Gleann Cholm Cille is a remarkable locale with plenty of ways to spend your time. We have gathered together some information for you and hope you enjoy your time in Glen.


Gleann Cholm Cille and its music

There is a long and vibrant fiddling tradition in South West Donegal. It is particularly strong and rich in Gleann Cholm Cille. In the early 1900s, there was, it is said, a fiddle in every house in the townland of Mín na Croise! The local style is fast and attacking with little ornamentation. It may be heard throughout the year at seisiúin in private houses, pubs, and Foras Cultúir Uladh.

Every year Cairdeas na bhFidléirí (, the Donegal Fiddlers' Society, holds a summer school in Gleann Cholm Cille to celebrate this important part of local culture. In addition Cairdeas na bhFidléirí, in association with Oideas Gael, has established a traditional music archive in Foras Cultúir Uladh. The archive houses a collection of photographs and recordings of south-west Donegal fiddlers. Available on cd - Cairdeas na bhFidléirí - "The Fiddle Music of Donegal" Vols 1, 2 & 3. MacAoidh, Caoimhin, "Between the Jigs and the Reels" - The Donegal Fiddle Tradition.

Donegal fiddle players Con Cassidy from Teileann and James Byrne from M ín na Croise, playing McFarley's Reel.

Mósaí Mac Fhionnlaoich

Born in th early 1800s, Mósaí had ten children, many of whom became accomplished musicians; three of his sons, Muiris, Pádaí and John were exceptionally fine fiddlers. His contemporaries considered John Mhósaí to be the best fiddler of his generation. The composer of such tunes as the Glen Road to Carrick, Tobaca Daor and The Rambling Pony, he spent many years travelling through the northern half of Ireland selling clothes and towards the end of his life, he travelled around County Donegal selling fish and playing his fiddle. He died about 1920 and is buried in Gleann Cholm Cille.

James Byrne, Master Fiddler

James Byrne, Master FiddlerJames Byrne of Mín na Croise was considered to be one of the most accomplished fiddlers in the country by his fellow musicians.

He recorded a solo album "The Road to Glenlough" (Claddagh Records, CC52) and he also performed with Vincent Campbell, Con Cassidy and Francie O'Byrne on "The Brass Fiddle" (Claddagh Records, CC44) and with Con Cassidy on "Ó Bhun Shliabh Liag" (Forge Brae, FBC 007). Sadly James Byrne passed away early November 2008 and will be sorely missed.

James has left a wonderful legacy of music and fiddle playing within his own family, and his music that he shared with fellow musicians from all over the world.

Eunan McIntyre - Singer and Songwriter

Eunan McIntyre, born and raised in Gleann Cholm Cille area is the winner of both the Sean McCarthy and Keadue International song-writing competitons, as well as double winner in the highly respected Clonmany Songwriter contest. Click here for more information

Eunan's albums include "All the Love You Bring", "Rathlin Sky" and his latest album released early August 2007 "Blown on a Breeze". Rathlin Sky by Eunan McIntyre, video by Máire McSorley - Written and sung by Donegal singer/songwriter Eunan McIntyre. Eunan commissioned Máire McSorley to make 11 short films illustrating and interpreting the lyric of his songs. The DVD was released in November 2009.


Sir Arnold Baxe

In the early 1900s, the English composer Sir Arnold Baxe (1883-1953) spent several years in Gleann Cholm Cille. He developed a deep interest in Gaelic culture and, under the pen name Dermot O'Byrne, he published several works inspired by his stay, including Sea-foam and Firelight (1910, a collection of poems); Children of the Hills (1915, a collection of short stories); and Red Owen (1919, a play). Bax, who was appointed Master of the King's Music in 1942, had a very high regard for the travelling fiddlers, particularly Micí Mac Conaill. Years later, he recalled how he had asked Micí, a deceptively rough-looking man, to play An Chúilfhionn, a well-known slow air. 'After a few bars he let his bow fall', wrote Bax, 'and with tears running down his dirty cheeks sobbed out, 'Arú, I can't play thon tune. It's too beautiful altogether'. Still, it was local singers who made the deepest impression on him. He lodged with Pádaí John Mac Niallais, a publican and renowned singer. In his autobiography, he includes a touching picture of the old man, forgetting the songs that once came easily to him:

"When he was nearing his end and his memory beginning to fail I once found him, with tears streaming from his rheumy light blue eyes. 'Och, it's a poor thing to be old', he lamented. 'Sure there does be music all through my head, and it rising up to the roof of the house this minute, but I can't be minding it any more'."

Music and Travelling People

Johnny Doherty, FiddlerIn the 1800s large groups of travelling people used to come to Gleann Cholm Cille. Among them, there were master tin-smiths who made and mended household goods known as pandaís, and highly accomplished musicians. At times over forty of them would come together and they would stay for over a month, making tin goods and playing music. Such was their love of music, that they made tin fiddles for children to practise on. these metal instruments were cheaper than the standard wooden fiddles and much easier to mend if damaged! These travelling musicians were honoured guests in houses throughout the county.

In the early 1900s a dispute arose between the Catholic curate and a large group of travellers camped in the glen. The priest drove them out of the area and they never came back in such numbers. Still, some families continued to come, particularly those with an interest in music, most notably the McConnells, Rourkes and Dohertys. They greatly enriched the local repertoire and also helped to spread Gleann Cholm Cille tunes throughout the county.

As time went by, however, plastic removed the demand for tin goods and the decline of housedances ended the centuries-old tradition of travelling musicians. By the 1970s few travellers continue to visit the area. They have left their mark on the music of the glen, however, and their unique tin fiddles are still in use.

It was once a proverb that in Donegal there was a fiddle in every house. While many parts of Ireland have a wealth of traditional music, the music of Donegal has certain unique features which set it apart from the rest. The noted Tyrone harper Arthur O'Neill (1734-1818) mentioned in his memoirs that in 1760 he was invited to a wedding in Ardara "without my harp, for there were plenty of pipers and fiddlers".

In Donegal there is a long-standing tradition of duo fiddling. Instruments such as the tin whistle, flute, concertina and accordion were very rare in Donegal until modern times. Traditionally the píob mór and the fiddle were the only instruments used. Also, there was a much wider variety of social dance steps in common use there, so musicians were required to play for mazurkas, Germans or barndances, lancers and highlands in addition to the usual jigs, reels and hornpipes found elsewhere in the country.

Poetry and Song

On a fair day in the early 1800s, a competition was held to establish who was the best poet in southwest Donegal. Two poets, Eoghan Óg Mac Niallais, of Ard an Rátha, and Séamas Ó Doroián, of Cill Charthaigh, were put into separate rooms and each was told to compose a song about a mountain in his own parish. Mac Niallais composed a song praising An Maoineach while Ó Doroián's song praised Sliabh Liag. The latter won. It is not known whether there was any prize other than pride but both songs entered the regional repertoire and local singers still perform them. If you would like to have a poem included on the site please contact the Webmaster.

Like fiddling, traditional singing declined somewhat in the mid-1900s, due largely to the cultural corrosion caused by high emigration.

In recent years, however, there has been a revival in singing. To encourage this development, Oideas Gael, supported by the Arts Council, holds a sean-nós - 'old style' singing - workshop every summer. The leader of the workshop is Lillis Ó Laoire, the first Ulsterman to win Corn Uí Riada, the most prestigious prize for sean-nós singing in the Oireachtas. The origin of Irish music can be found in the sean-nós singing tradition. It is a highly ornamented, complex style featuring elastic rhythms and continuous variation of a basic melody. Sean-nós singing is almost always a solo art.

The local repertoire includes classic Ulster songs such as Doimnic Ó Dónaill, Mal Dubh an Ghleanna, and An Seanduine Dóite. Among the popular songs connected with the immediate area are Lá Chois Cuain, Cailíní deasa Shrath Laoighill, Soitheach an Chamuis Mhóir and Bhí Mé Thiar i Málainn.

Interesting Music Links:

No Irish traditional band in the last dozen years has had a wider impact on audiences and music lovers throughout the world than Altan. For more information visit their site Altan

Visit the longest running folk festival in Ireland on August 5th in Ballyshannon. For more details visit

Cairdeas na bhFidileiri site who promote the fiddle music of Donegal -

This website is one way of passing on jigs, reels and dance tunes.

Irish Gaeilge Traditional Song Store -

Aidan Mullinder,, wrote a song about Glencolumbcille in 2001. There is a video clip of it at:


Donegal Fiddle Lessons with Cairdeas na bhFidileiri

Explore the fiddle lessons section of the Cairdeas na bhFidileiri website.

Cairdeas na bhFidileiri present a number of lessons, given by a selection of fiddle players who are active in teaching Donegal fiddle music.

If you find yourself particularly drawn to the teaching/playing of any of the teachers in particular and would like to arrange further lessons with a specific teacher, either in person or by skype, you should make contact with Cairdeas na bhFidileiri with your request and they will pass it on to the relevant person. (sample of lesson below)