My brilliant career (apologies to Miles Franklin)

Siamsa Montréal Ceili Band

For the last two decades I have had the pleasure of playing at the monthly ceilis of the Siamsa School, in the company of many fine musical colleagues over the years. Below is a picture of most of the current lineup (December 2012). Drop in and hear us sometime. More information can be found at the Siamsa School website.


In the early 1980s I spent four years in Australia, where I had the good fortune to bump into this most excellent bunch of reprobates. Poteen was a band with a long and colourful history, made up (when I met them) of three Irishmen, a Scotsman and an Australian. I was the first (but not the last) Pom in the band.

The photo, which I believe was given to me by Lindy Cooney, was taken during a performance billed as "Poteen's Last Jig" at "The Dan", Melbourne, July 1981. Pictured are John McAuslan's left hand, Simon Melia (RIP), Bro. Steve, James Cooney, Paul Carroll and Gerry Fennell (off camera).

As it happened, it wasn't the band's last gig, but it was the last with the above line-up. Among other members of Poteen were (before my time) Sean Kenan, Andrew Leblanc, John Fitzgerald and (after my time) John Keenan (RIP) and Ian Francis. I don't know whether the great Louis McManus and the famous Steve Cooney were ever officially members of the band, but they certainly got up on stage with Poteen on many occasions - before and during my time.

I'd like to write more about this band sometime. I - and many others - have so many glorious memories of them. But... life is short.


I formed the band Phenigma in Montreal along with flute player Jean Duval. We were active from 1990-1996. The other members were Golo (guitar), Lynda Kathan (keyboards), and Scots-Gaelic singer Sìne McKenna.

Here we are in our finest hour, a concert for Radio-Canada at Lion d'Or, Montreal, April 1993.

Our CD liner and blurbs said that we played "New and traditional Celtic music from Ireland, Scotland and Quebec". Hmm. We did have a distinctive, rich and very pleasing acoustic sound, and we played an interesting repertoire ranging from songs in Scots Gaelic and English, to rare airs and dance tunes (including a number from the repertoire of Packie Manus Byrne) plus some fine new compositions by Jean Duval and (ahem) me.

Among the nicer things said and written about us were: "Montreal... still a great place to live. Our city has Habitat, Phenigma and the McGarrigle Sisters... by Peggy Curran, in Montreal's The Gazette, and "Des musiques absolument irrésistibles", which was said by Élizabeth Gagnon, on the airwaves of Radio-Canada FM.

Updated 11 December 2012