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Operations Manager of Comhaltas in Britain

Paddy shares his story about his journey to becoming a staff member at Comhaltas in Britain.

My Story

10th of May 2024 

"Born into a Comhaltas family, my journey with music began before I could even walk. With two older sisters already immersed in the Irish Minstrels branch whose classes take place at St. Roch's Secondary school in Glasgow, it was inevitable that I would follow in their footsteps. As soon as I was old enough, I too was taken along to the classes.


I started learning with the Irish Minstrel branch when I was 5 years old. I originally started playing the tin whistle under the instruction of branch legend Frank McArdle. Around a year or so later, I was given a button accordion and this became my instrument of focus. As I got a little older, I started learning the Irish harp and later the concertina. When I was around the age of 12 or so, I started playing with St. Roch's Ceili band at ceilithe on the weekends. This experience was amazing for me as it got me used to performing on stage. 


Over the years, I competed in Regional and National fleadhanna as a soloist, and also with St. Roch's Ceili band and Grupai Cheoil. I met many lifelong friends within the branch and other branches in the organisation when attending the All-Britain and All-Ireland Fleadhs. 


Not only was I honing my performance skills but I was starting to try my hand at teaching. Through a structured framework, I gradually improved my skills, progressing from student to teacher. The ethos of Comhaltas and Irish Minstrels is deeply rooted in community and collaboration, where music is not just a skill but a shared language passed down through generations. 


A few years later I started to experiment with 'Trad Disco's' mixing music together and bringing in other musical influences, over time that started to develop further and I started being invited to DJ events at trad festivals. After I finished school, I went to university to study Biology. This wasn't really my first choice, but I was persuaded down a different path as a ‘career as a traditional musician is not a stable career’ - This  will forever be a regret of mine, as it's something I really wanted to pursue and believed it would have been something I could make work for me.


After finishing my uni degree, a job opened as a Development Worker with Comhaltas in Britain. I was eventually a successful candidate for the role and I've been working for Comhaltas ever since. This was a big departure from my career path at that point. Finally a move into the music world as a full time job, I had always hoped to be able to make it work but I never had the opportunity to do it. 


In 2013, probably the most defining single event in my musical career was becoming the winner of the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year award. This was absolutely huge for me. Not only was it due to the fact that I had won the competition playing Irish Traditional music, but it also instantly gave me a platform within the wider musical world that undoubtedly opened many doors for me - and still continues to do so.


I've been lucky to tour all across Europe and North America as well as record CDs with other artists. It's been a dream come true for me to be able to travel and share my music to audiences all across the world! I really don't know what I'd be doing with my life right now if I hadn't been exposed to Irish traditional music - it's quite a scary thought actually, but one thing is for sure, it wouldn't be anywhere near as exciting, interesting or fun as the journey I'm currently on.


In adulthood, music has guided me across continents and my life. As a touring musician, it has allowed me to travel the world, connecting with diverse audiences and forging lifelong friendships. Yet, its impact extends beyond the stage, it was through Comhaltas that I met my fiancé, who was also a member of a branch in Ireland - We first met during the Comhaltas in Britain Convention in London many years ago!

Comhaltas in Britain and the Irish Minstrels branch has defined so much of my life. My entire adult life revolves around music, be it my professional capacity working for Comhaltas in Britain, touring as a musician and DJ, or teaching on the Traditional Music course at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Music has been my constant companion and it all traces back to those early days playing the whistle at my branch. "

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