Claddagh Records agrees licensing deal with Universal

Independent label’s back catalogue includes Chieftains and Seán Ó Riada

The Chieftains in 1971.

Claddagh Records has agreed to license a back catalogue that includes the Chieftains and Sean Ó Riada to music giant Universal.

Founded by friends Garech Browne and Ivor Browne in 1959, Claddagh played a central role in a revival of Irish music that brought it to international audiences in the second half of the 20th century.

Claddagh confirmed on Friday that it has licensed its back catalogue to Universal Music Group.

The deal ties the Irish independent player in with a group whose labels include Capitol Records, Decca and Def Jam. The US recording giant has revenues of more than $7 billion.


Claddagh’s catalogue includes the first six albums released the by the Chieftains, and work by Seán Ó Riada, best-known as composer of the orchestral score for the documentary on the struggle for independence, Mise Éire.

Equally well known figures including uilleann pipers Liam O'Flynn and Séamus Ennis, fiddler Tommy Potts and singer Dolly McMahon feature in the catalogue.

Along with them, it includes the voices of actor Jack MacGowran and poets Patrick Kavanagh and Thomas Kinsella.

As part of the deal, Claddagh will reissue music, some of which dates back to its founding, and will sign new artists to the historic label. Many of the company’s recordings are available from its website.

New chapter

James Morrissey, chairman of Claddagh, called the Universal deal a significant moment for the label that marked the beginning of a new chapter.

“Garech Browne’s lifelong wish was for Claddagh recordings to be accessible nationally and internationally to those interested in Ireland’s cultural history,” he added.

Both Garech Browne and Ivor Browne were pupils of master piper Leo Rowsome, whose album King of the Pipers was the first released by Claddagh.

In 1962, Garech Browne asked piper Paddy Moloney to put together a band to record a one-off album.

The group became the first line-up of the Chieftains, who went on to win six Grammy awards and were still performing this year.

Garech Browne's home was Lugalla, a lodge in Co Wicklow that he inherited from his mother. He died in London in 2018.

Nick Younger, chief operations officer with Universal Music Ireland, said the agreement with Claddagh was an honour for his company.

He pointed out that the label was a home for figures with real cultural significance for Ireland.

Along with Sony and Warner, Universal is one the world's "big three" recording labels.

Its majority shareholder is French media group Vivendi, while China's Tencent holds a small stake. Universal is headquartered in Santa Monica, California.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

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