Antóin MacGabhann – Gradam Breifne Award

Antóin is a native of Mullahoran, Co Cavan and was taught the fiddle by Terry Smith, learning tunes by ear, and then by Sister Brigid, at Granard secondary school.

In the mid-1960s while studying at UCD, he joined musicians at different sessions in the city, CCÉ sessions, the Piper’s Club on Thomas St, and the Church St Club, where he met Mícheál O’hAlmhain, the Bergin family, Joe Liddy and Pádraig a’ Cnoic. While working for a summer in London he played with musicians such as Bobby Casey, Tommy McCarthy, Jimmy Power, Mairtín Byrnes, Dick Sherlock etc. He played in a céilí band every weekend in the Galtymore in Cricklewood. Back in Dublin, Tony began to play with many influential musician, such as John Kelly, Joe Ryan, John Egan, Matt Molloy, Tommy Peoples, The Rowsomes, Mick Hand, Michael Tubridy, the Glackins. He joined the Green Linnet Céilí Band.

Antóin is one of the few musicians to have taken the Senior All-Ireland title at the Fleadh two years in a row. In 1972 he won the Fiddler of Dooney, the Fiddler of Oriel, an tOireachtas and an tOireachtas Coirn Crotty.

In 1969, Antóin held a concert in Mullahoran to help raise funds for The Apostolic Society and rounded up all his musician friends in Dublin. Along with a crowd of supporters, they hired a bus and went to Mullahoran. The concert was meant to be a once off, but has been an annual event every year since – with the 50th concert having taken place in 2019.

In 1995, RTE began broadcasting the housedances from Antóin and Bernie’s house on the first Saturday of every January. In Jan 2000 the programme was the first of the new millennium, and was marked by Antóin composing a reel called ‘The Millennium Housedance’. It now opens the programme every year.

Tony teaches at his home Ashbourne, in Mullahoran, Cavan, Glasgow, and at various festivals and workshops. He has taught at Féile Ríona Traynor, Boston College, West Virginia, the Lorient festival in France etc.

Antóin is a continuously active promoter of fiddle-playing, traditional music, Irish language and culture. He is extremely keen to see it passed on to new generations, “ó glúin go glúin”. His attitude is traditional, yet refreshing; Tony is an ambassador of our culture. We are blessed to have him work with our fiddlers each month in Cavan.

Antóin receives his Gradam award from John Daly during the Ed Reavy 2019 Festival
Antóin receives his Gradam award from John Daly during the Ed Reavy 2019 Festival

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