This is one of Peter Kennedy’s recordings, made in July, 1952 and recorded at home - Kilcreevy, County Armagh…
“The Companion to Irish Traditional Music”
by Fintan Vallely
Hardcover: 478 pages
Publisher: New York University Press, September 1999
The following is a reduction from the above book, concerning the McCuskers, with some added information.
McCusker Brothers’ Céilí Band
The McCusker brothers came from a family of music - their mother played melodeon and concertina and their father, like Kevin, played piccolo. Their sisters Mary and Teresa were singers. "
“The fiddle was taught to them by local man Bill Lenagh, a fund of local music style and repertoire who had picked up his music from traveling musicians heard on fair days in the town of Keady.”
They started the band in the 1930s playing for house and village hall dances. The boys early method of travel was by bicycle with their instruments strapped to their backs. They all had day jobs but managed to carry their instruments and music with them to all parts of the Eire. By the time the 40s and the Second World War came, they’d become well known, famous.
From 1945 they started touring away, beginning in England and playing in the major Irish halls of Liverpool, Birmingham and London. They were joined by another fiddler, Kevin Vallely, taking Vincent’s place. The Irish in England fell in love with their dance music. They did many broadcasts for Raidió Éireann’s “Céilí House”. In 1962 they traveled even further away, across the Atlantic bog to play for dancers in Philadelphia, New York, Boston and Chicago. They even played Carnegie Hall, N.Y.
They moved with the times, like many other Irish musicians and bands, and the ‘50s and ‘60s found them providing music for both old-time dancing and céilí dances, often mixed. At home they did a regular Céilí Mór at ‘The Armagh City Hall’. They and their music were featured in broadcasts on RÉ and the BBC. For the opening night of RTÉ they were one of acts being broadcast live from the Gresham Hotel, Dublin. Other broadcasts include one for the BBCs regular program “As I Roved Out”, a St Patrick’s Day special, and they played for the BBC’s first NI (Northern Ireland) TV broadcast of “Come Dancing”. Commercial recordings by the band include a number of 78s and several LPs.
Avoca Recordings featuring the McCuskers:
33-AV 113 The McCusker Brothers Céilí Band “A Dance Visit to Ireland”
33-AV 138 The McCusker Brothers Céilí Band “Irish Country Dances”
33-AV 154 Assaroe & McCusker Brothers Céilí Bands, Sean McGuire “The Best of Irish Dance Music”
- missed first paragraph:
The McCuskers of Kilcreevy, South Armagh included the 9 brothers that made up the original McCusker Brothers’ Céilí - John, Vincent & Brendan were the fiddlers, Benignus played two row melodeon, Kevin on piccolo, Francis/Francie managed mandolin & banjo, Thomas/Tommy on piano accordion, Bernard/Barnie played piano and Malachy had the drum set. Peter Kennedy made these recordings in the McCuskers home in Kilcreevy.
I sadly missed getting these Avoca label recordings, but if there is a generous soul out there with the McCuskers‘ 78s and their LPs who would be generous enough to provide me with recordings of these, since they are ’permanently out of circulation’, I would be most beholding… I had the pleasure of knowing and playing a bit with some of the brothers and have a warm spot in my heart for them and their music, and the traditons of Armagh.
Go raibh ma‘agat McCuskers - - - ’c’
Go raibh mile ma’agat…
I just happened to come across this site and was interested to read about the Mc Cuskers and Hugh Savage. Hugh was my uncle and my aunt was married to Vincent Mc Cusker. I think we might have an old LP of them at my mothers house but i cant be 100% sure. You wanted to borrow it so maybe you could let me know where you are and i could see if she still has it. Hugh Savages father was Henry Savage a very popular fiddle player from Outlackin. By the way, i cant get the recording youve posted on this site, is there any other way i could try downloading it?
FOLKTRAX-372: “The Princess Royal: Dance Music From South Armagh”
by The Nine McCusker Brothers And Hugh Savage ~ Notes:
Recorded by Peter Kennedy in Kilcreevy, Armagh & Belfast, 1952. Edited by Peter Kennedy and first published on Folktrax Cassettes 1980.
The 9 McCusker Brothers on this recording were:
John, Vincent & Brendan ~ Fiddles
Benignus ~ button-key accordion
Kevin ~ piccolo
Francis ~ mandolin & banjo
Tom ~ piano accordion
Bernard ~ piano
Malachy ~ drums
Hugh Savage (18/07/24 - 27/05/80) ~ lived at Outlacken, a place of music going back two generations with him aand his father, Henry Savage, and granfather before him. His son-in-law Eamon G. Murphy believes some travellers called Cumiskeys from Crossmaglen brought tunes there from their travels and stayed there for days at a time. Louis Quinn would have been a regular visitor and Hugh’s sister was married to Vincent McCusker (fiddle), so it has come about that the next generation is keeping the music going. Hugh’s fiddle is now being played by his grandson, Eamonn’s boy. Martina Murphy, Hugh’s daughter, kindly forwarded us a photo of “The Heather Breeze Ceilidhe Band” (circa 1950) with whom Hugh Savage played button-key accordion.
* I cannot find a date for these, Peter Kennedy’s, notes but I suspect they would have been around the time of the first release of the cassette, 1980.
1.) John & Vincent McCusker, fiddles
2.) John McCusker solo, fiddle
3. - 5.) John & Vincent McCusker, fiddles
6.) Benignus McCusker, melodeon, with dancers
7.) John, Vincent & Benignus McCusker, fiddles & button-key accordion
8.) Vincent & Benignus McCusker, fiddle & button-key accordion
9.) Benignus McCusker solo, button-key accordion
10.) John & Vincent McCusker, fiddles
11.) John, Vincent & Benignus McCusker, fiddles & button-key accordion
12.) John & Vincent McCusker, fiddles
13. & 14.) John, Vincent & Benignus McCusker, fiddles & button-key accordion
15. & 16.) “The McCusker Brothers Ceilidhe Band”, all 9 brothers
17. - 19.) Hugh Savage, fiddle, South Armagh
20.) Sean Maguire, fiddle, Belfast