Thomas ‘Tommy’ Makem was born on November 4, 1932 in Keady, Co. Armagh. His Mother Sarah was a folk singer and collector of songs.
Makem went to the USA for the first time in 1955, with an ambition to become an actor in New York. He eventually teamed with the Clancy Brothers to form a folk group which became internationally famous after an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1961. He played the long-necked 5-string banjo, guitar, tin whistle, and pipes but was perhaps best known for his distinctive baritone voice. He was sometimes known as The Bard of Armagh, a title taken from a traditional song of the same name. He re-united with Liam Clancy in 1975, and they toured and recorded together for more than a decade. He resumed a solo career and became a broadcaster and television presenter, continuing to perform until the last weeks of his life. He died of lung cancer in August 2007.
“As for writing the songs, James Stephens, my favorite Irish poet and writer, once stated that one doesn’t decide to write a poem (or song), it decides it wants you to write it, and it grabs you by the back of the neck and says write me. Most of these songs were written in the most unlikely places—a subway train, a plane over Canada, driving alone in a car, sitting at the kitchen table, waiting for my wife to get ready to go out. lying in a field — a song is not too particular where and when it decides it should be written, so I always carry a little notebook and a pen.”