CHAPTER 4: Dulcimers in the British Isles since 1800 > Dulcimers in Scotland

Dominic McNally, 1909-1974

The material on this page was not part of the original thesis of 1976, but came to light in 2001

by Catherine McNally Dali, his daughter

The families of both of my parents originated in Ireland. In the middle to late 1800s, when there was famine in Ireland, they migrated to where the work was: that was the time of the industrial revolution, and there was plenty of work in factories in Glasgow.

a very young Dominic

My father, Dominic McNally, was born in Glasgow on July 7, 1909. He was the youngest son of my grandparents, William McNally and Catherine (Murray) McNally. Of perhaps 13 children, only six lived to adulthood.

passport photo

[went to US - when/how/why?]

Dominic returned to Oban after two years in the US, having played on radio for 5 stations in New York as well as TV appearances, where he joined his father William (I) and brother Frank for a month. He then returned to the US with Frank and indeed on this journey met a young lady who was to become his wife, Glasgow-born Winnie Carroll. They married in Brooklyn and started a family.

There were four children: William (III) born in 1937, Winnie (II) born in 1936, me born in 1945, and Ellen born in 1947. Neither of my parents kept in touch with their families of origin.

When I was twelve years old in 1957, my parents separated. We were living in Brooklyn, New York then, where I was born. My father had a problem with alcohol and, unfortunately, our family life was not the best. My dad used to come up to the apartment every two weeks or so to take my younger sister, Ellen, and me out for an ice cream.

Then, in 1959, when I was fourteen, my mother decided we would move to California, some 3000 miles away from New York. It was the last time I ever saw my father or even heard of him. It was a hard time.

studio portrait, plucking the dulcimer

I think all of the boys played the dulcimer, but my father was apparently quite a prodigy on the instrument, and he played and entertained alongside his father ("the Paderewski of the dulcimer") even as quite a young boy.

Dominic played beautifully: in fact, he was considered a child prodigy. But he could also sing beautifully, so he used to sing and accompany himself on his dulcimer. I can remember hearing him sing on the radio when I was a very small child in New York: he used to appear on the Morton Downey radio program.

One newspaper article called MAESTRO McNALLY tells us

"Sometimes when the Maestro appeared at Saturday afternoon concerts in the St. Andrew's or City Hall, he took his seven-year-old son, Dominic, along to play with him. With their dulcimers side by side, McNally pere et fils would tinkle out any kind of music the audience fancied".

We used to have my father's 78s at our house: but I have no idea what became of all of that after my parents separated. With Paul Gifford's help, I heard from an Irish-American music archivist, who told me he had a tape of two songs sung by my father accompanying himself on the dulcimer, made around 1932 for Columbia Records. So now I also have my father singing and playing his dulcimer at age 23.

Apparently, my father left Brooklyn, New York in December 1960 and went to Canada. Since he was wounded in World War II as a member of the Canadian Army, he would have been considered a disabled veteran, and received military benefits. He never did become an American citizen; he was always a British subject.

He died on May 20th 1974 in Montreal, Canada, and is buried in a military Field of Honour in Pointe Claire, Quebec.

Catherine McNally Dali

There is more about Dominic and William - and Cathy - on the McNally family web-sites

Thanks to Dominic McNally (II) for photos, edited DK.