Johnny Crampsie (1915-1988)

Compiled by Martin McGinley. Uploaded on 7.10.20

Johnny Crampsie (1915 – 1988) was a classically-trained violinist from Strabane who also played traditional music, as well as jazz on saxophone and clarinet. His son Seán, who runs the Roughton New Inn in north Norfolk, said his father had passed all his classical examinations by the time he was fourteen. “He was invited to study at a college of music in London but his mother wouldn’t let him go because he was so young,” says Seán.

Johnny was from Cloughcor, Strabane. His family looked after part of Strabane Canal. The canal area is now being regenerated. It still features ‘Crampsie’s Lock’.   Johnny’s wife Kathleen, who’s 91, says Johnny started on classical but always dabbled in traditional. 

“He started taking the traditional seriously when he was asked by a dance teacher in Strabane to play for her dancers at féis-es. That would have been in the 1940s.”

Kathleen says she and Johnny met when he played for her when she was dancing at concerts.  She remembers him being very busy as a musician.

“Back in the early days it was the wee dance halls and he would have been playing saxophone and clarinet. Later it was the fiddle all the time.”

Kathleen says Johnny played with one of the local brass bands in Strabane. He also played for a time with the group which later became the famed Clipper Carlton, sometimes described as the first showband, who took the name around 1950. She remembers Johnny going out to a regular Sunday night traditional session in the home of Barney McGinley, a fiddler who lived in Ballindrait in east Donegal, about three miles from Strabane.

The Johnny Crampsie Festival, a traditional music weekend in Strabane, celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2015.


Johnny Crampsie – Golden Eagle

Johnny Crampsie – The Coolin