Scroll to top

Joe Ryan


Joe Ryan (1928–2008) was from Inagh, in County Clare. He moved to Dublin and then County Meath, and was also in London for some time.

Joe was a noted fiddle player and won prizes in the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil and the Oireachtas in the 1950’s.

Joe and John were very good friends and played together for many years. Some of that time was in O’Donoghues pub on Merrion Row in Dublin. They also played in the Castle Ceilí Band together.

Joe was a carpenter by trade and made several concertina cases which are beautifully made, which I own one of. He also made a wheel which is still to this day in O’Donoghues Pub in Dublin.

Details: John Kelly & Joe Ryan. Location: O’Donoghues Pub, Merrion Row, Dublin. Date: circa 1970’s.

Credit: Personal collection of John Kelly Senior. 


Details: Joe Ryan and John Kelly. 

Credit: Personal collection of John Kelly Senior. 

Details: Joe Ryan playing the fiddle. 

Credit: Personal collection of John Kelly Senior. 

Details: John Kelly, Joe Ryan and Tony Crehan. Date: circa 1985.

Credit: Personal collection of John & Mary Kelly. 

Details: John Kelly Junior, Peter Mackey, Seán Maguire, Joe Ryan. Date: 1980’s

Credit: Photo taken by Mary Kelly. Personal collection of John & Mary Kelly. 


Joe Ryan & John Kelly playing together

Details:  John Kelly & Joe Ryan playing 3 Reels: Gerdie Commane’s, The West Clare & Mary Delaney’s.

Credit: © RTÉ 1987. 


O’Donoghues memories

“Sonny (Brogan) used have people lined up for a few bob. He had patrons that was very kind to him and used give him a half-crown here and a few bob there. He used be delighted to get the price of a few bottles of stout. But we thought, like, ‘twould never come to the day when we’d be playin’ in public houses (and we did not think we would see) the big change that came in the times. One time if you were seen in a pub with a fiddle you’d be the talk of Dublin. They’d hoosh you out of it anyway!

But I’m comin’ to the time when Joe Ryan and myself played in Donoghue’s. I suppose we were playin’ fifteen years there and we met some great people. We had some rough nights and some fine nights. And we met people from all over the globe anyway. I couldn’t mention the amount of glamour-boys that came there from all over. The music was very good at times but the crowd was very rough and a lot of noise and a lot of drunks there. I often swore that I’d get out of it. We’re out of it now anyway. It was great playin’ with Joe, he was one of the old timers. He had a great repertoire of good old reels and he had a good style. He played with Bobby Casey in London. So it used be a “Clare night” all the time although we had plenty of Kerrymen with us too. Paddy Taylor (from London) used come in when he in when he was doin’ the film up in the Dublin mountains (?). He’d come in there and he’d sit down and the next thing he’d pull up a flute up out of his trousers pocket, a big long pocket he had for the flute specially. And he’d be in action in two minutes. And we used enjoy playing with Taylor, he was a beautiful player. Then Denis Murphy … we often played with Denis Murphy there and Julia (Clifford), Seean Maguire and Josephene Keegan. I couldn’t mention the amount … (of musicians), I’m talkin’ off the top of my head now. But I’ve great memories of great nights there. You’d always have a good hour there sometimes, or a half an hour, maybe, towards the end of the night when things’d quieten down.

But we were beseiged by tinkers of all descriptions and little beggars, ach, every kind of a hobo there. But still I never saw a bad row there or anything. Johnny McDonagh used to come in. When he’d come to Dublin to the All Ireland (Oireachtas) he’d always come and he’d sing a few songs. So it was very entertaining. When Friday night’d come I’d feel like a young fella goin’ over there.

I don’t think it’s gain’ well there now, but Joe and me is back in the Four Seasons (pub) next door for the last year and a half and nearly the same thing goes on there, music and sessions and crowds. So that is this part of the story that I thought I’d recap.”

Details: John Kelly Junior interview with his father in 1979. Capel Street. 

Life in Dublin Musical Context

Joe Ryan