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    AISLINN'S ADVENTURES: The Tale Of The Incredible Joseph Maguire

    It has been said that we should set ourselves a new challenge every day; as optimistic as I am, I think I’ll settle for once a week- after all you shouldn’t run before you can walk-should you?

    What is a Challenge.. …Well according to my old friend the Oxford English Dictionary from GSCE English ; A ‘challenge’ is a call to engage in a contest, fight or competition and to be totally honest for most of us the biggest fight that we enter into is with ourselves.

    If you are like me, a total ‘perfectionist’ then sometimes challenges can be daunting. It’s not that you don’t want to attempt the task, it’s more the case -where do I begin and can I possibly finish it?

    I have been thinking about challenges for a while now – something that I can do, to break out of my comfort zone -push my limits. Last week when casually browsing the net, I came across an audio recording that unknown to me at the time became my challenge for that week, before I’d even finished listening to the chorus.

    By listening to one short recording,I ended up researching a Fermanagh legend, tracking down his family, making three videos about his life and the biggest challenge of all- writing a story that would soon be my first published article in ‘The Impartial Reporter.’

    Here’s what happened;

    The internet is an amazing invention; an endless supply of information that you can access at the touch of a button. Information that lies hidden in the fibre optics of technology and if you are inquisitive enough you might just be lucky to stumble on little gems of information. I found a jewel this week. His name is Joseph Maguire.

    Joseph was a man who released an incredible 26 records; he was signed to two record companies (and never once appeared on the X Factor); he led the St Patrick’s day parade in New York, organised and sponsored the prestigious New York Cup. He also found time to run a bar and restaurant on Broadway. And he was born right here in Fermanagh.

    While browsing through the Irish Traditional Music Archive (as you do) this lilting Irish tenor filled my headphones. I’d never heard of Joseph before but the more I heard the more fascinated in him I became. You may not be aware Fermanagh TV is my forte and part of my job is to create little packages of knowledge of historians and characters from our fair county. My good friend at Enniskillen Townhall, (and chief advisor on historical matters), Frankie Roofe, immediately sprang to mind. If anyone could shed some light on this musician, it would be Frankie.

    Two emails and two days later, Frankie learned that not only was Joseph a great musician, he was in fact a local celebrity and a great ambassador for Fermanagh both home and abroad.

    Joseph was born in Ballinamallard in 1899. Armed with this vital piece of information Frankie got out his trusty 1901 census. With seven other Joseph Maguire’s also listed, we had to use our honed detective skills to find out more.

    Although Frankie’s musical preferences are more centred in the 1960’s and Tamla Motown, he willingly replayed Joseph’s recordings we found on the internet until the words became embedded in his mind. The lyric “My fathers name is Barney, he could make the fiddle sing,” was the clue we needed to help us track down his family.

    Another quick check of the census revealed one Joseph Maguire had a father named Bernard. Eureka! This led us to query if any of Joseph’s eight siblings are still residing around Glenncoonra, in the parish of Mackracross.

    One email later and we’d traced and made contact with the nephew, great nephews and in laws of this unfolding character Joseph Maguire.

    We discovered that Joseph attended Whitehall Primary School and St Michaels Grammar in Enniskillen. His mother Ellen was a great  ballad singer and his father an accomplished fiddle player. It was no surprise that Joseph was greatly encouraged to follow in the family musical tradition.

    But this was not to be, well not at this stage of his life anyway. Joseph left school and joined his brothers in Dublin serving in the Metropolitan police until its disbandment in 1925. It was at this point, like so many of his fellow countrymen, Joseph left for the shores of America.

    Seated around the table with Joseph’s family his great nephew of the same name began the family folklore. The story was told: “Uncle Joe’s father gave him two options while out on the family farm. With a spade in one hand and a fiver in the other he was asked to choose his future. Without hesitation Uncle Joe grabbed the fiver and was away the next day,” said Joseph, obviously enjoying telling the tale of his famous ancestor.

    Nancy Maguire, Joe’s nephews wife, recalled fond memories of her time in New York, in fact she got married and had her reception in 1954 in Uncle Joe’s famous Maguire’s Chop House on Broadway.

    “It was a lovely day, with people such as Ted Valentine and a few of the Irvinestown connection.” she recalled.

    This was all great background information but the journalist in me needed to find out how did this man became a big recording artist.

    I do know that in early 1900’s in New York there where lots of Irish clubs. The Irish emigrants gathered here to recreate their sense of community, probably down a few pints of Guinness and reminisce about the Emerald Isle that they couldn’t wait to leave.

    It was in these clubs that Joe’s musical talents shone through.Every week he along with band members such as the Sligo fiddle player Paddy Killoran and Frank Quinn from Longford played together, singing Irish lilts and ballads of the distant shores of Ireland. Proving to be a big hit with the Irish audience, he was soon picked up by Decca Records.

    ‘Uncle Joe was great, he was able to play a few reels or jigs and sing all the songs,”  Nancy recollected.

     In 1927 Joe had originally signed for Columbia records but switched to ‘Decca Records’ in 1930.

    From the music archives website it seems that they believed this was the way forward to present Irish Ballad music to make it more appealing to not only the emigrant market but the mainstream American commercial market. It obviously worked as ‘Uncle Joe’ went on to record at least 26 songs on this label. 

    Even though with his successful life in New York he still managed to keep his Fermanagh roots to the forefront of his life; re- organising the Fermanagh men’s association in New York and sponsoring the New York Cup, which was originally set up as a fundraising project for Irvinestown GAA Club. Frankie informs me that “it was such a magnificent trophy the local club decided to offer it up for the Fermanagh Senior Championships.”

    Joseph was obviously held in great esteem by his peers, as prior to returning to the states in 1947 the GAA hosted a dinner for him in Croke Park. They also selected him to start a Mc Kenna Cup match by throwing in the ball. ‘Uncle Joes’ work on both sides of the Atlantic, elevated him to what we would call today celebrity status. This role led him being asked to lead the Fermanagh County contingent at the famous New York St Patrick’s Day parade.

    Joe married Beatrice O’ Rourke from Leitrim and they had two children one of whom was pilot in the Second World War. Joe “Bud” Maguire as he was known flew a B-17 Bomber while stationed in England. Joe’s nephew Andrew tells a fascinating story of how Bud flew the b-17 bomber over the old homestead in Fermanagh dropping a message to the family.

    A big man in stature, a big man in heart and a big man in Fermanagh’s folklore. Joe’s mortality is reflected a window he donated to the St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.

    I now wonder if the Internet led me to this story or is it my interest in the wonderful characters that make up the history of Fermanagh.

    I have investigated lots of stories over the past 18 months for but this story makes me think that I must have Fermanagh blood somewhere in my veins. I need to ask Frankie to check the census!









    Aislinn's Adventures: Dreams can come true!

    “The key to happiness is having dreams. The key to success is making your dreams come true.”

    We all want our dreams to come true, no matter who you are or how big or small they may be. Everyday I meet people that are doing extraordinary things whether it be in Politics, the Arts, Sport or within their own communities, all because they have the passion to follow their hearts and believe in their dreams. is a combination of the past four years of my work as a video journalist. I truly love my job especially when I get the chance to meet interesting and innovative characters. Whether you’re an aspiring musician, an artist, actor or your even the next Alan Sugar, anyone with an interesting story to share or an event taking place…. get in touch and hopefully together we both can fulfill our dreams.


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