I was born into a musical household in Omagh, Co. Tyrone and have been singing for as long as I can remember.
My maternal grandmother, Sarah Makem, was a well known ballad-singer and source of countless folksongs. I learned a lot of her songs throughout my early years.
During the great folk music revival of the 1960s I became very influenced by the records that were sent from the United States and Canada by my uncle Tommy – he was a household name as a performer with the Clancy Brothers. These records widened my repertoire considerably.
I’ve always had a good memory, particularly for songs and poetry, and once something went in it generally stayed there.
While I didn’t mind going to school I wasn’t a very good student. I think this is because I was obsessed with music which always took first place.
Along with my brother Jimmy I performed all through my teens in local parish halls, seaside towns in summer and variety troupe concerts in the autumn and winter.
I turned professional in the early 70s when there was a burgeoning folk scene in Ireland. The summers were spent playing resident dates in Boston, New York and later a long residency at the Tara Club in Nashville.
When things began to slow down at home we went to perform full-time in Canada. Our group was called Barley and included the late Donegal fiddle player PV O’ Donnell.
We were given a weekly TV series by ATV which ran for three years and that allowed us to tour far and wide over the next ten years.
I came back to Ireland in the early nineties and have pursued a career in performing and writing songs for children since then.
During the summer months I generally appear at some of the outdoor Irish music festivals across the US & Canada, where I sing ballads, comical songs and tell an occasional yarn or two.
I have a small home recording studio and when I’m not on the road you will find me here writing and recording. I release a couple of kid’s albums each year and generally a folk one as well.
On March 17th, 1998 I was asked to perform at the White House for President Clinton and the First Lady. I had written a peace song during the Troubles called ‘Anthem For The Children’ and they heard it at a fundraiser. It was a month before the historic Good Friday Agreement was signed and everyone involved was present. It was a career highlight for me.
I love sharing the beauty, songs, history and folklore of Ireland and enjoy hosting coach tours around the country with visitors from all arts and parts.
Life continues to be very good, thank God, and as long as I’m able to get around I’ll carry on singing and travelling.