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Remembering the Musical Legacy: Jimmy Fitz and His Band from the 1950s/’60s

by Madonna

In a nostalgic glimpse into the past, a captivating photograph from the 1950s/’60s has resurfaced, showcasing the musical prowess of James Fitzgerald, affectionately known as Jimmy Fitz, and his band. Shared by Mick Treacy, the photograph captures a bygone era with Jimmy Fitz on tenor saxophone, TJ Hartigan on clarinet, and Charlie Sweeney on drums. Additionally, Joe Farrell graces the ensemble with his accordion skills, while the identity of the other accordionist remains a puzzle, speculated to be a certain ??? Coffey.

Jimmy Fitz, a maestro proficient in various instruments but specializing in brass, particularly the saxophone and trumpet, played a pivotal role in shaping the musical landscape of North Cork, South Limerick, and South Tipperary from the 1940s through to the early ’70s. His influence extended beyond performances as he mentored numerous aspiring musicians, including the author of this piece during a brief yet impactful period.

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The honor of having the local brass band bear his name aptly reflected Jimmy Fitzgerald’s role as a mentor and teacher to many of its members. His dedication to nurturing musical talent left an indelible mark on the community.

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TJ Hartigan, a multifaceted individual, not only contributed to the band as a clarinetist but also served as a newspaper columnist until his passing in 1964. Following his demise, his sister ‘Nellie Q,’ married to Tom Quinlan, assumed the columnist role. The Hartigan siblings, residents of Thomas Street until the late 1980s, contributed significantly to local journalism and events documentation through photography.

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Charlie Sweeney, the drummer of the ensemble, later ventured to lead his own band. A versatile musician proficient in drums, accordion, and trumpet, Charlie became a favorite for socials, dances, and parties across a wide geographical area. Despite losing an eye in a youthful accident, Sweeney’s prowess extended to marksmanship, earning him the honor of winning an individual Munster championship competition in the FCA.

As we reminisce about this musical era and the individuals who shaped it, the legacy of Jimmy Fitz and his band endures as a testament to the rich cultural tapestry woven through their passion and dedication to music.

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