Sunday 5 September 2010

Johnny Doherty - Fiddler on the Road (1972)

Fiddler on the Road (UTV - 1972)

A lovely documentary made by Ulster Television in 1972 about the legendary fiddler and tinsmith from Ardara in County Donegal, Johnny Doherty.

The film is a real gem, describing the lives of the traveling families of Donegal in the early part of the century, their trade, their music, and particularly the Doherty family's place in the musical traditions of the countryside. It describes Doherty's life as a young man earning money playing traditional Irish music and American jazz until forced to return to his occupation of tinsmith as the music of the big bands grew in popularity. Not only does the film shine a welcome spotlight on a great fiddler and fascinating character, but offers a glimpse into a world that has all but disappeared in the four decades since it was made, and shows aspects of Donegal life that are all but memories. We see Doherty at his trade, working a sheet of tin as he talks of his occupation and his music; there are great sc of old-style dancing - even by Doherty as he plays - and of course, there is an abundance of priceless footage of the great man's brilliant playing, which has made him such a legendary figure in the world of Irish music.


The full-length version of this film is provided by Donegal Daily.

You can read about Johnny Doherty and other Donegal fiddlers, and listen to sound files, at the Donegal Fiddle Music website, which is well worth a visit.

You can also see some great footage of Johnny Doherty playing for Pete Seeger and Peter Kennedy following an impromptu visit on their field recording tour back in 1964. Despite the poor quality of the film and the variable quality of the sound recording, the playing is exceptional and it really does make for great viewing.

Part 1
Part 2


  1. Glad to see you're posting again. Thanks!

  2. It's only because I've got far more important things to do all of a sudden... There's nothing quite like procrastination. Glad you're enjoying the music.

  3. Those are great videos! I love Johnny Doherty's fiddle playing. Those 'heavy yet floating' (well, I'm not Ciaran Carson...) staccatos.

    If I may recommend other you tube videos here, there is a short, but very eloquent, snippet of the Joe Cooley's famous sessions in 1973 (the one imortalized by Ciaran Carson):

    I also have been watching some of the Micho Russel's videos (also posted by the same clarebannerman user), which are just wonderful:

    All the best,


  4. Hi Tiago,

    I've started to compile a number of videos over in the Artist Index & Video Vault section. The Joe Cooley and Micho Russell clips will be among them.

  5. Keep up the good work.

  6. Hi there,

    Thought you may be interested to know that Johnny Doherty's somewhat forgotten nephew Mick Doherty has just released his debut alum at 88 years old with fellow violinist Robert Zielinski. It features a 12 page booklet concerning his life and family, and has been produced by the National Archive of Australia.

    Ít's called "Out West" is now available for online purchase through Paypal at

    Pass on the good news, the legend lives on!
    Julia Stafford

  7. here's a sample link: