Open main menu

Ryan’s Fancy was an Irish folk music group active from 1969–1983, all three of whose members were Irish immigrants to Canada.

Ryan's Fancy
Ryan's Fancy: (L-R) Fergus O'Byrne, Dermot O'Reilly, Denis Ryan
Background information
OriginSt. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
Years active1969–1983
MembersFergus O'Byrne
Dermot O'Reilly
Denis Ryan

Early yearsEdit

Denis Ryan, Fergus O'Byrne, and Dermot O'Reilly, were originally members of the Sons of Erin. The original Sons of Erin line-up featured Dermot and Fergus along with Gary Kavanagh and band leader Ralph O'Brien. When the band broke up Dermot, Fergus and Gary continued on for one tour as O'Reilly's Men and upon returning to Toronto met up with Don Sullivan to form the original Sullivan's Gypsies. Ralph O'Brien reformed The Sons Of Erin with new members Johnnie Lynn, John Cameron and Denis Ryan and recorded a self-titled LP. Shortly afterward Denis left to join Sullivan's Gypsies. Ryan's Fancy came to be when Sullivan's Gypsies parted ways.

1971-1983: Critical successEdit

The trio relocated to St. John's, Newfoundland in 1971 to attend Memorial University of Newfoundland. Making a splash in the local music scene, the group landed the first of several television series. Produced by Jack Kellum on CBC, the show involved the trio travelling and playing across Atlantic Canada. Ryan's Fancy had their own syndicated series called Ryan's Fancy (January 1972 to April 1972) and the pub-styled Tommy Makem and Ryan's Fancy (July to September 1974). Plus, in 1980, they starred and performed in the CBC-TV movie Pirate's Gold. It was in this period that accordion virtuoso James Keane from Dublin became a band-member and contributor of traditional music to the ballad-focused trio. Shortly after Keane left the band, Ryan's Fancy split. Keane moved to New York City, where he became part of the traditional scene there through the 1980s to the present day.

1983-present: Disbanding and current statusEdit

The group disbanded in 1983. Denis Ryan moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia and became an investment banker and businessman while Fergus O'Byrne and Dermot O'Reilly remained in St. John's. Fergus completed a degree in education and began a successful career as a teacher and performer, while Dermot opened a music recording studio, called Piperstock Productions. Fergus can be seen performing weekly on George Street at O'Reilly's Pub in St. John's. Fergus also continues to tour both nationally and internationally with Jim Payne and A Crowd Of Bold Sharemen.

In 2004, Ryan's Fancy were awarded the Dr. Helen Creighton Lifetime Achievement Award of the East Coast Music Association.

Dermot O'Reilly died on 17 February 2007, from a heart attack at age 64. He was survived by fellow former Ryan's Fancy members Ryan and O'Byrne.

  • Denis Ryan (vocals, fiddle, tin whistle)
  • Fergus O'Byrne (vocals, banjo, concertina, bodhran)
  • Dermot O'Reilly (vocals, guitar, mandolin)

Alden Nowlan's 1982 poem, He Sits Down on the Floor of a School for the Retarded described visiting a psychiatric hospital with Ryan's Fancy, as they have been asked to play for the patients


  • Ryan's Fancy Sung by Sullivan's Gypsies (1970)
  • Curraghs, Minstrels, Rocks and Whiskey (1971)
  • An Irish Night At The Black Knight Lounge (1971)
  • Dark Island (1971)
  • Looking Back (1972)
  • Newfoundland Drinking Songs (1973)
  • Times To Remember (1973)
  • Ryan's Fancy Live (1975)
  • Brand New Songs (1977)
  • A Time With Ryan's Fancy (1979)
  • Sea People (1980)
  • Dance Around This One (1981)
  • 15 Drink-a-Long Songs (Cassette Reissue of "An Irish Night at the Black Knight Lounge) (1982))
  • Irish Love Songs (1982)
  • Ryan's Fancy Live (Compact Disc Reissue of "An Irish Night at the Black Knight Lounge" and "15 Drink-a-Long Songs") (1995)
  • Songs From The Shows (2001)
  • What a Time! A Forty Year Celebration (2011)

Sounds samplesEdit


External linksEdit