Traditional flute player who mastered the reel and shunned the spotlight

John Joe "The Puck" Maguire: FLUTE PLAYER John Joe “The Puck” Maguire was christened “the shy master” by American writer Henry…

John Joe "The Puck" Maguire:FLUTE PLAYER John Joe "The Puck" Maguire was christened "the shy master" by American writer Henry Glassie. Glassie's phrase sums up the outstanding Fermanagh musician, who has died in his 82nd year. John Joe was a master of the reel, but, being intensely shy and private, was reluctant to record or take the limelight. In later years he gained confidence, as younger musicians saw him as an iconic figure and actively sought him out.

In the 1950s John Joe was one of the few traditional flute players in Ulster, when traditional music was at a low ebb. His playing inspired Cathal McConnell, flute player with the Boys of the Lough, to take up the instrument. John Joe played in the McConnell house when Cathal McConnell was a child; McConnell said that the experience blew him away.

McConnell asked John Joe to play with the Boys of the Lough on the recording Good Friends, Good Music. This is one of only two known recordings of John Joe, the other being on the CD The Hidden Fermanagh.

John Joe ‘The Puck’ Maguire was born at Drumroosk, Kinawley, on October 22nd, 1928, the 10th and youngest child of Patrick and Brigid (née Lunney) Maguire. Both parents were natives of the townland of Corragole in the neighbouring parish of Derrylin. John Joe never married and he lived his life on the home farm with an older brother and sister. He farmed and also worked with the Drainage Board, then with Northern Ireland Electricity.


He never formally studied music. As a child, he began by playing the mouth organ. Slightly older, he joined the Corranaheen Flute Band. As a young man he played at house dances, before they died out. The closest he came to the spotlight was as a member of the famous Pride of Erin céilí band in the 1960s. In the 1980s, when the Aughakillymaude Mummers revived the tradition of mumming in Fermanagh, John Joe provided the music.

His style of playing was Northern, but he would learn fine music from anywhere. In his early days he listened to 78 records; through them one of his big influences was Leitrim flute player John McKenna.

In his lifestyle, John Joe belonged to a traditional Ireland. His friend Peter Maguire said John Joe never got caught up in the whole money thing. He was happier out snaring rabbits when others were out building houses. He never learned to drive. He walked or cycled everywhere till increased traffic made that dangerous. Then thumbing a lift became his mode of transport.

He was an expert gardener, famous for his vegetables. At the time of his death, he had the garden dug to plant potatoes. He was also a dedicated fisherman and hunter; and an expert at cooking the fish and game he caught.

He is survived by his sisters, Mary Brigid (Cissie), Lucy, Margaret and Una, his brothers Tommy and Patrick, by his nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his sisters Annie and Kathleen, and his brother James.

John Joe “The Puck” Maguire: born October 28th, 1928; died February 17th, 2010