Paddy Douglas (1927-1995)

Paddy Douglas

Compiled by Martin McGinley. Uploaded 7.10.20

Paddy Douglas, born on the 3rd September, 1927, was one of a family of eleven and he grew up in Legnathraw, St Johnston. Two of his eight sisters died while still young from tuberculosis, Molly and Nancy, who died on her 18th birthday. Four other sisters have died over the years, Elizabeth, Patricia, Martha, and Maggie. Sadie and Olive live in the St Johnston area. 

Paddy had two brothers, Billy and John, who have passed away.

As far as John knows, Paddy was the only one in the family who took up the fiddle, and may have been taught by his father Joe. Paddy mostly played at home or at neighbours’ houses, and occasionally at weddings in local homes. 

“He would play down in the room – you’d hear the stamps of his feet! Reels, jigs, hornpipes, highlands. He was very much into the Scottish tunes. He used to play ‘The Laird of Drumblair’ – I think Tommy Peoples may have got it from him. Tommy used to call around when he was learning the fiddle. He was very interested in my father’s stuff.

“I remember my father had a great word on a fiddle player called Tommy Gilfillan, who lived in Lettergull. He used to be up with him.”

Tommy Gilfillan was also one of the fiddlers mentioned by Kathleen McGinley when she talked about musicians in the St Johnston area. He was aged 12 at the time of the 1911 census.

Two other fiddlers Paddy knew locally were Tommy Coyle from Trentagh and Tommy McMenamin from Magheracloy. John believes his father and Tommy McMenamin may have been related.

Paddy married Anna née Devenny from Ballindrait, eight miles away. Anna’s nephew Kenny Devenny is a well-known local bass player.  

In the early 1960s, Paddy was working at Swilly Valley Mills in Ballindrait. His working life was cut short when he had a serious motorbike accident coming home from work one night in 1962. He suffered a fractured skull and lost an eye.

John says his father generally didn’t travel outside the locality to play sessions, but loved going to the Central Hotel in Raphoe on a Wednesday night. 

Donegal fiddle historian Caoimhin MacAoidh recalls interviewing Tommy Peoples in Clare in 1976 and asking him if there was a fiddler in the St Johnston area that he visited when he went home.

“I remember being surprised when Tommy answered ‘Paddy Douglas’ as I had never heard of this fiddler before. Tommy said he liked meeting up with Paddy for a quiet chat and he enjoyed Paddy’s playing.”

Paddy Douglas died on 18th March 1995, at the age of 68.


Paddy Douglas – Hornpipe

Paddy Douglas – Lord Gordon’s Reel