A thank you note from Bangalore

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 12.09.43From a shady spot under a tree here in sunny south India, I would like to thank you all for your support and for your kind wishes since the launch of ‘Scaoil Amach an Pocaide’ in October. What a great night we had with Raelach Records, and I am very happy that the CD has been so well received. It has meant a great deal to me and has brought about some unexpected but very welcome consequences, and I know it has meant a lot to Steve Cooney as well. As announced, I’ve been attending an Ayurvedic doctor with my new friend Mr Parkinson’s, and of course relaxing and enjoying the spicy food. I’ll be working on the memoir, and with Jack and everyone at Raelach Records on the next CD of solo slow airs in 2015. In the meantime, thank you all! ​


Michael Harding column in the Irish Times

I’m in India at the moment, hoping Ayurvedic therapies might help my Parkinson’s. But more therapeutic than anything is how good it did my spirit to read Michael Harding’s column in today’s Irish Times. How could it not do me a world of good to read someone saying such things about my music: “… listening to the accordion music of McMahon could allow a man to live with his own loneliness. I remember concerts where his music dissolved the world for me, into a kind of liquid consciousness, as the entire audience leaned in towards the musician, like Travellers at a fire that radiates a powerful heat.”

Michael wouldn’t realise it but I am currently recollecting in the memoir I’m writing what a powerful influence certain travelling musicians had on me at a young age in Ennis. I am still to this day feeling that heat, and am honoured to have my music connected with their culture.

You can read Michael’s column here https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/michael-harding-a-man-in-the-corner-had-tears-in-his-eyes-for-some-reason-1.1995074

The new CD with Steve Cooney is out

Buy the new CD from Steve Cooney and myself, Scaoil Amach an Pocaide, here >

Scaoil Amach cover

An extract from my memoir published as a limited edition of 20

An extract from my memoir published as a limited edition of 20

We have a small number of the 20 limited edition print run of Potts, my memories of and thoughts on the great Tommy Potts taken from the memoir I’m working on, which will hopefully be finished in 2015. In the meantime, you can purchase one of these numbered monographs for €20 + pp by emailing music@penhire.ie


“Traditional Irish music at its best played by one of the greats on the accordion , absolutely brilliant.”

An iconic figure in traditional music circles, Tony Mac Mahon’s contribution to Irish traditional music has been enormous. His music has been described by many as transporting; the raw emotion and rich character of his performances leave his audiences deeply moved. His extraordinary interpretation of the old song airs of Ireland in particular stand alone, inhabiting spaces where the mystery and magic of the ancient music find full expression.

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“That’s what it sounds like when your music comes from the heart instead of the head.”

As a radio and television producer with RTÉ, Ireland’s public service broadcaster, Mac Mahon has championed the cause of native Irish arts for 25 years. Uncompromising in his damning of superficiality and commercialism in traditional music, he defends the cultural milieu which claimed him as a child in the west of Ireland. Possibly the best-known living figure in Irish traditional music, this man is its least visible icon. Often dismissed and criticised, he remains a most articulate, respected and even feared ideologue.

“He has what they call the X factor. It’s hard to describe but you know it when you hear it.”

He has played and worked with most of the great Irish traditional musicians of the past half-century. His unique TV productions have won international awards and his recordings have travelled in the wider world of Irish music. In 2004 he was awarded the ‘Hall of Fame’ award for his broadcasting service by TG4 – the Irish language public service television station. Also in 2004, the President of Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams, presented him with a commissioned piece of sculpture in bog-oak, in recognition of his many performances in British-occupied Ireland during the war.

“Mr MacMahon – you are unsurpassed!!!! absolutely INCREDIBLE!!! thank you for giving these masterpieces. I am in awe.”

“I think Irish music is at its best when played by MacMahon.”

“A true legend in our music.”

“To me Tony personifies traditional music, he actually shines with commitment……he’s daft with it and we need more like him!”

“Joe Cooley was such a rarity that he could inspire the players around him to reach undreamed heights. Tony McMahon also has that power.I am referring to treading through the realm of genius.”

“Tony Mac Mahon really has a beautiful soul and I’ve had the pleasure of sitting beside him whilst listening to him play and felt it….”

“Ever been to a house concert with Tony MacMahon–spirit so palpable your hair stands on end. The best concert I’ve ever been to in my life…”



macmahon from clare side

MAC MAHON FROM CLARE Tony Mac Mahon, 2001. MACCD001

With brothers in music Joe Cooley, Barney McKenna, Peadar Mercier, Séamus Connolly, James Kelly, John Sheahan, John Beag Ó Flatharta, Liam Ó Maonlaí

Track List

1. AN BUACHAILLÍN BÁN My Dear Irish Boy (Slow Air)

(trad. arr. Tony MacMahon)
Recorded at Boston College Gaelic Roots Festival 1999
I can see him as I play this air, Séamus Ennis sitting on the side of his bed in a flat in Bleeker Street, New York in the July heat of 1964. ‘Stop there,’ he’d say as he guided me in the playing of slow airs. ‘Put the shiver into it now … think of the poem as you play.’ He made me learn the words before playing a note – and he also let you know whether or not he was pleased! There will never be another like you, Séamus…

2. TOSS THE FEATHERS Reels with Séamus Connolly

(trad. arr. Séamus Connolly & Tony MacMahon)
It was Good Friday 2000 at the Blarney Star in Manhattan when Séamus bent over the fiddle, just as he did in Killaloe of a Sunday morning many years ago. We played Toss the Feathers in two versions, as we had remembered them from Joe Cooley. Falling into a rhythm of shared comfort, we played until the music became a reverie of pleasure.

3. PORT NA BPÚCAÍ Music of the Ghosts (Slow Air)

(trad. arr. Tony MacMahon) Recorded at Boston College Gaelic Roots Festival, 1999) ‘‘The fairies, they say, are not immortal; they, too, know death – and the music that went over the house on the island of Inis Mhic Uileain that night was a lament for one of the fairy host that had died…’’ Robin Flower (writing about this ghostly air in 1946)

4. THE BATTLE OF AUGHRIM Duet with Barney McKenna

(trad.arr. Barney McKenna & Tony MacMahon)
There was a great night’s music on May 23rd 2000 at a certain house in the Liberties of Dublin. While Barney & I played, Klaus Biegert poured the wine and Peter Gordon lay on the floor behind a recording machine the size of a wheel-barrow. We had played this old march on The Green Linnet television series 22 years earlier and we just wanted to see if it would come back to us again! Over to you, listener!

5. POLL HALFPENNY, MRS GALVIN’S FAVOURITE (Set Dances) & THE COLLEGE GROVES With John Beag Ó Flathartha joining (Reel)

(trad.arr. Tony MacMahon)
I regard the music of Ellen Galvin from Moyasta, County Clare as the most inspirational I have ever heard. No one has a name for thing fling which she always played, but I can still see her crouched over the fiddle in Ennis in 1956. She died in 1961, bringing a mountain of music to the grave with her.

6. CAOINEADH EOGHAN RUA Lament for Eoghan Rua O’Neill (Slow Air)

(trad.arr. Tony MacMahon)
Thanking Brendan Mulkere of Clare for playing this soulful air for me of a dull night in London many years ago, banishing depression. I hear it again when I think of our great Ulster chieftain, the victor of Benburb, who died in November 1649 – only months before the arrival of Cromwell…

7. THE ROLLING WAVE An Tonn Reatha (A Double Jig of Complex Nature!)

(trad.arr. Tony MacMahon)
Though this tune has been called a slip-jig, its structure falls strictly within the realms of a double jig. Important to note, however, that because of its unusual phrasing, this is certainly a more complex tune than the usual double jig.


(trad.arr. James Kelly & Tony MacMahon)
James and I had a drink in Portland, Oregon one night in May 1985 and we decided we’d make a record together. Off we went to a dreary hall next day and played for an hour. We got fed up, packed up, went for a drink – and never mentioned the record again! Just goes to show that you should always be sober when making great plans!

9. MARCSHLUA UÍ NÉILL O’Neill’s Cavalcade

(trad.arr. Peadar Mercier & Tony MacMahon)
I remember Peadar Mercier, how he took up the humble goatskin drum and leaned over it in a posture of musical repose. He played, the shadow of a smile hovering around the moustache, beatific, as always, in the love of music. Never since his death have I heard wiser words, nor had a rebuke delivered with such elegant indulgence! We recorded this selection in the company of Riobard Mac Góráin for RTÉ of a winter’s morning in 1972. The light of heaven to your soul, dear Peadar.

10. THE LIMERICK LASSIES Duet with Joe Cooley

(trad. arr. Joe Cooley)
Finality hung in the air on 23rd November 1972 as we crowded into Lahiffe’s Bar in Peterswell, Co. Galway. We all sensed that Cooley was leaving us. We played these tunes towards the end of the night. It was an honour and a sadness to play with the master…

11. MARO E MAR MAISTRESS My Love She is No More

Composer Pierre Fer
(trad.arr. Tony MacMahon)
Memories of my first visit to Brittany in 1973 – all those stirring marches from the Bagad Belimor, the elegant Breton dances, the fish and tawney Muscadet at night in le Port de Peche and the airy conversations with Soazig – the way she had of looking into the far distance with eyes of lightest blue…


(trad.arr. Tony MacMahon)
The accordion played here belonged to Joe Cooley from 1949 to 1954. Tommy Potts had often played these tunes at my home in Clare & I recorded them in London for Bill Leader & Reg Hall in April 1967 for Paddy in the Smoke. Being young and airy at the time, I went out, bought a tent and travelled France, Spain, & North Africa with my brother Dermot. We played Irish airs for coppers on the streets of unknown cities and lived like kings! Who said that youth was wasted on the young?

13. THE SIEGE OF GUINGCAMP (March) with Barney McKenna

(trad.arr. Barney McKenna & Tony MacMahon)
Polig Monjarret stood like a medieval Breton chieftain as we stepped off the plane in Lorient. It was August 1972 and the Bagad Bleimor poured this thrilling march over hot asphalt and burnt kerosene. Never did a wall of such wonderful music fall on me, never was I so welcomed and never again did I make such friends: Cuff… Patrick Sicard… Dominique le Bouchier… Patrick Molard, Alan Cloatre… et Jean-Luc – adieu mon frère…

14. AMHRÁN NA LEABHAR A Lament for Lost Books

(trad.arr. Tony MacMahon)
Mourning the loss at sea, off Derrymore Co. Kerry in or about 1840, of a collection of manuscripts and books in the Irish language. The tragedy was witnessed by the poet Tomás Rua Ó Súilleabháin from the vantage point of Cúm a’ Chiste. The books belonged to him and his grief is immortalised in this air.

15. APPLES IN WINTER & THE CARRAROE JIG Duet with Séamus Connolly

(trad.arr. Séamus Connolly & Tony MacMahon)
Learned by both of us from the soulful music of Joe Cooley.


(trad.arr. Tony MacMahon)
An umbrella of dark memory hung over this tune for me until one night at the Club Chonradh na Gaeilge in Dublin: Peadar Ó Riada took the accordion from me and played it several times over, redeeming & revealing its lyrical beauty. Prejudice banished, I now play it as often as I can!

17. THE HAUGHS OF CROMDALE (March) with Barney McKenna, John Sheahan, Liam Ó Maonlaí

(trad.arr. Liam Ó Maonlaí John Sheahan, Barney McKenna, Tony MacMahon)
There were fine times that night in the Liberties, viciously hot lamb-curry fornicating with the grape in the gut! Electric light was not permitted, so Áine Ní Chuaig lit an oil-lamp brought by piper McKiernan from the village of Carna. We muttered praise to each other as we played this old march – how good it was to have Barney back with us, just out of hospital – glorying in a shared music of abandon!



AISLINGI CEOIL/MUSIC OF DREAMS Tony MacMahon, Iarla O’Lionaird, Noel Hill, 1993, Gael-Linn, CEFCD 164






NOEL HILL & TONY MacMAHON, I gCnoc na Graí, 1985, Gael-Linn, CEF 114 hear sound sample on Amazon.com



with MICHEAL Ó SÚILLEABHÁIN, Cry of the Mountain, 1981, Gael-Linn, CEF 079



with BOYS OF THE LOUGH, Good Friends, 1978, Transatlantic TRA 354


SIXTEEN NINETY-ONE, Chants et danses Traditionelles d’Irlande, 1973, Arfolk SB 313

TONY MacMAHON 1972, Gael-Linn CEF 033

TONY MacMAHON u.v.a. The Breeze from Erin, 1970, Topic 12T184

TONY MacMAHON u.v.a. Paddy in the smoke, 1967, Topic 12T176