The People Section introduces you to Michael McNamara, his family, as well as a general introduction to the Performers you will hear.

This information on Michael’s life, as well as the detailed introduction to the Leitrim Area, provide the rich contextual background to the music and song playlists in the Explore Section.

Michael McNamara

Michael McNamara was born in 1936 to parents Patrick McNamara and Bridget Reilly. Second eldest in a family of five living children, Michael’s mother died when he was five years old. Subsequent to his mother’s untimely death, Michael was reared by his father in their homestead in Carrickavoher, Aughavas, Co. Leitrim. 

Though life was not easy on a subsistence farm, Michael and his siblings grew up in a house which constantly received visitors, particularly local farmers who visited on a Sunday night to ‘ceili’ and keep company with Michael’s father Patrick. Though not musicians or singers, these neighbours were influential in developing Michael’s great interest in storytelling. 

Michael’s dad also had songs that he would sing around the fireplace to his young children to entertain them after the chores for the day were completed. This had a particular influence on Michael’s sister Josephine.

Of particular significance in Michael's life were the visits from local flute player, singer and storyteller, John Blessing. Witnessing this master player from an early age, progressed to lessons on the whistle in 1951 and eventually the flute.  

Michael met his wife Mary Sweeney at a dance in Belturbet, Co. Cavan in the early 1960s where she was dancing and he was a member of the Eugene Leddy Ceili Band. They married in 1965. While reluctant to be in the musical limelight Mary was the ‘nucleus’ of the McNamara Family, raising with Michael five children: Brian, Ray, Ciaran, Enda and Deirdre. Though Michael was always a resident of Aughavas, he did travel to Dublin for work for many years, returning to work in Leitrim in the late 1980s. 

The family home which he built in his early 20s remains his place of residence to this day. Sadly Mary died in August 2014.

Mary and Michael McNamara

The McNamara Family

Ó ghlúin go glúin

Michael and his late wife Mary raised five children, Brian, Ray, Ciaran, Enda and Deirdre in their family home in Carricavoher, Co. Leitrim. 

They all play music and are featured on the family recording Leitrim’s Hidden Treasure which was launched in 1998. The recording presents music that Michael had learned from the musicians in the south Leitrim area as well as music from collections associated with this same area, such as the Stephen Grier Collection.

This recording from Leitrim's Hidden Treasure features a set of reels from the Stephen Grier Manuscripts: Miss Simple’s, The humours of Bolton Street, Bring her to the shelter, and Miss Gunning’s.

The McNamara Family, 1998

All Performers

The Michael McNamara Sound Collection contains recordings of hundreds of musicians and singers collected during a period that spans more than 30 years.

In Furls of Music we have curated 70 recordings to present a representative selection.

These have been presented in grouped Playlists and individually in the Explore Section of Furls of Music.