Sons follow in dads' footsteps 64 years on from Makem and Clancy's Keady meeting

A young Tommy Makem performs The Cobbler, one of the folk songs with which he was to become most associated

THE seeds for a concert due to take place in the TMAC (Tommy Makem Arts and Community Centre) in Keady, Co Armagh, later this spring were sown in 1955, when Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy met for the first time.

Musicians Donal Clancy and Rory Makem, sons of the legendary balladeers, have come together for the event. Established musicians and singers in their own right, Donal and Rory have performed in the United States and Canada as well as these islands; their April concert will recall events and stories of their fathers' careers and include some of the traditional songs they brought to the international stage.

The getting together of the original Makem and Clancy, one of the most popular Irish folk duos of the 1970s and 80s, came about when American song collector Diane Hamilton travelled to Ireland to collect and record songs.

She had already met members of what was to become influential folk group The Clancy Brothers in New York, where she helped set up Tradition Records in the early 50s. On arrival in Ireland, after spending time with matriarch Joan Clancy in Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary, she headed north to Keady to tap into celebrated folk singer Sarah Makem's song collection, accompanied by Bobby and Liam Clancy.

The meeting in Keady has become part of folklore, according to John Makem, nephew of Tommy. From the moment they met, John says, a "musical brotherhood" was formed between Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy which was to transform Irish music and song.

Much of the music Diane Hamilton recorded in Keady appeared on the album The Lark In The Morning, which includes songs by Sarah Makem, Liam Clancy and Tommy Makem, as well as Paddy Tunney and Joan Clancy.

"Liam and Tommy attended a dance in Newry later that evening," John says. "The famous McCusker Bothers Ceili band were playing and they asked Tommy to sing. Tommy performed The Cobbler to a hushed audience and Clancy was mesmerised.

"On their way back to Keady both men decided to go to America to seek their fortunes."

The rest is Irish folk music history.

:: See Donal Clancy and Rory Makem at the TMAC, Keady, Co Armagh, on Tuesday April 16. For details call 028 3752 1810 or email

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