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The Horse Shoe Shop


On Moving to Dublin in 1945, John opened a hardware shop at 85 Capel Street.

He also resided with his Family above this Shop until the early 1960s, when the family moved directly across the road to 83 Capel Street. The premises was very centrally located and easy to find, which made it very accessible to visitors at the time.

The visit to John Kelly at his shop was a must for one and all who had an interested in traditional music and most of the prominent musicians of the day call at one time or another. He had callers from all corners of Ireland and abroad over the years and his shop became a place of legend.

John also had friends from within the classical music world, and it was not unknown to have visiting classical violists call in on him from time to time.

Credit: Personal collection of Elizabeth Maguire, daughter of Nonie Maguire (née Kelly), John’s sister. Photo of the outside of The Horse Shoe shop, taken sometime in the 1950’s.

Sometime in the 1970s, he had a visit from a famous Russian violinist, along with a member of the symphony orchestra who John knew, and this violinist had a Stradivarius violin with him.

John Junior recalls his father stating that after he played some tunes on this violin but said it would not suitable for traditional music and said: “The sound did not project enough”.

He also repaired fiddles and would buy and sell them on occasions.

I would love more photos of the interior of the shop. It was such an interesting place but possibly due to how dark it was I have not been able to find many photos from inside of the shop. I would appreciate if anyone knows of any photos that they get it touch with me.


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

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

Details: John Kelly & Francis Hilliard outside the Horse Shoe shop circa. 1982.

Credit: John & Mary Kelly’s personal collection.


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

Credit: Photo taken by Tony O’Shea.


Talking about his shop 'The Horse Shoe'

Mick O’Connor: “From the shop, you know, they said it, if you wanted to meet a musician you just had to wait around your place and one would arrive at some stage.”

John Kelly: “I had a great ledger book and twas full of musicians names that called to the shop and they all wrote in a  bit of their names and addresses and maybe a little verse and a little thing, it’s gone, we can’t find it whatever the name of God, it isn’t showing up, it must be stacked away in some place or other. Hugh Travels and Sean Maguire and oh, at least well over a couple of hundred signatures in it, yours in in it (looking at Joe Ryan). Anybody that ever played we got them to sign the book.

They came from all over at that time, like twas, ah there was a lot travelling that time to England and people…they were in Dublin very often at that time, things were cheap in Dublin, transport was cheap in Dublin…”

Details: Date: Nov 1985. Location: Cultúrlann na hÉireann, Monkstown, Dublin.

Credit: Recorded by Mick O’Connor as part of the Coiste Ceoil of Comhaltas Ceoltoirí Eireann.


John talking about moving to Dublin & his wife Francis

Details: Philip King interview John Kelly. Producer: Julian Vignoles. Location: The Four Seasons Pub, Bolton Street, Dublin. Date: 17th February 198

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


John outside his shop 'The Horse Shoe'

Details: Date: Christmas 1982.

Credit: John Kelly Junior personal collection.


The Pilgrimage of Ti-jean - In The Horse Shoe & then The Four Seasons

Details: “The Pilgrimage of Ti-Jean”. Director: Philip Donnellan. Date: 1978.

Credit: BBC

Life in Dublin Musical Context

The Horse Shoe Shop