Honored February 23, 1996. R.I.P.
Much of the credit for the growth and strength of Comhaltas in North America must go to John Mulligan.
John was born in Currycromp, Dromod, Co. Letirim, and grew up in a musical family. His grandfather, father, mother, aunts, and brothers and sisters, all played. In the 20’s and 30’s, the Mulligan house hosted regular sessions. At age nine, John made his first fiddle, from a tea chest! Taught by his father, John played fiddle into his twenties.
Finishing school and army service, in 1945 John married Bridget Clarke, of Dublin, where they lived until March 1959, when, with daughter Ann, they emigrated to Westbury, Long Island.
At an AOH picnic that summer, John met fiddler-accordionist Ed Chisholm and piper-fiddler Frank Clarke. Deciding to form a music club, they brought along Jack Reynolds, Patricia Davis, and Martin Nesbitt, and the Irish Musicians Association was born. Meeting first in Westbury’s Italian Hall, six years later they moved to the Irish American Centre in Mineola and John became President in 1961.
In 1972, the IMA joined Comhaltas, as the Louis E Quinn Branch, and John served as Cathaoirleach until 1984. During those years he also served as Regional Coordinator and, with his friend Bill McEvoy, the North American Coordinator, traveled throughout the eastern US, Canada, and into the Midwest organizing Comhaltas branches.
Beyond his fiddle playing talent, John has a flair for making and repairing them. His hospitality knew no bounds for young musicians seeking a new fiddle or repair of one.
In 1984, John, Bridget, and Ann retired back to Dublin and the Comhaltas Branch he founded was renamed the Mulligan-Quinn Branch in his honor. Bridget died in 1987 and Ann three years later.
John still lives in Dublin, continuing to support Comhaltas and Irish traditional music. Few have given more to Comhaltas and more deserve election to its Hall of Fame. Liathrom Abu.