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John’s family in Dublin


When John moved to Dublin in 1945 he met and married Frances Hilliard (1916 – 1999) the very same year.

Frances Hilliard was born in Ballisland, Shillelagh, County Wicklow and moved to Dublin in the 1940’s where she met her future husband.  John said about his wife Frances in the below recording: “The Mrs. was a great help, she a great woman too, she backed me out all the way.” 

When John would go away for trips to do with music, Frances kept the shop going while all the time bringing up the 5 children.

One of the musicians that called to the house that she particularly like was Johnny Doran who was also from Wicklow. Many musicians speak about coming to visit the Kelly household and being very well looked after by Mrs. Kelly and enjoying her company as well as her bread and tea.

Details: The Kelly family in the Pheonix Park. Date: circa 1960’s. L-R: John Kelly Junior, John Kelly Senior, Marianne Kelly, Frances Kelly (Hilliard), Frances’ sister Nancy Hilliard. 

Credit: From John’s daughter Marianne Foye’s personal collection.

In talking about his mother, John Kelly Junior stated in July 2019: “She reared us. She didn’t have a lot of time to herself. She loved her husband. And always had a big smile on her face. She was a bad business woman due to her kindness, and would give local kids things for free from the shop when they couldn’t afford it. And she always looked after us and all of the musicians who were frequently in their house.”

They had 5 children together: Michael Coleman Kelly, John my father, Anthony, Marianne & James. All musicians. Michael, John, Marianne & James played the fiddle and Anthony was a piper.

The next generation of John’s family also play. John junior’s children play traditional Irish music regularly. I play the concertina, my siblings Johnny and Leah both play the fiddle. And James’ daughter Sarah plays the fiddle and concertina.


Details: John Kelly & Frances Hilliard on their wedding day in 1945. 

Credit: From John Kelly Senior’s personal collection.

Details: John Kelly Senior & his wife Frances Hilliard sometime in the 1940’s. 

Credit: From John’s daughter Marianne Foye’s personal collection.

Photo Details: Photo of John & Frances Kelly in the Horse Shop in the early 1980’s.

Credit: Photo taken by Tony O’Shea. 


Details: L-R: John Kelly Junior, Anthony Kelly, John Kelly Senior holding James Kelly, Marianne Kelly and Michael Kelly. Date: Late 1950’s.

Credit: From John’s daughter Marianne Foye’s personal collection.

Photo Details: L-R: James Kelly (hand in front of face), John Kelly Junior, Marianne Kelly, Michael Kelly, Anthony Kelly. Date: ??

Credit: Photo from personal scrapbook of Mary Kelly, John Junior’s wife. 

Details: John Kelly Junior & John Kelly Senior. Date: Early 1960’s.

Credit: John Junior’s personal collection. 


Details: Playing at gigs organised by Brendan Mulkere. L-R: Michael, John Junior & James Kelly. Date: Late 1973/74. Location: London. 

Credit: From John’s daughter Marianne’s personal collection.

Details: Location: Church Street Church, Dublin. John Senior & Aoife Kelly. Date: circa 1983.

Credit: Personal photo of the Kelly family. 

Details: Location: Outside John Kelly’s shop, The Horse Shoe, Capel Street, Dublin. Date: December 2015. L-R: Aoife, Leah, Mary, John Jnr & Johnny Kelly.

Credit: Personal photo of the Kelly family. Taken by Photographer Jenny Martin. 


John talking about moving to Dublin & his wife Frances

Details: Philip King interview John Kelly. Producer: Julian Vignoles. Location: The Four Seasons Pub, Bolton Street, Dublin. Date: 17th February 1984.

Credit:  ‘The Green Groves’ radio programme, RTÉ Radio 2. Repeated by Peter Browne on his show ‘The Turning Wave’.

Life in Dublin Musical Context

John’s family in Dublin