John McGinley (John Mhósaí)

John McGinley, or John Mhósaí as he is widely known, is very much associated with the townland of Loch Inseach but was in fact born in Cill Fhathnaid sometime in the mid-nineteenth century. He is regarded both locally and further afield as one of the most distinguished and influential musicians of south-west Donegal. As well as composing many tunes, he passed his music and lore on to the next generation of musicians including the Leslies, James Lyons and the O’Gara family of Mín na bhFachrán. John Mhósaí made his living as a peddler, plying his trade throughout much of Connacht and the midlands. One of the fiddle players that John Mhósaí met on his travels was Micí Mór Ó Dochartaigh. The complete account of that meeting, which took place in a sheebeen at Carraig a Phúdair, close to Letterkenny, can be heard on ‘The Star of Donegal’ recording by John Doherty, the travelling fiddler and tinsmith and son of Micí Mór. The story shows the high regard in which John Mhósaí was held as a fiddle player. After he played a particular tune, Micí Mór stood up to shake his hand and in the words of John Doherty, said to him:
“There’s no man’ he says, in the county of Donegal that could play that reel in the same way’ he says, only one man he says, and I’m hardly mistaken if you’re not the man that I mean, John Mhósaí from Glencolmcille. Well indeed says he, I’m the very man”.
A number of tunes composed by John Mhósaí, including the air, ‘The Poteen Gathering’ and the jig, ‘The Rusty Anvil’, are still played in the local tradition. Many of these tunes have been passed on by Paddy O’Gara, Mín na bhFachrán and James Byrne of Mín na Croise.

‘The Rambling Pony’, a reel composed by John Mhósaí, performed by Paddy O’Gara