Traditional accordionist from Inishbofin who brought a flavour of the west of Ireland to London

Vincent O’Halloran: September 3rd, 1942 - March 15th, 2014

Vincent O’Halloran (right): an energetic, strong and accurate player

Vincent O’Halloran (right): an energetic, strong and accurate player

Sat, Jul 5, 2014, 01:00

Vincent O’Halloran, who has died aged 71, was a master of the accordion and a fine traditional singer whose gifts made him a fixture on the Irish traditional music scene in London. A native of Inishbofin, Co Galway, he lived his adult life in England.

He was a mainstay of London’s Irish traditional music scene from the 1960s onwards. Music was part of the glue that held the Irish community together in his early days in the city. Large numbers would come to sessions, which were places where the London-Irish gathered to socialise and exchange news. O’Halloran had both the musical ability and the personality to make a session lively and enjoyable. Wherever he played, he brought the west of Ireland to London.

Theatrical flourish

He was an energetic, strong and accurate accordion player. He played jigs and reels with theatrical flourish, but his speciality was waltzes, especially The Cuckoo Waltz. Reg Hall of Topic Records heard him at sessions, and persuaded O’Halloran to make his only record, The Men of the Island, with his brother Dessie.

However, his most spectacular recording was while perched on a small rock, which he had reached by currach, in Inishbofin harbour. The performance can be found on YouTube.

Vincent O’Halloran was born on Inishbofin in the September 1942, the youngest of nine children to Martin O’Halloran, a shopkeeper and retired member of the Royal Irish Constabulary, and his wife Jane (née Prendergast).

Inishbofin was a musical island, and the O’Hallorans part of that music. His mother was a concertina player. As a child, his eldest brother, Christy, taught him the accordion.

His primary education was in the island’s national school, followed by secondary education as a boarder at St Mary’s College in Galway. Soon after secondary school, he moved to London, where he worked as a carpenter. Except for a few years in Swindon, London was home for the rest of his adult life.

Until shortly before his death, he regularly played at a couple of sessions in South London.

Final performance

Three weeks before his death he paid his last visit to Inishbofin. Despite his frailty he played a powerful session in the Dolphin Hotel with a group of other island musicians.

Vincent O’Halloran is survived by his daughter Bridie, son Vincent, sisters Mary Joe and Bernadette, brothers Malachy and Desmond (Dessie), four grandchildren and one great-grandchild. He was predeceased by his wife, Kathleen, and son Michael.