The Irish Americans
Sixty years ago Mike Rafferty left his home in East Galway to seek a better life in America. Raised in a fertile traditional area famed for the Ballinakill Ceili Band, he was the son of a fine musician who played the whistle, flute and uilleann pipes and carried the name Tom “Barrel” Rafferty, so mighty was his wind and sound on the flute and whistle.
Young Mike showed the most promise of seven siblings up to the time he emigrated in 1949 but the music lay dormant in him for a decade while he established a new life working for Grand Union, marrying Theresa and raising a family of five children in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey.
In 1959, fellow Galwegian musicians Joe Madden, Joe Burke and Sean McGlynn and Sligo flute players Mike Preston and Mike Flynn lit the fire back under him. In 1976, Mick Moloney drafted Mike and other top Irish musicians to play at the Bicentennial Celebrations in Washington, D.C.
Soon after, the Green Fields of America ensemble was founded and a nationwide tour followed. Mike continued to teach young musicians and was active in the Comhaltas Ceolteoiri Eireann (CCE) Martin Mulvihill Branch in New Jersey, and now a CCE branch is named after him.
His daughter Mary is also a talented musician who played the whistle, flute and accordion with Cherish the Ladies for eight years. Mike and Mary have recorded three albums (www.raffertymusic.com) and four years ago, at the age of 78, Mike produced his first solo album, Speed 78. A second CD will be released later this year.
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