Johnny Joe’s

23 Mill Street, Cushendall, Antrim, Northern Ireland

Eleven comments

Johnny Joe’s

This great old pub, in the quiet wee village of Cushendall, in the heart of the Glens of Antrim, has had regular sessions for donkeys years, & we all know how long a donkey lives!

Staying on the animal theme, the bar itself is too small to swing a cat in, but that’s not where the music goes on. For that you head through the back, to the dark, dimly lit kitchen, with it’s old wood burning stove & big wooden table. Or you can go through to the front parlour, with the windows & the piano. However, if it’s a larger room your looking for, then might I suggest the back room, with it’s high ceiling, huge open fire & it’s own tiny private bar.

Well, have I tempted you yet! It’s a great spot for a session. As for which room to play in, my own personal favourite is the kitchen, the place where, in the not too distant past, most of the traditional tunes would have changed hands, before pub playing became the thing.

Oh yes, & they run junior sessions on Tuesday nights, during the summer. But really, it’s one of those pubs that’s been going so long, you could pop in & get music there any night of the weekl.

Er…how long *does* an donkey live? I’m an urban rat, and we don’t know these things. 🙂

Next I come to Ireland, I really need to head north for at least a bit of a visit…


Abundance in northern ireland

Wow, there are 16 sessions listed for Northern Ireland. Can’t you just imagine a “sessions tour of Northern Ireland” (brought direct to you from And they all sound so infused with the spirit of ITM. Lord, I’m salivating here. Not to mention it is flat out gorgeous up there (the northern coast is, in my opinion, some of the most beautiful coastline in the world - I was there in January a while back, and standing in the driving cold sleet, watching the waves crash against the rocks was fantastic).

Dick, I’ve heard so much about how unwelcome obnoxious Americans are at Irish sessions - do you reckon a timid, quiet, not terribly great, but eager to learn, fiddle playing one would be welcome at the ones you’ve listed?

And there’s more!

I would wholeheartedly agree with the comments about Johnny Joes. It’s a great wee session with some excellent musicians including James McElheran on box, Dominic McNab on Fiddle, Ciaran Dempsey’s delicious vamping on the piano to name but a few.

I should also mention that the Glens of Antrim Traditions group have a singing session in the back room on the last Friday of the Month for most of the year. Diddley dee strictly limited to the break - but there’s always the session in the front room.

All welcome

bb, why didn’t you come visit us when you were up here in January?

You will not be disappointed in this place during the summer, same driving sleet, & waves on rocks, but there are loads more travelling musicians on the go for us to welcome, & share new tunes with.

You talk about obnoxious Americans, well obviously they wouldn’t be welcome, but not because they’re Americans, but because they’re obnoxious.

I know you would be made to feel very welcome at any of the sessions in Antrim that I listed. If you don’t believe me read Macspy in last months edition, August’s, of the Irish Music Magazine - now would he lie?

I make it a policy at my sessions, that visiting musicians get to start loads of tunes. Why not? Anyone who shuts visitors out is shooting themselves in the foot, missing the opportunity of hearing new tunes, & making new friends into the bargain. Just occassionally, you ask someone in to start a set, & then you can’t stop them, they want to take over, but they are very much the exception, not the rule.

I’ll end with a true story. We’re playing away one session night, up on this isolated north coast, with the sleet ‘n all, when a fairly small fellow with a bit of an accent comes in with a Guitar case, gets a drink & comes over to us & asks politely if he can sit in. We, as always, welcome him in with open arms & he takes out his Guitar. Now I recognised him, but said nothing, thinking I could have a bit of fun with the lads. So anyway, he sits in, & as he takes out his Guitar I nudge Pat, our Banjo player, & tell him to ask the stranger if he’s been playing long, which he does - it was only Mick Moloney. We still tease Pat about that one.

The point about that story is Mick politely asked if he could join us, & naturally we politely responded. How often do you see folk just barge in! Treat folk the way you would like to be treated yourself, is my motto.

Let us know when your coming & we’ll be ready for you - barbed wire, electric fences etc.!

PS. yup Breandan, mighty players all. As for the singing sessions, I left them out, cause they’re kind of on hold at the minute. They went through a lull, I think just after Joe & Fiona fled to Kinvara (& what a lovely spot that is) but there’s talk of them starting up again soon. They must too, cause I’ve been to some truly awesome singing nights in that back room, & you mustn’t let a tradition like that just die.

It was a delight to sit in there, by the roaring fire on a cold winters night with old Archie R. I. P. singing beside you, & what a great singer he was, Tony McAuley leaning on the Piano, John Moulden as M.C., John Kennedy on your other side, & Niamh Parsons sitting across from you, singing about Gypsy wheels on gravel - and then the wee tune break in the middle. Great nights.

Do me a favor, will you, Ptarmigan, and tell John Moulden that I haven’t forgotten him, and I really WILL order that CD one of these days? Thanks, appreciate it…



I often see Mouldy at the Springhill Bar, Portrush, on Thursdays, so I’ll pass on your message then.

McCollam’s Bar

This pub has received the award “Traditional Music Pub of the Year”. The friendly owner is Jow Blaney and he is a traditional fiddler himself. The Friday night session in the front parlour usually revolves around PJ Hill (banjo) and Leo Brown (accordion)plus lots of random guests. A second sesssion of tne develops in the “back room” which is also the venue for the monthly meeeting of the Glens Traditional Singers’ group. There is also a Sunday night session and other nights too during the busy summer holoday season.

McCollam’s Bar/Johnny Joes

These are the same pub by different names!
I had a very friendly welcome last week

Johnny Joe’s is McCollam’s !

In Antrim as in other parts of Ireland, people are often called by their parents’ names rather than by a surname. So Johnny Joe McCollam who originally owned this pub, was John the son of Joe McCollam. When I first started going there in the 1980s, the landlord was also Joe McCollam, he was “Joe Johnny Joe” the son of Johnny Joe and the grandson of the original Joe….have I lost you ?

Anyway the locals call it “Johnny Joe’s” still, but it says “McCollam’s Bar” over the door! To confuse you more, the current owner is Joe Blayney, a nephew of “Joe Johnny Joe” !
This pub loves traditional musicians. It is also the home of the Glens of Antrim Comhaltas branch.