Barley Bree

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Barley Bree
OriginNorthern Ireland
Past membersTom Sweeney
Jimmy Sweeney
P.V. O'Donnell
Brian Doherty Seamus O'Hagan

Barley Bree[1][2][3] was a Northern Irish-Canadian band active in the 1980s and '90s. They comprised Tyrone brothers Tom Sweeney[4] and Jimmy Sweeney (nephews of Tommy Makem[5] and grandsons of traditional source singer Sarah Makem), Buncrana fiddler P.V. O'Donnell, Brian Doherty (currently of Evans & Doherty) and Seamus O'Hagan (Cookstown) . The group was formed in Northern Ireland but moved to Canada in 1977. From their base in Nova Scotia, they widely toured North America. They released eight successful albums and fronted a weekly television series called Barley Bree which lasted for two years. Since breaking up, they have reunited several times at the Milwaukee Irish Fest.

Barley Bree appeared with Tommy Makem and Cherish the Ladies on the 1992 CD and video, Tommy Makem and Friends in Concert.


Barley Bree 1982 Dolphin Records
Barley Bree Live 1984 Rego
Castles in the Air 1985 Shanachie Records
No Man's Land 1986 Shanachie Records
Speak Up for Old Ireland 1987 Shanachie Records
Anthem for the Children 1992 Shanachie Records
Love is Teasing 1993 Shanachie Records
The Best of Barley Bree 1995 Shanachie Records

P.V. O'Donnell lived in Manchester, Connecticut, and taught private lessons while performing shows and travelling to Ireland. He died after a long battle with brain cancer on January 29, 2011.

Tom Sweeney now lives in Omagh, Northern Ireland, and has carved out a successful career as a solo folk singer. He has released several albums including Daisy a Day and Poems of Ireland along with several very popular children's albums.

In 1998, he was invited to the White House to perform for then President Bill Clinton at the annual St.Patrick's day celebrations. To an audience which included John Hume, David Trimble and Gerry Adams, Tom performed a song he had written during the height of Northern Ireland's troubles entitled 'Anthem for the Children'.[6][7] The Good Friday Agreement was signed a month later in Belfast.

Jimmy Sweeney still lives in Canada. His recordings include Come Listen Awhile with his brother Tom.


  1. ^ "Barley Bree". The Balladeers. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  2. ^ Barley Bree. "Ireland My Home". Youtube. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  3. ^ Barley Bree. "The Star of the County Down". Youtube.
  4. ^ "Talented Sweeneys". Sweeney Clan.
  5. ^ Tommy Makem, Barley Bree. "I'll Tell Me Ma". Youtube. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  6. ^ Sweeney, Tom. "Anthem for the Children". Youtube. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  7. ^ "Tom Sweeney setlist at White House, Washington DC March 17 1998". Setlist FM. Retrieved 23 November 2015.