John Reilly (singer)

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John Reilly (singer)
Born 1925
Died 1969 (aged 43–44)[1]
Genres Traditional Irish
Occupation(s) Singer

John Reilly, (ca. 1925 - 1969) was a traditional Irish singer.

He was a settled Irish Traveller who lived in Boyle, Co Roscommon, and is thought have hailed from Carrick-on-Shannon in Co Leitrim. He was a profound influence on many popular folk and traditional singers and was often frequented by song collectors from Ireland such as Tom Munnelly.

In 1965, Munnelly recorded Reilly singing the ballad "The Well Below the Valley" (Child #21); it was the first time this song had been collected from oral tradition in 150 years. Christy Moore in the magazine "Swing 51" (1989) recalled that "British folklorists ... wouldn't accept that it was genuine. They reckoned it was a put-up and they couldn't accept that this song had appeared in the West of Ireland because it had never appeared there before."

In 1972, Munnelly played the tape to Moore who subsequently performed it on Planxty's album The Well Below the Valley. Moore also recorded "The Raggle Taggle Gypsy", first on Prosperous and then again with Planxty on their first album: Planxty. Again the source was Munnelly's recordings of Reilly. Later, Sinéad O'Connor was inspired by Munnelly's recording of "Lord Baker", although her own version is based on the singing of Reilly.

Moore wrote of Reilly: "He was a generous and gentle man, totally bemused and very tickled when his singing gained the attention of the folklorists." [2]

During the performance recorded on Planxty's Live 2004 DVD, Moore mentions hearing Reilly sing for the first time and called it a life-changing experience, going on to dedicate the song "As I Roved Out (Christy)" to his memory. However, Moore also pointed out that he did not in fact learn the song from Reilly.[3]

John Reilly died of pneumonia in 1969, aged 44. Tom Munnelly cared for him and brought him safe to hospital for his last days.[1]


  • The Bonny Green Tree, John Reilly. (Topic TSDL 359)[4]
  • O’er His Grave the Grass Grew Green - Tragic Ballads (Topic TSCD 653) - John Reilly sings 'The Well Below the Valley'.[5]
  • Songs of the Irish Travellers, various, Pavee Point.[6]
  • Voice of the People, various, Topic :

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Memorial plaque unveiled in Boyle for Traditional Singer John (Jacko) Reilly". Leitrim Observer. Carrick-on-Shannon, County Leitrim, Ireland. 2014-09-20. Retrieved 2017-05-06. In 1969, Tom Munnelly of UCD and Professor D.K. Wilgus of the University of California, Los Angeles recorded John singing his old songs. John sang 36 songs which were recorded. This was the last time that Tom Munnelly would hear John singing, a while later Tom Munnelly returned to Boyle and found John in his house suffering from pneumonia, he took him to Roscommon Hospital. A week later, John collapsed and was taken to Boyle Hospital; he died shortly after, aged 44. [boldface added] 
  2. ^ Moore, Christy, 'One Voice'
  3. ^ Christy Moore - The Official Website - news, gigs, Christy chat, new releases, audio and video Archived 2008-05-22 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ "John Reilly The Bonny Green Tree TSDL359". Topic Records. Retrieved 2017-05-06. 
  5. ^
  6. ^

External links[edit]