Young Clancy – John Wright explores how Liam Clancy, the youngest of The Clancy Brothers, made his way as part of the group before turning solo.


I didn’t intend an article about a folk singer to turn into a knitwear ad, but I blame The Clancy Brothers’ mum, who couldn’t resist sending her sons Aran jumpers to keep them warm in chilly New York winters after they migrated to Toronto in 1947 to find fame.

It seems the group became so well-known for wearing these sweaters on stage they even pulled them on when it wasn’t even cold. As a result their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1961 overnight made both the jumpers and Irish folk music famous throughout the US, which is what happens when you put a group as good as The Clancy Brothers in front of 80 million TV viewers.

It would be another Celtic phenomenon that would launch Liam Clancy himself to number one in the Irish charts with his rendition of anti-war song And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda. Although the much-covered song was written and sung originally by Scots-Australian Eric Bogle, Liam’s 1976 version (see YouTube), as part of the duo Makem and Clancy, duly caught the public’s imagination with its strength and poignancy.

The fact that these performers played either together or in different line-ups meant a refreshing variety in style: great for listeners who one minute could wave their pint with the rollicking songs, and the next cry in it to a tear-jerker.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own