Michael’s passion for the music, and desire to hear and learn good music, motivated him to acquire a Philips reel-to-reel tape recorder in 1959. Few such devices existed in the Irish traditional music community at that time. It was on this tape recorder that Michael captured the Leitrim Ceili Band playing at the Ceili Mór in Aughavas in 1959, and the local crowning of his sister Josephine as the Ballad Queen of Ireland, following her successive wins at All Ireland Fleadhs in 1958 and 1959.

As more advanced technology came to the market, Michael invested in Toshiba and Sony tape recorders. The Sony tape recorder is shown below. The expense and availability of new tapes meant that many of the reel-to-reel tapes were re-used for recording. But in total 83 reel-to-reels still exist capturing multiple hours of material from 1959 to the early 1970s.

From the early 1970s Michael moved to the more convenient cassette tape recorder. The Furls of Music includes a selection of recordings from the 46 digitised audio tape cassettes in the Michael McNamara Collection, covering the period up to the mid-1990s.

Mmc N Recorder
Mmc N Recorder


Michael recorded many local musicians, including John Blessing, Pee Fitzpatrick and, recordings we believe of fiddle player Little Jimmy McKiernan

Michael recounts travelling to Edgeworthstown, Co. Longford on his bicycle after a day’s work with recorder in hand to record some musicians. On one such night he encountered none other than Longford singer Larry Cunningham who requested Michael to record him. This is the first such recording of Larry Cunningham ever made. 

Like many traditional musicians and singers over the years Michael recorded radio programmes associated with music, including the popular Saturday night RTÉ Radio programme Ceili House. We are grateful to RTÉ for permission to include some of these recordings in our selection.

Radio also provided a gateway to sports events from G.A.A. matches to Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) fighting Sonny Liston in 1964 - all captured on the Philips tape recorder alongside The Old Cross Ceili Band and Joe 'Lacky' Gallagher.