Mick Foster and the Rathconrath Ceili Band will be a big attraction after having huge success with the recent release of their CD.

All-Ireland stars for Gavigan Concert

The annual Frank Gavigan Memorial Concert returns to Milltown on Friday October 6 with a line-up including Mick Foster and the Rathconrath Ceili Band, Melissa Clarke from Loughrea, Aoife Dunleavy, Ballynacargy, and ballad singer Matt Murphy from Wexford. Neansaí Ní Choisdealbha from Radio na Gaeltachta will record the concert in full for radio, while compère on the night is Cavan man, Martin Donohoe from Shannonside Radio.

March 3, 1926 marked a milestone in the history of concertina music in Ireland, England and America. It was in New York that a lad from Milltown, Rathconrath, made the first commercial recording on the concertina, with the help of Ed Geoghegan on piano, for the Columbia Phonograph Company.

William J Mullally, known locally as Will, was born in Milltown, the youngest of 11 children on February 5, 1884. Will learned music and tunes from family and neighbours.

His records in the form of old 78s sold far and wide and to this day, his music has a huge influence on concertina musicians. In recent years, his recordings have been remastered by Harry Bradshaw, Nicholas Carolan, Jackie Small and staff from the Irish Traditional Music Archive, Merriman Square Dublin.

The next Milltown man to make a commercial recording was Mick Foster, in 1972 on the piano accordion. Mick, who took the piano accordion to a new level with his style of playing, learned music in the early days from local man Frank Gavigan – an all-Ireland champion two row button accordion player.

Mick went on to win three all-Ireland titles before going professional with Tony Foster.

The community centre in Milltown is built on the Mullally farm, where William grew up and worked as a young lad. It is there that Mick and members of the local Frank Gavigan Branch of Comhaltas have run the annual traditional music concert since Frank passed away in 2006, and some of the best known names in the Irish music business have performed in Milltown since.

2023 events

This year’s concert is on Friday October 6.

Mick with the Rathconrath Ceili Band and guests will be a big attraction after their huge success with their recently released CD.

The popular group of Anne Conroy Burke, Mary Conroy and Eileen O’Brien will perform; as will Melissa Clarke from Loughrea, U12 all-Ireland champion, present U18 Connacht accordion champion and one of the most popular young players in the last few years.

She is a student of Anne and her husband the late Joe Burke and is a grandniece of the late Raymond and Oliver Roland.

Matt Murphy is a champion traditional ballad singer from Wexford who can bring a venue to a silent standstill with his rich voice. The most talked about young performer at the Fleadh Cheoil in Mullingar this year was a 10-year-old from Ballynacargy Comhaltas, Aoife Dunleavy.

Aoife entered the banjo and mandolin competition and now has two U12 all-Ireland titles. Aoife with her sister Anna will show why she is a champion on the night.

Neansaí Ní Choisdealbha might be persuaded to play a tune or two as she is a very well known musician.

Moyra Fraser, a member of the Frank Gavigan Comhaltas branch, has been musical director for Foster and Allen for 30 years, will perform; and Martin Donohoe will also play a few tunes and tell a few funny stories.

The concert starts at 8pm and will run for two and a half hours.

On Saturday October 7, there will be further entertainment in Fox’s Bar, Loughnavalley including food on the night.

Mass for deceased Comhaltas members and their families will be celebrated in Milltown on Sunday October 8.

“We in the Frank Gavigan Branch of Comhaltas would like to acknowledge with thanks funding for the event from Westmeath County Council and the North Midlands Credit Union,” said a representative of the branch.