Ellen (Nell) Galvin as she was locally known was born Ellen McCarthy, and lived at Ballydineen, Knockalough, Co. Clare. She was born in 1887. Around the 1920’s and 1930’s a famous blind Piper named Garret Barry lived in Inagh Co. Clare. He was a regular visitor to the McCarthy home. Nell was one of his pupils and she played both the Concertina and Fiddle from a very young age.
At the age of 14 the Blind Piper insisted that she would be entered for her first “Feis” Competition in Ennis. She won the competition playing the fiddle. At the age of 18 she was again entered for the Munster Championships in Ennis on both the Fiddle and Concertina. She was at the time undecided as to which instrument she would devote her time to. Here, she brought off a remarkable double, winning on both instruments. Her title was later confirmed in Kilkee where the Adjudicator was Mr. Seamus Clandillon, later to be nominated as the first Director of Radio Eireann.
The late Dr. Vincent O’Brien later gave her an audition in Dublin for Radio. This was in 1937 and she successfully broadcast on a number of occasions at that time when Radio Eireann was known as 2 RN.
Nell married Patrick Galvin from Moyasta and reared a family of five children – three boys and two girls. Stephen her youngest son played both the timber flute and piano and often played with his mother Nell with the Kilfenora Ceili Band as guests, and a reel played by them that had no name was later called “Mrs Galvin’s Reel” by the Band and that name still holds today.
She played with some of the greats in Traditional Irish Music such as Willie Clancy, John Kelly, Dr.Bill Loughnane, Mrs Crotty, Sean Reid and Garrett Barry. Willie Clancy was a regular visitor to her home. She held the distinction of being the first Clare Woman to broadcast Traditional Irish Music from 2 RN in 1937.
She died on 5th September 1961 aged 74 years.
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