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Paddy Reynolds landed in New York from County Longford in 1948 and briefly settled in Brooklyn before moving to the Bronx. He had already led his own dance band back in Ireland, while simultaneously working on the Ballyshannon hydroelectric project, but was awed when he encountered Lad O’Beirne’s fiddling and re-made himself in New York as a Sligo stylist. Paddy formed a firm partnership with Andy McGann, often taking gigs referred to them by Paddy Killoran when the old master had too much on his plate.

Paddy Reynolds was born on 17 December 1920 to James and Mary Ann Quinn Reynolds, who farmed 67 acres in townland of Garvary in the parish of Dromard (Lower Killoe) in north County Longford. Paddy had to steal his first tunes on the fiddle, using an instrument reserved for his eldest brother James, but the youngster’s precocious talent could not be denied. His earliest musical influences were his mother, who played the fiddle, and his aunt Ellen, a singer and lilter. By the age of ten he was playing at house parties and dances with a group called “The Moonlight Rovers” and later played at a local concert that featured the great uilleann piper Leo Rowsome.

During World War II, Paddy worked as a farm laborer in Fermanagh. After the war, while working on the Ballyshannon hydroelectric project in Donegal, he led a group called the Four Provinces Céilí Band, playing for dances in south Donegal, north Leitrim and Derry. In 1948, he took a liner to Halifax, Nova Scotia and made his way to New York, where his sisters Helen and Mary had preceded him. He moved to Brooklyn and got his first musical employment in a trio with John and Nancy Ryan. At one of their gigs, he met Elizabeth “Lilly” Roughneen from Mayo. They married in 1951 and settled at Cypress Avenue and 149th Street in the south Bronx, a neighbourhood already crowded with traditional musicians, including Sligo fiddle great James Lad O’Beirne.

Paddy became a regular attendee at Lad’s Friday night house sessions, where he played with Paddy Killoran, Larry Redican, Martin Wynne, Louis Quinn, and other members of the city’s Irish music aristocracy. Paddy formed a duet partnership with fiddling neighbour Andy McGann. Over the next three decades they would play together at countless parties, weddings, céilidhe and step dancing feiseanna. In 1958, Paddy was a founding member of the New York Céilí Band, joining a fiddle section that included Andy McGann and Larry Redican. He was with the band when they travelled to Boyle, County Roscommon in 1960 to compete at the All-Ireland fleadh.

In the 1960s Paddy and Lily moved to Brooklyn, where they raised their daughter Mary and two sons Stephen and James. Paddy struck up a music teaching partnership with accordionist John Glynn. There were few opportunities for Irish traditional musicians to perform in public in those years, but live television offered an occasional outlet, especially around the time of St Patrick’s Day, and Paddy appeared on the Ed Sullivan and Merv Griffin shows.

In the 1970s, Paddy finally got a chance to put his fiddling on record. In 1971 he collaborated with button accordionist Charlie Mulvihill and pianist Felix Dolan to record eight solo and duet tracks for Sweet and Traditional Music of Ireland, a Rego Irish Records LP that also included cuts from button accordionist James Keane. Paddy and Charlie’s contributions to that disc were later reissued on the Kells Music CD The Atlantic Wave. In 1977 Paddy and Andy went into the studio with a then-obscure guitarist named Paul Brady to make an LP for Shanachie Records, a disc widely regarded as one of the greatest Irish fiddle duet recordings of all time. Paddy can also be heard on the 1990 Green Linnet CD My Love is in America recorded at an all-star fiddle concert at Boston College. He featured prominently in From Shore to Shore, a 1993 video documentary on Irish music in New York City, and played for a dance scene featuring Brad Pitt in the 1997 Columbia Pictures film The Devil’s Own. Paddy passed away in Staten Island in 2005 at the age of 84. Paddy Reynolds: Classic Recordings of the Irish Fiddle Legend, a collection of privately made and unreleased tracks, was issued shortly after his death.

  • The old maid at the spinning wheel, jig / Paddy Reynolds, fiddle

  • The tramp's reel [The reel of Bogie] / Paddy Reynolds, fiddle

  • Eileen Curran, reel / Paddy Reynolds, fiddle

  • Fly by night, hornpipe / Paddy Reynolds, fiddle

  • Flaherty's, hornpipe ; Off to California, hornpipe / Andy McGann ; Paddy Reynolds ; Paul Brady