Bing Crosby brought fame to Limerick’s ‘leader of the band’

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by Alan Jacques

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‘THE Leader of the Band’, a new book by Dr Derek Mulcahy, tells the story of a Limerick man made famous in song by Bing Crosby.

Dr Mulcahy has written the tale of Patrick J McNamara, who emigrated from Limerick to New York in the early 1900s and formed the original ‘McNamara’s Band’ along with his brothers Michael, John and Thomas.

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The book, published by Limerick Writers’ Centre, will be launched by Irish recordings archivist and collector Alan Morrisroe in St Mary’s Cathedral on Saturday, December 4.

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

Dr Mulcahy, the current bandmaster of St Mary’s Band Fife and Drum Band, is a graduate of Mary Immaculate College.

He completed his PhD thesis on the ‘Evolution of Limerick’s fife and drum tradition from the 1830s to the 1930s’ in 2017. He is also an accomplished flute, fife and whistle player, who has recorded and toured with a variety of groups in Europe and the USA, and teaches the flute and whistle locally.

“Writing and compiling this book has been a labour of love for me,” he told the Limerick Post.

“It took the best part of three years to gather the information to present a complete picture and depict the importance of the McNamaras, and especially Patrick J McNamara, to the musical life of Limerick and subsequently New York,” he explained.

Limerick Writers’ Centre (LWC) Director Dominic Taylor said they were delighted to publish the book.

“When Derek approached me with the project I knew that it was something we should be involved with. It is the remit of the centre to promote Limerick writers and Limerick culture and what could be more significant than the musical life of Limerick, a city that has always produced great musical artists from Catherine Hayes to the Cranberries?” Mr Taylor asked.

“Derek’s book brings to light a time and place that needs to be remembered and celebrated and which had an impact far beyond these shores”.

‘The Leader of the Band’ is available directly from the author, in St Mary’s Band Hall any Sunday from 12pm to 1pm, online and at various bookshops throughout the city.