The Flanagan Brothers - a musical journey from Waterford City to New York City and beyond!

Posted by Great Great Great Family Trees on October 9, 2014 at 6:05 AM

WATERFORD NATIVES THE FLANAGAN BROTHERS were to become one of New York's biggest musical entertainment acts of the 1920s and 1930s where they played nightly concerts and dancehalls and beamed out live on the radio as well as very impressively recording over fifty 78s. Through those recordings the Flanagan Brothers became extremely popular with the Irish emigrant populations in US, and Britain as well as Australia and New Zealand. And with us here in Ireland too of course!

The Flanagan Brothers consisted of Joe (Arthur Joseph b. c.1895) on accordion and Mike (b. 1897) on banjo and mandolin. Their brother Louis (b. 1896) sometimes joined them on guitar and banjo and occasionally the more exotic harp guitar. They also sang. They were all self-taught musically and their repertoire ranged from driving energetic reels, jigs and hornpipes to sentimental Irish ballads with funny skits and sketches thrown in for good measure.

The Flanagan family hailed from Summerhill Terrace in Waterford City. Their father Arthur worked on the docks. He also played accordion. He and his wife Ellen (nee Keane), who were married in the Cathedral in 1890, also had three daughters.


Young Joe emigrated to America in January 1911, the rest of the family following on in April the same year. They settled in Albany New York. Arthur and Ellen had lived in America previously and evidently some of their children including Joe were born there.

The Flanagan Brothers and their recordings are held in the high esteem by traditional Irish musicians and lovers of Irish music in all parts of the world. After he died Mike Flanagan's banjo was given to Frankie Gavin of DeDanann. I'm sure he was happy to receive it.

It must be time for Waterford City to honour the Flanagan Brothers. And a Waterford Civic Trust Blue Plaque should maybe be unveiled. And then, in the nearest dancehall, in the company of the great and the good of Irish music, we could CELEBRATE.

Feel free to comment in the box below - share your stories too. 

Do you have a  story of the Flanagan Brothers?  

Do you play their music? 

Do you have one of those old 78s?  

If so let us know below...

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Reply Stella Hennessy
8:06 AM on October 9, 2014 
Nice story Dad - I wonder if you can find these men on you tube or somewhere like that? I will have to investigate. I will be back. x
Reply Emer Powell
7:49 PM on February 15, 2016 
Can you confirm that the Flanagans lived in Daisy Terrace? I thought it was Summer hill Terrace? I am doing some research on them at the moment and could do with a nudge in the right direction...would appreciate any info you could give...thanks a mill
Reply Kathy Loerzel
7:03 AM on March 5, 2016 
Thank you for the article on the Flanagan Brothers. My father was Michael Flanagan. We have had the opportunity to visit Waterford on several trips to Ireland, including one with Dad in the 1980's. It was a wonderful experience visiting his childhood home at 1 Summerhill Terrace.

Great Great Great Family Trees.  + 353 87 152 8582 and speak to Tony Hennessy.