In the third of the series of LEGEND SESSIONS Ballyshannon Folk Festival is delighted to host a tribute session to two musical giants in their lifetimes who have become legends since they died, Donegal fiddler Johnny Doherty who died in the Rock Hospital in Ballyshannon in 1980 and enigmatic performer David Bowie who went to the great festival in the sky in 2016.

John Doherty was an explorer of his own country and its music. He roamed around the North West, playing music and an integral part of the rich cultural of the area.  David Bowie was also an explorer who pushed the boundaries of his world, his talent, his music and his art, his creativity, his spirituality and sexuality to the limits and demystified many oddities along the way.  They shared 33 years in this life and now hopefully will share musical eternity together.  They both were oddities in their own way and both have had an enormous and long-lasting influence on the music of the people, both folk and traditional, irrespective of the boxes which we try to put our musical traditions into.

The Ballyshannon Legend Sessions also aim to push boundaries and explore what might happen where two legends from different genres come together through time and space for a session in the environment of the Ballyshannon Folk and Traditional music festival. The journey is to a session which might have taken place in Ballyshannon at one of the many sessions that are part of the Folk Festival.   This musical conversation between these legends will be facilitated by modern day legends Seamie O Dowd, a renowned traditional, rock and blues performer and Mark Bowie Langan a lifelong admirer of David Bowie. Together they will create a musical oddity so “Let’s Dance”.

The session will kick off in the Bridgend Bar on Sunday August 4th at 12.30 p.m. Space is limited so make sure to come early. (Admission is free)


John Doherty was born in 1900 in Ardara, County Donegal. He came from a famous clan of Irish travellers who worked as tinsmiths and horse traders.   In an interview in the 1970s he said that he had to practice in the barn as a teenager, and was not allowed to play fiddle in the company of his parents until he had mastered “Bonny Kate”. He heard recordings of James Scott Skinner and imitated his style.  From the late 40s to the 1970’s John was sought out by collectors. The Floating Bow contains recordings made between 1968 and 1974 by Professor Evans.  This collection arguably comprises the most extensive collection of his music, and was made when some argue Doherty was at his peak as a musician.  According to Alex Monaghan in the magazine, “The Living Tradition”, he was a significant influence on the fiddle playing of The Chieftains and Altan.   John Doherty was also a story-teller, and some of his tales appear on the liner notes to “The Floating Bow”.  Sometimes he did not carry a fiddle with him on his travels because he knew that, if needed, he was always likely to be provided with one when he visited “house dances” (folk music parties hosted by a family in their own house). The Floating Bow was played on a borrowed fiddle (owned by Professor Evans).  Johnny Doherty died in Ballyshannon Rock Hospital, in 1980.


David Robert Jones, (8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016) was born in Brixton, London. His mother’s paternal grandparents were Irish immigrants.  He was a leading figure in the music industry and is considered one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, acclaimed by critics and musicians, particularly for his innovative work during the 1970s. His career was marked by reinvention and visual presentation, with his music and stagecraft having a significant impact on popular music. During his lifetime, his record sales, estimated at 140 million albums worldwide, made him one of the world’s best selling music artists. In the UK, he was awarded ten platinum albums, eleven gold and eight silver, and released eleven number one albums. In the US, he received five platinum and nine gold albums. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.