Nelly Quinn McDonagh
Nelly was born in Ardee into a large Traveller family of seventeen children, of which only five survived into adulthood. Nelly described her mother as ‘a proper, down-to-earth Traveller and story-teller’ from Galway. The songs shared in this meeting were mostly ones that she had picked up from her father. She describes him as a lovely singer who knew a lot of songs. He would go in and sing for the pubs as a story-teller and singer. She remembers her father would always sing ‘Spancil Hill’ and ‘Master McGrath’ but the song she associates most with him is ‘Go Down to Galway’, which is also known to their family as ‘Our Father’s Song’. Although Nelly can’t remember how to sing all the songs, she was able to share their stories and the lyrics to many of them. We were fortunate to also meet Nelly’s daughter, Colette, who shared the rebel song, ‘James Connolly’. The traditional songs are still sung in their family, with Nelly’s daughter singing lullabies in turn to her daughter. They say that even Nelly’s granddaughter now knows some of these old songs.