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Gallowglass Ceili Band (1950-present)

Photo Gallery - Band Lineups - Discography - Audio samples - Where Are They Now?

The Story

The history of the Gallowglass started back in 1950 when accordionist Pat McGarr formed the Gallowglass Ceili Band in Naas, Co. Kildare in 1950 along with his younger brother Jimmy on bass fiddle, elder married sister Margaret Keogh also on fiddle. Margaret's teenage son, Sean played piano. They were joined by Chris Connelly on accordion, Bobby Dunne on drums and Michael Dempsey on sax. 

The band played locally in the early years, however, it was in 1953 that they first came to wider recognition when they won the Hohner Challenge Shield for the best Ceili band in Ireland. This success was repeated in 1954 and 1955. It was also in 1956 that the band played in Dublin's historic Mansion House alongside the celebrated Jim Cameron's Scottish Dance Band.

Although considered the "relief" band, the gig went so well, within a short time, they were getting calls from ballrooms across Ireland looking for their services. Previously, they had been a basic 5 a night Ceili band (the going rate back then), but soon their value was increasing. Said Pat in a 1967 Spotlight interview, "We were able to send our prices up and up and up, until we were on, more or less, the same level as the showbands of the day. We could hardly believe it, we were were making enough money to live on."

As all bands did at one point or another, that was when the Gallowglass had to make the BIG decision, stay with the day jobs or turn pro. Pat takes up the story, "It's not an easy decision to take, to chuck a safe office or factory job and launch out into the uncertain world of show business, especially when you know very little about the entertainment world. But we decided to have a go, and I don't believe one of us has ever regretted the change."  

In 1957, the band made their first recordings for EMI Columbia. This was to be the started of many recording sessions through the next four decades. In 1960, Pat discovered Teresa Duffy who was working as a waitress at fifty schillings a week.

For the next decade, the band became arguably, Ireland's top Ceili band. They were constantly touring not only the ballrooms, but England and Scotland as well. By the sixties they had spread their wings to the United States and by 1967, they were undertaking their fifth tour of America.  

As the world of Ceili bands continued to dwindle in the late 1960's they were forced to change their approach and their programme. In order to please dancers, they had to play more modern country and even pop music. To that end, in mid 1971 the band added a new dimension, a female singer. Elizabeth Farrelly, aka Mandy, was a 16 year old from Oldcastle in Co. Meath. Almost immediately she brought out her first single, Together Alone on the Ruby label. 

In July 1972. Pat McGarr took out a full page advert in Spotlight announcing a new sensation "The Symbols" (ex-Gallowglass) which was a new name for the band. In the lineup was Mandy as female vocalist along with Bernie Boyle (aka Bill Ryan - who would soon front Buckshot). We understand from Elizabeth Farrelly (Mandy) that Bill recorded Mrs. Jones as the band's first single, but before it could be released, he had been drafted to front a new band formed by defecting members of the Cotton Mill Boys called Buckshot.  

In January, 1973, Tony O'Leary, former lead singer with the Capitol and the Smokey Mountain Ramblers (after the departure of Pat Ely) joined the band, promising a new look Gallowglass. It appears that in early 1973, the band changed their name to the Country Cousins and a subsequent article in Spotlight in August, 1973 announced that Tony was considering re-launching the band as the Gallowglass in late 1973. Tony had bought the name from Pat McGarr although we have been told that this incarnation of the band did not last long. Eventually Pat got the name back and the band returned to being a Ceili Band.     

More to come.....

Photo Gallery

click on thumbnails for full image

Gallowglass - 1957 Gallowglass - 1958 Gallowglass - 1950's Pat McGarr Gallowglass - 1967
Gallowglass (RF) Gallowglass (RF) Gallowglass (RF) Gallowglass (RF) Gallowglass (RF)
Gallowglass (RF) Gallowglass (RF) Gallowglass (RF) Gallowglass (RF) Tony O'Leary and The Gallowglass (TP)
Gallowglass - 1967 Gallowglass - 1967 Gallowglass - 1967 Mandy - 1971 Gallowglass - 1971
     

 

Symbols - 1972 Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon
Years Accordion Vocals Keyboards Bass Drums Accordion Fiddle Sax
1950 Pat
McGarr
  Sean
Keogh
Jimmy
McGarr
Bobby
Dunne
Chris
Connolly
Peggy
Keogh
Mick
Dempsey
1955 Pat
McGarr
Patricia
Duffy
Sean
Keogh
Jimmy
McGarr
Davy
Scott
Chris
Connolly
Peggy
Keogh
Mick
Dempsey
1958 Pat
McGarr
Patricia
Duffy
Sean
Keogh
Jimmy
McGarr
Davy
Scott
Fintan
Stanley
Peggy
Keogh
Mick
Dempsey
1960 Pat
McGarr
Patricia
Duffy
Sean
Keogh
Jimmy
McGarr
Patrick
Dunne
Tony
O'Dowd
Peggy
Keogh
Mick
Dempsey
1970 Pat
McGarr
John
Greville
  Jimmy
McGarr
       
1971 Pat
McGarr
Mandy   Jimmy
McGarr
Unknown Brendan
Breen
Unknown Unknown
1972 Pat
McGarr
Mandy Bill
Ryan
Jimmy
McGarr
Unknown Brendan
Breen
Unknown Unknown
1972 Pat
McGarr
Mandy Sam Jimmy
McGarr
Unknown Brendan
Breen
Unknown Unknown
                 

Discography

Singles:
At The Ceili (EP)

Top Rank Records - Unknown - 1959
The Bluebell Polka / The Veleta
Columbia Records - IDB 597 - 1958?
Waltz Medley / Reels
Columbia Records - IDB 611 - 1963?
Set Dance - Stack of Barley-Road to the Isle
/ Jig - When Sich Its Tea You Want-Old Horned Sheep-Larry O'Gaff
Columbia Records - IDB 614 - 1963?
Jig - Co-tillion - Mrs. Grace Bowie - Cumberland / Hornpipe - Harvest Home-Boys of Blue Hill
Columbia Records - IDB 615 - 1963?
Waltz Medley / March Medley
Columbia Records - IDB 617 - 19664?
The Honeysuckle / The Kildare Fancy
Columbia Records - IDB 625 - 1965
Paddy In London / Jackson's Morning Brush
Columbia Records - IDB 626 - 1965
The Boys From The County Cork / On The One Road
Emerald Records - MD 1083 - August, 1967
Take This Ring / Katy Daly's Father
Emerald Records - MD 1092 - February, 1968
Together Alone / Back IN My Baby's Arms
Ruby Records - RUB 140 - November, 1971
Mrs. Jones (Sam) / Two Of A Kind (Mandy) - Released as "Sam and the Symbols"
Release Records - RL 643 - August, 1972

Albums:
Wearin' Of The Green
Emerald Records - STAL 6003 - 1970
25th Anniversary
EMI Records - STAL 1042 - 1975
Gallowglass Ceili Band
CBS Records - CBS 52206 - Unknown Year
The Sound of John Ellis & His Highland Country Band
Emerald Records - GEM 1140 - Unknown Year

Audio Clips

Coming Soon

Where Are They Now?  

 

Pat McGarr:
Peggy Keogh:
Jimmy McGarr:
Sean Keogh:
Davy Scott:
Chris Connolly:

 


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In Loving Memory of Grant Gallagher: Sept. 21, 1990 - Nov. 18, 2006