New book chronicles story of Irish-American band with strong Limerick ties

“OH, my name is McNamara, I’m the leader of the band”, the first line of a famous song depicting the jovial antics of an Irish American band in early 20th century New York.

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 story 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 record collector and archivist Alan Morrisroe, is accompanied by two CDs of music from 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 bandleader of St. Mary’s Band Fife and Drum Band, a role 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 Limerick Fife and Drum Tradition from the 1830s to the 1930s” in 2017.

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

“It has taken the better part of three years of work to bring together all the information to present a complete picture and describe the importance of the McNamaras, and in particular Patrick J. McNamara, in the musical life of Limerick and through the sequel to New York.” he said.

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

The early 20th century saw great advances in music recording and was an important aspect of the success of bands like McNamara’s band. Thanks to the expertise of Alan Morrisroe, collector and archivist of old Irish 78 rpm records, the tracks have been 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 12pm to 1pm, online and from various bookstores.

About Joan J. Hernandez

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