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John Reilly (singer)

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John Reilly (singer)

John Reilly (singer)
Born 1926
Died 1969
Occupations Singer

John (Jacko) Reilly, (b. c1926 - d.1969) was a traditional Irish singer and source of songs most of which he had learned from his parents.

He was a settled Irish Traveller who lived in Boyle, Co Roscommon, and is thought have hailed from Carrick-on-Shannon in Co Leitrim. He was a profound influence on many popular folk and traditional singers and was often frequented by song collectors from Ireland such as Tom Munnelly. At in 1965 he collected the ballad "The Well Below the Valley" (Child #21), it was the first time this song had been collected from Oral tradition in 150 years. Christy Moore in the magazine "Swing 51" (1989) recalled that "British folklorists ... wouldn't accept that it was genuine. They reckoned it was a put-up and they couldn't accept that this song had appeared in the West of Ireland because it had never appeared there before."

In 1972 Munnelly played the tape to Christy Moore who subsequently performed it on Planxty's album "The Well Below The Valley". Planxty also sang "The Raggle Taggle Gypsy". Again the source was Munnelly's recordings of Reilly. Later Sinéad O'Connor was inspired by Munnelly's recording of "Lord Baker". Her own version is based on the singing of Reilly.

Christy wrote of him: "He was a generous and gentle man, totally bemused and very tickled when his singing gained the attention of the folklorists." [1]

During 2004's "Live at Vicar Street" recorded by newly reformed Irish folk act Planxty, Christy Moore mentions hearing him sing for the first time and calls it a "life changing" experience, going on to dedicate the song "As I Roved Out" to his memory. Christy points out that he did not in fact learn the song from him though.[2]

John Reilly died of pneumonia in 1969, aged 44, Tom Munnelly cared for him and brought him safe to hospital for his last days.


  • The Bonny Green Tree, John Reilly, Topic.
  • Voice of the People, various, Topic :
  • O’er His Grave the Grass Grew Green - Tragic Ballads (Topic TSCD 653) - John Reilly sings 'The Well Below the Valley'.[3]
  • Songs of the Irish Travellers, various, Pavee Point.[4]

See also


External links

  • Short biography

I remember John singing at our bonfire outside the garden across the road from the slated house he lived in. He used to repair bread tins for Egan's bakery. He was a lovely man and I can still hear his unusual voice in my head.PJ

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