10 Legendary Tin Whistle Players (And Their Favoured Whistles)

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  • Post last modified:July 9, 2024
  • Reading time:11 mins read

Each to their own! In this blog post, we take a look at some of the world’s most famous whistles and their instruments of choice. From Ireland, to the furthest corners of the globe, there are dozens of brilliant whistle makers to choose from today, each with their own distinctive style and benefits.

In recent decades, the tin whistle has seen significant development in its design. However, it is striking to see that many of the greats have made do with simple penny whistles from brands like Generation and Waltons.

Let’s dive in and learn more about some of our favourite whistlers and their whistles of choice.

Micho Russell

Whistle of choice: Generation

Image: YouTube

Micho Russell is one of the most famous tin whistle players of all time. Universally celebrated as one of the true greats, he is known for his unique “concertina” style. It is rare to find examples of Micho playing with a sophisticated professional whistle, often opting for a simple Generation whistle.

In many performances, you will see him playing a nickel Generation whistle, with its distinctive blue plastic mouthpiece, and red emblem.

Brian Finnegan

Whistle of choice: Goldie

Image: Creative Commons

Brian Finnegan, best known today as a member of the band Flook, is an avid fan of Colin Goldie whistles. He has played Goldie whistles for 15 years, and about Goldie’s whistles he has said:

“There is a magic alchemy that goes into making magnificent musical instruments, born from a place in the maker that cares for the smallest details… Aside from his profound talent as a whistle maker, what I admire most about Colin is his determination not to compromise the quality for the quantity. He never cut’s corners, not for me, not for anyone.”

Mary Bergin

Whistle of choice: Generation, Sindt, Copeland, O’Rioirdan

image: YouTube

The iconic Mary Bergin is one of the most-loved whistlers of all time. She has often been seen playing a brass Generation whistle, and equally often playing John Sindt whistles. She is also known to have played Copeland and O’Riordan whistles. In a 1999 interview, it was noted that Mary’s whistle collection was not in great nick, with many of them a little battered, and tweaked with tape.

Andrea Corr

Whistle of choice: Waltons, Feadóg

The famous Corr sister Andrea Corr is well-known to play Waltons whistles, and in particular, the Waltons ‘little black whistle.’ However, she can sometimes be seen playing Feadóg whistles, and some claim to have seen her playing Generation whistles.

Kevin Crawford

Whistle of choice: Susato, Sindt, Burke, Overton, MK, Grinter

Image: YouTube

Kevin Crawford is one of the great contemporary tin whistlers to emerge in more recent years. He is known to play a few different brands, depending on what the piece calls for.

In a post on Chiff and Fipple, Kevin talked about preferring wooden whistles, but explained that he uses a variety of wooden, plastic, aluminium, and brass, depending on the situation.

In posts online, he has mentioned Susato, Sindt, Burke, Grinter and Ian Corrigan of Deerness Pipes, as well as Overton and MK low whistles. We have also come across him playing Freeman Tweaked Whistles, and Roy MacManus wooden whistles.

Joanie Madden

Whistle of choice: O’Riordan, Burke

Image: joaniemadden.com

American whistler Joanie Madden is best-known for her band Cherish the Ladies, and is celebrated as one of the greatest tin whistlers in the world today.

She is most often seen playing a Pat O’Riordan ‘Traveller’ whistle. Today, Pat O’Riordan whistlers are amongst the most-coveted whistles in the world, often fetching over a thousand dollars, since few are in circulation, and they are no longer manufactured.

Aside from O’Riordan, Joanie is a big fan of the Burke high D session whistle, and has described Michael Burke as “one of the best whistle makers in the world.”

Joanie has also spoken positively of the Lír whistle, describing it as “beautifully crafted” and “well-rounded.”

Paddy Maloney

Whistle of choice: Sindt, Generation, Burke

Image: YouTube

Paddy Maloney is famous, first and foremost, through the band The Chieftains. However, he does not play a “Chieftain” whistle, although they are a fairly popular brand!

In interviews, Paddy expressed a preference for Generation whistles, saying “you mould yourself into them.” He can often be seen playing a brass Generation whistle with a red mouthpiece.

Aside from Generation, Paddy can sometimes be seen playing Sindt tin whistles, and Burke low whistles.

Cathal McConnell

Whistle of choice: Generation

Image: YouTube

Cathal McConnell is a world-renowned tin whistle player who rose to fame with his band, The Boys of the Lough.

He is most often seen playing a Generation whistle – and he is famous for sometimes playing two at once! Aside from the Generation whistle, some also report having seen him play an Overton.

Seán Potts

Whistle of choice: Generation

Image: YouTube

Seán Potts played in the Chieftains, along with Paddy Moloney, and is perhaps equally renowned as a whistler.

He was most often seen playing a Generation whistle, which, like many others, he tweaked himself.

Sean Ryan

Whistle of choice: Susato

Image: YouTube

Sean Ryan the Irish whistler – not to be confused with Sean Ryan the fiddler – is one of the great whistlers of our time, to those in the know. Sean is also famous for living in Leap Castle, which is known as the most-haunted Castle in Ireland!

Although you will sometimes spot him playing a Generation, he is best known for playing a black plastic Susato whistle.

Looking for your own tin whistle? You’ve come to the right place, because Big Whistle stocks the largest selection of tin whistles in the world!

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