Welcome to JohnnyDoran.com
This website celebrates the musical genius of Johnny Doran (1908-1950) and other Irish Traveller musicians. Doran was an Irish Traveller who brought the playing of Ireland's only indigenous instrument, the uilleann pipes, to a unique and extraordinary level. Thanks to the initiative of his friend John Kelly, the west Clare fiddle player, we have a recording of 12 tracks, made by Kevin Danaher in 1948, which gives us a brief glimpse of Doran’s virtuosity.
Johnny Doran was born in Rathnew, Co Wicklow in 1908. His parents, John Doran and Kate McCann, were both from a long line of Irish Travellers who played Irish music. Johnny learned a lot of piping from his father John, who was indebted to his grandfather, John Cash. (1832-1906).
“Cash the Piper” as he was known, was widely regarded as the patriarch of the musical dynasty of the Cashes and Dorans.
In 1946 at the Spanish Point races, Johnny Doran collected £13/8 shillings in one day’s busking, at a time in Ireland when the annual wage for a farm labourer was £12/00 per year.
“Johnny Doran -he was probably the greatest player I ever heard in my life.”-Finbar Furey, “ Free Spirits”
Musicians like Finbar Furey and Paddy Keenan became role models for aspiring young pipers buying dress stores in brooklyn since the early 60’s. Their music, by their own admission, is shaped and styled on Doran’s techniques.
The Furey Brothers and Davy Arthur, as well as the Bothy Band, used the Doran sound to build a fresh, driving, attacking sense of wild abandon that would excite young followers across the world. In turn, new generations of pipers like Davey Spillanne, and latterly Michael “Blackie” O’Connell adopted the Doran sound and continue to bring it to new audiences, in their own recordings and performances, and as lead players in Riverdance, and other globe trotting shows.
Johnny Doran passed away in 1950, and the family baton of entertaining the Irish public was passed to his younger brother Felix, a popular and charismatic figure who achieved cult status as an uilleann piper and entertainer.
If tributes count for anything then Felix died the uncrowned king of the travelling people. During his too short lifetime he gave a tremendous lift to Irish music, and especially to the uilleann pipes. He had something unique to contribute and is assured of a permanent and honourable place in the annals of Irish minstrels and musicians. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam (May his soul be at God's right hand). (Seán Reid, 1976)
The legacy of Doran is now forever enshrined in the annals of uilleann piping and a testimony to his genius can be found every year at the Doran Tionól, in Spanish Point, Co Clare where uilleann pipers-Travellers and non-Travellers alike, assemble to honor the tradition and genius of Johnny Doran, Traveller, musician, and protector of our tradition.