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There were always noted fiddlers in Clonmany. The most celebrated was Nealy Mc Colgan, a blind fiddler from Ballyliffin. He always took the middle of the floor and sang as he played. He went around all the fairs, markets, gatherings of all kinds. He also played on the Scottish boat between Derry and Glasgow - and there was competition between different boats to see who could get him, for passengers always went where Nealy was playing. At big nights a collection was made - 1d. a head.
There was no harmonium in the Chapel until 70 or 80 years ago. Before that the choir was made up of fiddles and flutes. At one time John Mc Eleney of Balinabo was Master of the choir, Billy Andy Porter of Gaddyduff played the fiddle. Seamus Ardris Mc Cole of Ardagh and his brother Charlie played the flutes and were great singers as well. The Harkins of Clougherna could sing and play as well. Lilting was the commonest music and some people were very good at it. That was the music they often had at the big nights.
Nealy Mc Clogan and a lad called Friel were going to Fanad by boat one day in 1852 but Nealy slept in. The Friel lad went on without him. On the way back they brought over another Hugh Friel from Fanad who came over to see his bride, Mc Donald - the " Star of Dunaff". The boat struck a rock and all were drowned. Nealy made a song "In the year of 1852 in the month of December." (The last person who knew the words of the song was Johnny Houton, from Annagh and he died some years ago).
An outline History of Clonmany by: Patrick Kavanagh
Issued by: Clonmany Festival Committee