How Doolin became the Trad Capital of Ireland

Traditional Irish Music or ‘‘Trad’’ as it’s commonly know is famed around the world for its lively sounds and joyful energy. There is no better place to find it than Doolin which is often referred to as the capital of Traditional Irish Music. So how exactly did it end up with this reputation?


Many say it began with the Russell brothers who helped put Doolin on the musical map. Micho, Packie and Gussie Russell lived in Doolin all their lives. Their immense musical talent drew people from all over the country to listen to them play.

Micho (1915-1994) was a master of the tin whistle and also played the flute. He was well known for the inventiveness of his rhythm and the fact that he would throw in surprising stops whilst playing. A deep knowledge of songs, stories and tunes from the old days made him especially popular with archivists from far and wide who would travel to Doolin to record his tales. From the 1970s onwards he toured all over Euro and the States where he would let people know that Doolin was the place to be if they wanted to hear more music similar to his.

Packie (1920-1977) was considered by many to be the best of the brothers in terms of raw technical ability. His musical instrument of choice was the concertina and many concertina players have cited him as a huge influence. Packie was not like his brother and stayed in Doolin where he played in Gus O’Connors  Pub rather than travelling the world.

Finally Gussie (1917-2004) played the tin whistle and concert flute and was also very talented. Unfortunately not many recordings of him playing exist as he was quite shy!

Russell Brothers

Doolin remembers its 3 greatest musical ambassadors on the last weekend of February with the Russell Memorial Weekend. It has been running since 1994 and is the kick-start to the Trad season with the best musicians from around the world arriving in Doolin for sessions and workshops in all the pubs and the Russell Cultural Centre.

The main venue that these 3 brothers played in was Gus O’Connors Pub. Founded in 1832 it still maintains a hectic music schedule with music sessions kicking off around 9pm until late each evening from the end of February to the end of November and there is an early Sunday session at 6.00pm weekly all year round.