Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, Mid-Atlantic Region


Martin Mulvihill

Martin Mulvihill

Honored February 5, 1994

Martin was born the youngest of ten children in Ballygoughlin, West Limerick in 1919.  There was always traditional music in his house; his mother played the fiddle.  She taught him a few tunes, but curiously enough none of his brothers or sisters ever played an instrument.

At the age of nine he took his first formal lessons from a violin player in the neighboring town of Glin.  It was from this teacher he got the rudiments of the fiddle and how to read and write music, but it was from hi smother he picked up the traditional aspects.  During the next few years, Martin developed his skills and repertoire, learning some of his music from written sources such as Roche, Ker, and O’Neill collections.  He picked up most of his music from local musicians mostly fiddle, flute, concertina and melodian players who played at parties, weddings, and crossroads dances.  At the age of seventeen he joined the army where he played quite a share of music playing for the ceilithe in the Castlebar area.

In 1951 he emigrated to England and settled in Northampton where he lived and worked for the next 14 years.  While there he married Olive McEvoy from Co Ofaly and over the next nine years Brendan, Brian, Gail and Dawn were born.  Martin continued his musical activities playing with the Dublin man Tommy Murray in dance halls and clubs during the evenings and weekends.  He also took lessons on the button and piano accordions.  The latter became his main instrument for several years.  It was most suited for playing the cross section of music demanded in the Irish clubs of Northampton during that era.

Despite this long residence in England, Martin had always wanted to go to America, and in 1965 the Mulvihill family set out for New York City.  America was a strange new environment for all the family b ut they adjusted rapidly.  Martin worked at various jobs in New York while he still continued to play music in his spare time.  At the suggestion of his cousin Jerry Mulvihill he began to give lessons to some local Irish American children in the Bronx.  Within a short period of time the demand for his teaching grew rapidly in the tri state area so much so that Martin gave up his job and took up teaching music seven days a week.  His reputation as a teacher was enormous and his pupils have achieved spectacular success both in America and in Ireland.  Many of his students went on to start their own music schools.

Martin’s success as a teacher somewhat obscured his own musical talents, along with writing a book, he also composed roughly twenty-five tunes.  All the Mulvihill family are extremely accomplished musicians – Brendan on the fiddle, Brian on drums, Gail on tenor banjo, Dawn on fiddle and tin whistle.  Their talents make it certain that Martin’s music will endure through the next generations of musicians in America.

While on vacation in Ireland on July 21, 1987, Martin suffered a heart attack and died in his own beloved country of Limerick.  He had been scheduled to perform at the Eagle Tavern along with his long time friend Mike Rafferty during the month of September 1987.  Instead, the Eagle presented a musical tribute to Martin featuring some of the musicians who learned from and played with him.  These included Mary Rafferty, Kenneth Vesey and Martin (Buddy) Connolly who opened the show and were joined by Mike Rafferty and Don Meade.

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