New book depicts the history of the Irish-American group with close ties to Limerick


“Oh my name is McNamara, I’m the frontman of the band,” the opening line of a famous song describing the jovial antics of an Irish American band at the turn of the 20th century in New York City.

Now a new book written by Dr Derek Mulcahy and published by the Limerick Writers’ Center titled The Leader of the Band, describes the life and history of Limerick man Patrick J. McNamara with his brothers Michael, John and Thomas who formed the original McNamara’s group and emigrated from Limerick in the early 1900s.

The book, which was launched at St. Mary’s Cathedral by Irish archivist and recorder collector Alan Morrisroe, is accompanied by two music CDs of McNamara’s Band New York recordings from 1921 to 1927.

Derek Mulcahy, author of The Leader of the Band, is no stranger to the music of Patrick J. McNamara. He is the current conductor of St. Mary’s Band Fife and Drum Band, a role that Patrick J. McNamara held with distinction in the 1890s before emigrating from Limerick to New York.

A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Derek completed his doctoral dissertation on “The Evolution of the Limericks Fife and Drum Tradition from the 1830s to the 1930s” in 2017.

He is also an accomplished flute, fife and whistle player, he has recorded and toured with various groups in Europe and the United States and has been teaching the flute and whistle locally since the 1990s. “Writing and compiling this book was been a labor of love for me, ”said Derek.

“It took the best part of three years of work to put all the information together to present a complete picture and describe the importance of the McNamara, and in particular of Patrick J. McNamara, in the musical life of Limerick and thereafter of New York.” he said.

A unique aspect of the publication is the inclusion of two CDs with 44 recordings by Patrick J. McNamara and his various bands, recorded in New York.

The beginning of the 20th century saw great strides in recording music and was an important aspect of the success of groups like McNamara’s group. Thanks to the expertise of Alan Morrisroe, collector and archivist of old Irish 78 rpm records, the tracks were compiled and remastered at their original speed.

The Leader of the Band is available direct from the author, at St Mary’s Band Hall every Sunday from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m., online and in various bookstores.


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