Celebrating a musical legend

The Market House, Clonmany, an historic building in the centre of the village.
The Market House, Clonmany, an historic building in the centre of the village.

Every once in a while, someone’s life, talents and values will have an impact that reverberates across generations and genres.

It continues to inspire and enrich the lives of others, even after they are gone.

Seamus Grant, (second from left) performing in Glendowen with Danny McCarron (left), Mick Denieffe and Brian Doyle.

Seamus Grant, (second from left) performing in Glendowen with Danny McCarron (left), Mick Denieffe and Brian Doyle.

Seamus Grant from Clonmany was one of those people. His love of music and of the land and legends of Inishowen created a legacy that is now being celebrated in an event held in his honour.

The Seamus Grant Weekend of Traditional Music and Culture is in its third year and continues to grow from strength to strength.

Set up by a dedicated, not-for-profit committee, the events over three days celebrate Inishowen’s vibrant musical and cultural history, while bringing them all firmly into the present.

Over the weekend, some of the most well-known and celebrated names in Inishowen music, culture and genealogy will host events, including step dance and advanced fiddle workshops, genealogy and social history exhibitions and traditional music sessions. among others.

All of these, in their own way, will pay due tribute to a man who “added immeasurably” to the music and culture of the Clonmany area. Additionally, they will ensure that like-minded people will preserve, protect and enhance the unique culture and music and the place and people that make up Clonmany and Inishowen.

This was something Seamus himself felt truly passionate about. Seamus was born in the townland of Cloughfin, Clonmany in 1934. His parents were Mary Ann Grant and Willie Grant, from whom he inherited his natural musical talent.

He also soaked up the music and culture of the area, learning from an uncle, Willie Joe Grant and his neighbour “White” Dan Doherty - the man who was later to become his father-in-law.

Seamus’ musical talents were recognised by the local community from a young age and from 15-years-old, he was in demand to play at the ‘Big Nights.’ These nights were central to Inishowen and celebrated the occasions which made up life in the peninsula, such as weddings and emigration.

The Big Nights were lively affairs and celebrated and shared the storytelling, music, dance and heritage of the area.

Seamus was a valued member of the St Mary’s Ceilidh Band/Clonmany Ceilidh Band. He performed alongside some of the best-known names in Inishowen traditional music. People like Neil McGonagle (Eoghan), a fiddle player, accordion player, and stepdancer from Cloontaugh. Neil’s house was a favourite spot for everyone to gather, play a few tunes and tell ‘yarns’ into the wee hours

He also performed at sessions and ceilis with Connie Doherty (Con), an accordion player known as an easy-going gentleman, who as well as playing the music, provided the transport without any fuss. Maeliosa Doherty was a neighbour,accordion player. singer and lifelong friend to Seamus and performed alongside him, as did John McCarron, an accordion player from Cleagh and member of the Clonmany Ceilidh Band.

Others who performed with Seamus in Clonmany and further afield at the time were Mick Denieffe, Mick McElkenny, Jimmy Cuddihy, PV O’Donnell and Desmond Cavanagh.

The Seamus Grant weekend celebrates and aims to preserve this vibrancy, talent and tradition, as well as honouring Clonmany and Inishowen itself.

Seamus spent most of his life in Gortnahinson, which overlooks Clonmany village. Nestled in the hills, in a place of such natural beauty, he worked the land he loved, while generously giving his knowlegdge and music. He passed away in 2005, but his talents and the legacy he left are still bringing people to Clonmany, with locals and visitors alike flocking to the Seamus Grant weekend.

This year proves to be no exception, with a packed repertoire of events between Friday, October 3rd and Sunday, October 5th. The grand opening concert in the Ballyliffin Hotel will showcase the talents of local musicians, singers and dancers, including All-Ireland champions from around Inishowen and local school choirs.

Saturday will see beginners musical workshops in Clonmany National School, which will be followed by a Genealogy and social arts exhibition, hosted by Clonmany genealogy and an arts and crafts demonstration in Market House. There will also be a social history talk with the theme ‘Migration in Inishowen History’ and Step Dance Workshops with Joe McGuigan. Following the success of last year, there will be a Craft Demonstration which will be held in the downstairs area of the Market House, Clonmany from 1pm–5pm.

On Sunday, renowned musician Liz Doherty will host an Advanced fiddle workshop in the national school and there will be an under 12s trad disco for the youngsters upstairs in Market House, as well as a trip to Doagh Farm Famine village. There will be another opportunity to view the “Exhibition of Family History and Local Heritage in Photos”, hosted by Clonmany Genealogy in the Market House

This all culminates in the Farewell, Farewell session in Market House, during which everyone is ewelcome to take part. Anyone wishing to be a part of the musical tribute to Seamus Grant is more than welcome to just turn up at any of the events, or alternatively, contact either Pat McGonigle on 087 2859287 or Shaun McDaid on 086 1948491. Log into the website www.SeamusGrantWeekend.com or alternatively find them on Facebook www.Facebook.com/Seamus.Grant.Weekend