Walter McNelis (b.1874)


Walter, better known as Watty of Dún Alt is fondly remembered in the locality as a noted fiddler who earned his living as a shoemaker, a trade he learned from Eoghan Lyons of An Gaineamh. He married Rose Boyle from Leitir Mhic an Bhaird, whose brother, Canon Boyle served as curate in Gleann Cholmcille from 1917 to 1921. Watty was of the older generation of fiddlers in Gleann Cholmcille such as Jimmy Bhidi Mhici, James Lyons and the Leslie brothers. In later years, he often went to the house of his neighbour, John McNelis to listen to music related programmes on the radio and afterwards hurry home and play the tunes that he had heard. Watty’s music influenced younger players from his own locality such as Hugh Cunnea and Paddy Doherty, both of Dún Alt. Hugh’s son, Colm, fondly remembered taking Watty to see the Dunkineely fiddler, Bernard Haughey perform in Halla Mhuire in the mid 1950’s.