Reavy, Edward (‘Ed’) (1898–1988), composer and fiddle player, was born 14 February 1898 in Barnagrow, Maudabawn, Co. Cavan, the son of Patrick Reavy, farmer, and Sarah Reavy (née Hamill), a renowned lilter. He emigrated in 1912 and settled in Drexel, Philadelphia, where he worked as a plumber. Although he returned to Ireland for two visits, in 1922 and 1969, he lived in Philadelphia until his death. His attachment to the city is reflected in the Book of music of Corktown, which includes 100 dance tunes selected by Reavy and also a small number of his own compositions: Corktown was once perceived to be the most Irish section of Philadelphia.
Reavy was one of the greatest and most productive of Irish composers in the area of traditional music in the twentieth century. Influenced by the Sligo fiddler Michael Coleman (qv), his earliest recordings were made in the 1920s in the USA. He made several solo 78 rpm records on the RCA Victor label. At his home he also made disc recordings of his playing, often of his own compositions. He is reputed to have composed over 400 tunes and was probably at his most prolific from 1940 to 1955. A couple of his compositions appear on the record Farewell to Ireland and others were recorded when he was a member of Tommy Caulfield's Erin's Pride orchestra. Mick Moloney coordinated the production of a tribute album in 1979 on Rounder records (6008), available as The music of Ed Reavy, which includes Reavy playing his own music with his son Joe on the fiddle and the pianist Kath Bonner.
Reavy's nephew Joseph assembled many of his compositions, while the Armagh musician Louis E. Quinn was responsible for saving many of his tunes. Quinn devoted himself to having Reavy's tunes introduced to the broader Irish community in the USA and also in Ireland. Many of the composer's tune titles echo his home in Cavan, among them ‘The road to Drum’, ‘Cavan town’, ‘Neil of the Glenties’, ‘Lovely Lough Sheelin’, and ‘Silent the lonely glen’. Where the Shannon rises (1969) is a collection of Reavy's most popular tunes, and the book Ed Reavy: the collected compositions of Ed Reavy (1978) contains 126 of his compositions with a commentary on how many of the tunes were created. This was the result of a project undertaken by two of his six children, his sons Ed and Joe. This publication has accompanying cassette recordings produced by the Ed Reavy Foundation. However, it is highly probable that many original compositions have been lost.
A memorial plaque was unveiled at Reavy's former home in Maudabawn in August 1990.