Dé Danann

Feature: Andy Irvine & Dé Danann

After the split of Planxty in 1975, Andy Irvine found himself at a looks end for the first time in a few years. It is a little known fact that for a brief time in 1976 Andy Irvine was a member of the group De Danann. There is not a whole lot known about his time with the group but here’s what I could find.

Dé Danann Early Days

The group’s debut album was the eponymous Dé Danann, produced by Dónal Lunny and recorded at Eamonn Andrews Studios, Dublin, in 1975 and released on Polydor. It featured Delores Keane on vocals. In early 1976, Singer Delores Keane left to marry multi-instrumentalist John Faulkner, with whom she subsequently recorded three albums of folk music.

To fill the vacancy left after Keane’s departure, Dé Danann brought in Andy Irvine, who recorded live with the band on 30 April 1976, during a folk festival in Germany. Irvine left soon thereafter because of scheduling conflicts but proposed Johnny Moynihan as his replacement, who participated in the recording of the band’s second album, Selected Jigs Reels & Songs.

Dé Danann in 1977 with Johnny Moynihan shortly after Andy’s departure.

In his own words

“Since Paul [Brady] and myself had struck up a particular friendship we decided to stick together and become a duo. At the same time my old friend Alec Finn had asked me to join De Dannan because Dolores Keane had left. So I was in two outfits at the same time, which I should have known was going to be a disaster.

Frankie Gavin rang me up one day and he says:
“Andy, De Dannan have been offered two TV programmes on RTE in June.”
Now I’d already agreed to do a tour in Brittany with Paul and Liam in June so my heart sank. I said: “Oh that’s great Frankie. Do you know what dates in June?”
And he says:   “Yes, the 15th and 16th.”

Right smack bang in the middle of the Breton tour… ‘’So I said,’’Frankie I’m going to have to ring you back’’. I sat down and I thought ‘’What the hell am I going to do? there’s no way out of this’’. Much as I liked playing with De Dannan, I considered that what I was playing with Paul was more in my line as a musician.

So I rang Frankie back and I said:
“I’m terribly sorry Frankie but I’m going to have to leave the band.”
And I think that’s the only time I’ve ever heard Frankie Gavin lost for words!

Leaving the band like that, at short notice left me feeling pretty bad and I suggested they ask Johnny Moynihan. Johnny was free and had already told me he would be interested. So he stepped into the breach and got me out of a big guilt complex. They made a great record after that, The Mist Covered Mountain*.

It’s not very well remembered now that I played in De Dannan, I even recorded with them on an Irish Folk Festival tour in Germany but I don’t think I’ve ever quite been forgiven for leaving the band. Whenever I see biographies of De Dannan, I notice there is no mention of me at all!”

* Johnny Moynihan participated in the recording of the band's second album, “Selected Jigs Reels & Songs”. He does not feature on the group’s third album “The Mist Covered Mountain”. Andy must have been mistaken here.

The 3rd Irish Folk Festival In Concert (1976)

Andy recorded live with the band on 30 April 1976, during a folk festival in Germany. This is the only known recording of the group with Andy at the helm.

Cat# Artist Title (Format) Label Cat# Country Year
INT 181.008 Various The 3rd Irish Folk Festival In Concert ‎(2xLP, Comp) Xenophon INT 181.008 Germany 1976
CM CD 040 A/B Various The 3rd Irish Folk Festival In Concert ‎(2xCD, Album) Celtic Music CM CD 040 A/B UK 1988
KIN W 2609 Various The 3rd Irish Folk Festival In Concert ‎(CD) Kingston World KIN W 2609 Germany 2005

Tracklist

B1 –De Danaan Martinmas Time/ Dinny O’Brien’s Hornpipe
B2 –De Danaan Maíre Rua/ Hardiman The Fiddler
B3 –De Danaan The Emigrant’s Farewell
B4 –De Danaan The Boys Of Ballysidare
B5 –De Danaan The Plains Of Kildare

Line-up

  • Banjo, Bouzouki, Tin Whistle – Charlie Piggott (tracks as listed above)
  • Bodhrán, Bones – Johnny McDonagh (tracks as listed above)
  • Bouzouki – Alec Finn (tracks as listed above)
  • Fiddle, Whistle – Frankie Gavin (tracks as listed above)
  • Mandolin, Vocals – Andy Irvine (tracks as listed above)

If you have any other information on this interesting time in Andy’s career please do get in touch. Photos or recordings would be fantastic.
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