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Born in Dublin (Ireland) on 19 May 1939, John Sheahan took on an active interest in music when he was 12 years old. He learned to play the tin whistle and the fiddle. Enthusiastically supported and encouraged by his parents, he attended the Municipal School of Music in Dublin where he studied classical violin for more than five years.

Sheahan played with a number of bands around the country until he met The Dubliners in the early 1960’s. At that time, the group was formed by Ronnie Drew, Barney McKenna, Ciarán Bourke and Luke Kelly. He joined the band in 1964, together with Bobby Lynch. Both musicians had been playing during the interval at concerts and usually stayed on stage for the second half of the show. When Luke Kelly moved to England in 1964, Lynch was taken on as his temporary replacement; when Kelly returned in 1965, Lynch left the band and Sheahan stayed. He was the only member of the Dubliners to have had a formal musical education. After the death of founding member Barney McKenna, Sheahan announced the retirement of The Dubliners by the end of their 50th Anniversary tour.

Composing his own music has been one of Sheahan’s interests for many years. This led in the 1980’s to a big chart hit with ‘The Marino Waltz’ charting at No.4 in Ireland. The tune was subsequently covered by a number of other artists and was followed by the release of an album of original instrumental pieces, written and recorded together with classical guitarist Michael Howard. The album, entitled ‘In Our Own Time’, was released in 1987. Another album, entirely of Sheahan’s compositions, was released in 2008 with the title ‘The Marino Suite’.

Sheahan contributed as a guest to several albums. Artists and groups whom he worked with include Mary Black, Ronan Keating, Terence Trent d’Arby and U2. For Kate Bush, he played whistles on the songs And Dream Of Sheep and Jig Of Life and fiddle on the songs Jig Of Life and The Sensual World.