Johnny Doran

For the American former child actor, see Johnny Doran (actor).
Johnny Doran
Born c. 1907
Rathnew, County Wicklow, Ireland
Died 19 January 1950(1950-01-19)
Athy, County Kildare, Ireland
Genres Irish traditional music
Occupation(s) Musician, traveller
Instruments Uilleann pipes
Years active 19??–1950
Notable instruments
Uilleann pipes

Johnny Doran (c.1907 – January 19, 1950)[1] was an Irish uilleann piper.


Johnny Doran was born in 1907 in Rathnew, Co. Wicklow. His family were Travellers with a distinguished musical heritage; his father John Doran and brother Felix Doran were also pipers, and his great-grandfather was the celebrated Wexford piper John Cash.

By his early twenties, Doran was working as an itinerant musician, traveling with his family from town to town in a horse-drawn caravan and playing for money at fairs, races and sporting events. His playing is said to have inspired the young Willie Clancy to take up piping as a career.

On January 30, 1948, Doran's caravan was parked on waste ground near Back Lane in Dublin's Cornmarket area. It was very windy, and a brick wall collapsed on the caravan, and also on Doran, who was outside lacing up his shoes. Doran was completely covered by bricks and rubble. His lower back was injured during the rescue process as, according to one of his daughters, he was pulled free from the debris. Johnny was afterwards paralyzed from the waist down. His injuries led to continuing ill health and he died on January 19, 1950 in Athy, Co. Kildare. He is buried in Rathnew cemetery.[2]


Johnny Doran had 9 children. In order from oldest to youngest they are as follow:

1. John / Johnny Doran (Nicknamed The Hen) deceased
2. Patrick Doran (Nicknamed Hadley) deceased
3. Mary Doran (Nicknamed Girl) deceased
4. James Doran (Nicknamed Cheese) Living
5. Anne Doran (rosanne?) (Nicknamed Nan) Living
6. Eileen Doran Living
7. Margeret Doran (Nicknamed Maggy)Living
8. Myles Doran Living
9. Bridget Doran (Nicknamed Ick) Living

Several of Johnny Doran's daughters emigrated to America whereas most of his children migrated to mainland UK where they live to this day.


Only one recording of Johnny Doran's playing was ever made. In 1947 the fiddle player John Kelly, a friend of Doran's, was concerned about the piper's health. He contacted Kevin Danaher of the Irish Folklore Commission, who arranged for a recording to be made on acetate disks, of the following tunes:

1. Coppers and Brass/The Rambling Pitchfork/The Steampacket (Jigs/Reel)
2. The Bunch of Keys/Rakish Paddy/The Bunch of Keys (Reels)
3. Tarbolton/The Fermoy Lasses (Reels) (With John Kelly)
4. An Chúileann (Air)
5. Sliabh na mBan (Air)
6. Colonel Fraser/My Love Is In America/Rakish Paddy (Reels)
7. The Sweep's/The Harvest Home/The High Level/The Harvest Home (Hornpipes)
8. The Job of Journeywork (Set Dance)
9. The Blackbird (Set Dance)
10.The Sweep's/The Harvest Home/The High Level/The Harvest Home (Hornpipes)

Doran was reportedly pleased with the session, and a further one was planned but, because of the accident that paralysed him, it was never carried out.

Style and Legacy

During his lifetime, Doran was one of the most admired traditional musicians in Ireland.[3] On the basis of his recordings, the traditional music scholar Breandán Breathnach ranked him alongside the fiddle player Michael Coleman as one of the greatest Irish traditional musicians ever recorded.[2]

His unusually rapid and fluent style influenced contemporary pipers such as Paddy Keenan and Davy Spillane.




  1. Sleeve notes compiled by Jackie Small and published with The Bunch of Keys audio tape, Comhairle Bhéaloideas Éireann (CBÉ 001), 1988
  2. 1 2 Small, Jackie, Sleeve notes from Johnny Doran ~ The Master Pipers, Volume 1, 'Na bPíobairí Uilleann' (NPUCD011), 2002
  3. Carson, Ciaran, Pocket Guide to Irish Traditional Music, Appletree Press, 1986 ISBN 0-86281-168-6

External links

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