Ireland’s Most Famous Band



I first told this story at the Toledo Hibernian Irish Festival in 2014. The musical group performing before me covered a tune by the world's most famous band. I had no choice but to tell this story.

Click to download: 77_IrelandsMostFamousBand.pdf

It will not take you long to recognize this band. But you may or may not recognize them as an Irish band.

First, the back story. Over a million Irish left Ireland during and immediately after the Great Hunger (known by most Americans as the potato famine). The preferred destination for most of them was the United States, and they arrived in the port cities of America in droves. Many also sailed to Canada and Australia. Very few immigrated to other countries in the world.

Many left Ireland but never immigrated anywhere. Ireland at the time was part of the United Kingdom – known officially as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. These Irish left Ireland for elsewhere in the U.K. The most frequented ports of entry were Liverpool, Glasgow and Bristol.

Liverpool developed a huge Irish population in the mid-19th Century, with the highest concentration of Irish on Merseyside. (By that way, that’s how the locals say it. People don’t live “in” Merseyside; they live “on” it. Sort of like, “I live on America”, instead of “I live in America.” It’s amazing what a difference a preposition makes.)

The world’s most famous band had four members. I’ll tell you about the genealogy of three of them.

The Ó'Leannáin (“O-LEE-nan”) clan originated in the west of Ireland. Many migrated over the years to Dublin, and John O’Leannáin was born in Dublin. Shortly after the Great Hunger, John moved to Liverpool.

John met and married Polly Maguire in Liverpool. The Maguires were an ancient clan from County Monaghan. I don’t know when this family of Maguires moved from Ireland to Liverpool.

John and Polly had a son named Alfred. When John died, Polly couldn’t take care of her eight living children, and she them all into an orphanage. Alfred was only seven years old. Somewhere along the way, the family dropped the “O” and the pronunciation changed from LEE-nan to LEN-an.

Go to Ireland’s Most Famous Band 2

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