Mickey McGroarty (1908 – 1999)

Michael playing the mouth organ during tea in the bog [source: Máirín Kerrigan]

Michael McGroarty of Sallows is remembered in his locality as a man of great skill, generosity and craftsmanship who had a natural affinity and respect for his environment. His father, Johnny died when Mickey was 14 years and he took on much of the farm work himself to support the nine children and his mother, Bridget. He was also hired out for six months each winter as a farm labourer where he could year about £7 for the term. Mickey was a very popular man in the area and has been described by Paddy Sweeney as  ‘the most countrywise, self-sufficient man I’ve known.’ His obituary in December 1999 recalled ‘the master of the scythe, the sléan, the spade, storyteller, music maker, the keeper of the unwritten annals of the poor’. Mickey was also a men’s barber in the area, prepared the deceased for wake and burial and also dug the grave. He was an ‘all-rounder’ to say the least who played the mouth organ, particularly tunes such as the jigs ‘The basket of turf’, ‘The three boxty scones’, various mazurkas, the hornpipe ‘Pretty Maggie Morrisey’ as well as the highland ‘Maurice making pandies’. This refers to Maurice Quigley of Mountcharles, a tinsmith and apparently one of the finest fiddlers in the area who often played for wedding processions to both Frosses and Drimarone Chapel.

Mickey playing the highland ‘Maurice making pandies’, accompanied by Gerry Meehan on guitar.