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Margaret Barry


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Margaret Barry is perhaps the best known and most prominent of the early generation of banjo-wielding “tinkers.”

Born in Cork into a family of travellers/street singers, she taught herself how to play the zither banjo and the fiddle at an early age. At the age of 16 she left on her own after a family row and started her career as a street singer.

In the early 1950s she moved to London and joined forces with fiddler Michael Gorman. The duo soon become an important part of London’s Irish exile music community, and Barry’s singing and banjo playing became a main influence on the younger generation of ballad singers like Luke Kelly.

In London she also caught the attention of Alan Lomax who made a series of recordings of her alone and with Michael Gorman, recordings that further established her position as the grand old lady of Irish ballad singing.


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