Ryan's Fancy

Ryan's Fancy. Celtic and folk band formed in Toronto in 1971 and based in St. John's, NL. Members included Fergus O'Byrne (vocals, banjo, concertina, bodhran), Dermot O'Reilly (vocals, guitar, mandolin), and Denis Ryan (vocals, fiddle, tin whistle). James Keane, a button accordion player, joined Ryan's Fancy in 1980 and left shortly before the group disbanded in 1983.

O'Byrne, O'Reilly, and Ryan all hailed from Ireland. They met in Toronto in the late 1960s while playing with various local acts and eventually joined the Celtic-folk group Sullivan's Gypsies. After forming Ryan's Fancy in 1971, the trio relocated to St. John's to attend Memorial University, where they became local favourites. The group's busy performing schedule, which took them around the Atlantic provinces, prompted them to withdraw from university in 1972 to focus exclusively on music. Over the course of their career Ryan's Fancy released thirteen albums; toured Canada, the United States, and Ireland; and starred in several acclaimed CBC television productions.

Television series and specials

Ryan's Fancy established a national fan base through their highly successful CBC series, Ryan's Fancy (1972, 1978, 1981), which was filmed at various locations across Atlantic Canada and featured such musical guests as Émile Benoit, Ron Hynes, and the Wonderful Grand Band. The group also appeared in the CBC series Tommy Makem and Ryan's Fancy (1974); hosted four CBC television specials (All on a Summer's Day, 1979; Christmas at King's Landing, 1979; Home Boys Home, 1980; and People of the Islands, 1980); and starred in the CBC television movie Pirate's Gold (1980). Ryan's Fancy's 2001 album, Songs from the Shows (Avondale Music 02 02025), comprises a selection of songs recorded for their CBC television shows.


Through their CBC television productions, live performances, and recordings, Ryan's Fancy exposed a younger generation of Newfoundlanders to the music of their ancestors, and brought the abundance of traditional music being created and performed in Atlantic Canada to a national audience. Their music has been credited with laying the foundation for a new generation of traditional acts, including Great Big Sea, The Irish Descendants, and the Barra MacNeils.

In 1983 Ryan's Fancy disbanded so that its three members could pursue individual projects. The group reunited for an impromptu performance at the 2004 East Coast Music Awards, where they received the Dr. Helen Creighton Lifetime Achievement Award.

Selected Discography

Curraghs, Minstrels, Rocks & Whiskey. 1971. Gunn GBY LP 1003

Looking Back. 1972. Audat 477-9015

Newfoundland Drinking Songs. 1973. Audat 477-9024

Times to Remember. 1973. Audat 477-9047

Brand New Songs. 1977. RCA Victor KXLI-0202

A Time With Ryan's Fancy. 1979. Boot Records BOS-7197

Dance Around This One. 1981. Boot Records 5BOS-7217

Irish Love Songs. 1982. Boot Records 5BOS-7232