an accomplished operatic singer.
In my conversation with Seán we agreed that there are slight variations in the in the East Galway Irish Music Tradition. For example, EGIMT around the Woodford area was quite a bit slower than his grandfather’s area (Stephen). And Dinny Delaney and Stephen Whyte were pipers and they gave the style to the Aughrim Slopes area of East Galway whereas Jack Fahey, father to Paddy Fahey gave the style to the Ballinakill area of East Galway
Seán and I finished our conversation by recounting playfulness of Eddie Kelly and his mischievous streak when he would be performing. Seán played with him often when he lived in Sligo and I loved hearing the stories about Eddie when he was in his prime, playing all those great tunes and sharing his compositions. It was a heartening way to end a very interesting and compelling conversation.