June McDonnell chats to Ireland’s ‘First Lady of Country Music’, about her life, her family and her recent health issues.


“Oh no, I’d never retire. I’ve cut back the travelling, but I just love singing and I’d miss the buzz and meeting the fans.”
There was a great buzz in ‘Chez Heaney’ at the end of February when Susan McCann celebrated her 75th birthday with family and friends. Belated greeting to husband, Dennis, who had his 75th birthday last September.

Susan was born in Forkhill, Co. Armagh, the third youngest of eight children, four boys and four girls.
“It was difficult for my parents rearing eight children as we had no running water or electricity and needless to say we weren’t spoiled. Music was a big part of our lives growing up. We were lucky enough to have a record player that worked with a dry battery and my father played the button accordion.

“Both my parents were good singers. They would argue as to which side of the family I got my voice! At the ‘drop of a hat’ we’d have the neighbours in for a sing-song and of course I’d be the one doing most of the singing!
“Secretly, growing up I always harboured the idea of becoming a professional singer but never thought that my dream would be realised.”

Thankfully Susan’s dream was realised sooner than she expected. The John Murphy Céilí Band were playing in Forkhill and Susan, along with her parents and some neighbours, went along for the night out. As the night wore on Susan was persuaded to get up on stage and sing a song.

“I was desperately nervous. However, when the band began playing the nerves disappeared and I sang A Mother’s Love’s A Blessing. I actually enjoyed the experience and of course the applause.

“Incidentally Dennis was playing accordion in the band that night and I didn’t even notice him!”
Some weeks later John Murphy called to her house and invited her to join his band. Her father was hesitant at first as Susan was only sixteen years old and had just started her apprenticeship at hairdressing.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own