Thousands still flocking every summer to Doolin, the centre of traditional music


In the 1980s after returning from a music tour of Germany, the late renowned Doolin flute-player, Micho Russell, received a post-card from a fan. Addressed only to Micho, Ireland, the card was successfully delivered to his home in the coastal village of Doolin in north Clare.

Whether the delivery is more in tribute to a traditional music fan at An Post's general sorting office or Micho's renown is open to debate.

Largely credited along with his brothers, Gussie and the late Packie, with establishing Doolin's reputation as the mecca of traditional music, Micho died in a car crash in 1994, but not before leaving his indelible mark on the musical landscape.

According to local man and friend Mattie Shannon, Micho would have been proud of his legacy. "Micho would be proud. Each of the Russells has made a tremendous contribution to the area."

Despite the thousands who descend on the village each summer, Mr Shannon says Doolin is still as it was and has changed very slowly. "There are still green fields between the houses and you can see the stars brightly lit in the sky at night."

Author of the just-published A Place Called Doolin, John Doorty says the postcard story is true. Of Doolin, he says: "It is amazing to think that no place in Ireland is so singularly associated with Irish traditional music and this has happened through no fanfare, no entrepreneurial vision or no conscious effort."

In the book, award-winning musician Sharon Shannon says: "It was in Doolin that the sessions took a hold of me. I can remember when I would be playing, I'd close my eyes and it was like taking a small step into Heaven."

Doolin itself is a modern concept and it actually comprises of two distinct villages, Roadford and Fisherstreet and only three pubs.

Peadar O'Reilly, a native of Rathmines in Dublin, moved to Doolin for 17 years ago and plays the flute on Tuesday nights over the summer in McDermott's.

"Doolin is a very different place from before," he says, "but the buzz is still there. After a session, you would have 20 to 30 coming up to you really grateful for the night they have had and that is important to me. If that dies, it is time to go."

Mr O'Reilly believes Doolin has avoided the "theme-park" feel of other tourist areas. "It really is a unique place and you cannot put its magic into words and I hope it lasts."

Musician Eoin O'Neill points out that the presence of so many top musicians living in the area keeps Doolin's appeal. "It has changed through a lot of the older people dying, but anything can happen there."

Mattie Shannon, however, states that Doolin must be developed with care. "With a new sewerage scheme on its way, it will open the area for more development and we must make sure that any development must be for the good of the local community and not just for the stranger."

(A Place Called Doolin, Rathbane Publishing 2002, €6.50)