John Boyle (1871-1972) & John Patrick Boyle (1922-2000)

John Patrick Boyle

John Boyle, born shortly after the Franco-Prussian war in 1871, lived for over 100 years at Tullycleave and is one of the earliest fiddle players recorded in the Ardara area. He was a direct link to the Lifford fiddle player, Anthony Helforty (died ca.1882) and as a young boy, John was greatly influenced by Helforty’s playing. A jig attributed to John – ‘Johnny Boyle’s Jig’, was published in a manuscript of music collected from Edward Keeney, a fiddle player from Gleann Domhain, Ardara who emigrated to the USA in 1948. John and his wife, Bridget reared a family of fifteen, fourteen girls and one boy. John Patrick (1922-2000), their only son was also a fine fiddle player who inherited the farm from John and raised six children there with his wife, Mary. John Boyle’s fiddle was purchased by his uncle from a street vendor in New York in 1850 and like many such fiddles, made its way back home to Donegal. Legend has it that the fiddle was made by an apprentice of Antonio Stradivari. John was often asked to play at big nights and ‘convoy’s in the Ardara area and on one such occasion he was invited to play for a dance in Kiltooris, close to Ros Beag. While cycling over a bridge to get to the dance, John’s fiddle fell off the bike and landed in the river. Naturally the fiddle was feared lost, but was miraculously discovered the following day further downstream on the banks of the river. This same fiddle was passed on to John Patrick and is now played by his great-grandchildren, Éilís, Niall and Ellen Boyle.

John Patrick Boyle playing the reel, Drowsy Maggie. © ITMA