In recent decades, well-known musicians came to play in the public houses in Swanlinbar, among them, Cathal McConnell the late Ben McGovern (fiddle player), and of course the members of the renowned ‘New Mill Ceili Band’.
It is in the spirit of these early sessions that the John Joe Memorial Weekend Music Festival was established. So who was John Joe? In the 1950s John Joe was one of the few traditional flute players in Ulster, when traditional music was at a low ebb.
John Joe Maguire was born at Drumroosk, Kinawley County Fermanagh on 22nd October 1928, the 10th and youngest child of Patrick and Brigid Maguire. Both parents were native of the townland of Corragole in the neighbouring parish of Derrylin.
He never formally studied music but was widely regarded and respected as one of the great flute players and was one of a few who helped keep the music alive during the 1940s and 1950s before it enjoyed a renaissance from the 1960s onwards. Gary Hastings once said that when he began to play there were only three flute players in Ulster — John Joe, Eddie Duffy and Cathal McConnell.
John Joe was a humble, talented musician who touched many in the Fermanagh and West Cavan area and his legacy will live on through many musicians with whom he loved to perform.