Home Lifestyle Entertainment Not your usual ceili band- Shaskeen’s 50th anniversary

Not your usual ceili band- Shaskeen’s 50th anniversary

By Anne Geaghan

Shaskeen have released a double CD of live recordings to mark the band’s 50th anniversary. It is a remarkable addition to the annals of Irish traditional music.

Since the album was recorded, two of the band’s acclaimed musicians have died. Pat Broderick passed away unexpectedly on 27 March. Pat Costello died just days later on 1 April.

The 10 band members last all played together at a concert in Corofin, Co Clare on 4 January. Most of this album’s tracks come from this concert while others were recorded at the Glen Center in Manorhamilton, Co Leitrim.

A 50th Anniversary tour of Ireland and the UK had been planned for this year but Covid-19 has put that on hold.

Despite the loss of its two band members, Shaskeen will continue under band leader and founder Tom Cussen and will tour next year. Tom explained: “We decided we will continue, as Pat Broderick often said, to ‘keep it lit’.

Shaskeen has its roots in London where it was founded in the late 1960s – the golden age of the Sunday morning seisiúns in the city. Tom Cussen played his banjo at The Archway Tavern in Holloway Road, which led to friendships with other musicians and the creation of the ceili band, Shaskeen.

On his return to Ireland in the 1970s, Tom continued to play in trad circles, reconnected with old friends and made many new ones over the past 50 years.

No article about Shaskeen would be complete without proper tribute to the two Pats. Pat Broderick was born in Loughrea in Co. Galway, the son of flute players Peter and Ethna Broderick.

Pat Broderick started on the tin whistle aged 4 in East Galway which has its own distinct Irish musical style. He went on to become a master piper on both uileann pipes and the piob mór. In the army he graduated to Pipe Major in the Irish Defence Forces, in charge of the Pipe Band of the Western Command. Pat’s album The Good Friday Session is a classic of the Irish traditional music. His low whistle playing of The Mist Covered Mountain of Home, accompanied by Geraldine Cotter on piano and her brother Eamonn on flute, is especially poignant. Pat, a great family man, was predeceased by his wife, Anne, last year.

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Pat Costello was born in Moycarkey, Co Tipperary. His father Jerry was also a keen storyteller who imbued in Pat a love of folklore, Irish culture and history. When he married his wife Rita, they moved to the new town of Shannon in County Clare where he was a metal work instructor with Fás.

Pat embraced technology to produce Shaskeen’s album Atlantic Breeze in the late 1980s followed by four set dancing albums and other records. He was Shaskeen’s main vocalist, often accompanying himself on guitar, but was also accomplished on banjo, bouzouki and mandolin. He was a fluent Irish language speaker and widely respected for his support of young musicians. More recently he was a presenter on the Clare FM radio station.


This latest album has something for everyone starting with the title track, Shaskeen, the first reel in the opening set.

There is set dance music, stories and songs all of which capture the mood of dance halls, pub sessions and classical concert programmes.

Five band members have contributed vocal numbers: Grace sung by Sean Conway who also sings Shanagolden and on CD 2 plays a fine a set of reels on his tin whistle.

Pat Costello’s recitation of The Old Woman of the Road by Padraic Colum followed by his rendering of and Dan O’Hara will delight audiences worldwide.

His Irish language version Tá an coileacht ag fógairt an Lae and The Fox and Goose would surely delight angels in heaven.

Bodhrán player Johnny Donnellan’s Courtin’ in the Kitchen captures the ballad session era of the late 70s through to the 1990s when folk groups drew crowds to Irish pubs everywhere.

The London connection is further strengthened by two wonderful songs from Katie Theasby whose father Paul was the fiddle player of Dingle Spike.

Katie’s voice is rich and powerful and perfect for the evocative lyrics of Caledonia and Will you go Lassie go.

Owl Feather by the late American blues singer John Hartford is an interesting addition to the list, delivered well by Shaskeen’s fiddle player David Sanders.

Geraldine Cotter on piano is well-known to collectors of Irish trad recordings. As mentioned earlier she, and her brother Eamonn on flute, play with the late Pat Broderick on low whistle, The Mist Covered Mountain of Home. It is a beautiful air.

The final track is for set dancers: Patsy McDonagh’s accordion playing comes through on the rousing set of Cooley’s Reel and The Wise Maid.

The whole album successfully conveys the atmosphere of live concerts and Shaskeen’s wide repertoire which includes American and Irish folk music and poetry.

Copies can be ordered from Tom Cussen at 00 353 87 2485 404 Email: [email protected] or visit www.Shaskeen.net

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