The Clareen Banjos Story
Clareen Banjos is a family business that specialises in manufacturing hand-made banjos from the same location in Clarinbridge, Co. Galway, for the past 40 years. We focus mainly on Tenor banjos for Traditional Irish music, but we also make 5-string banjos and Mandolins.
Clareen Banjos was started in 1979 by Tom Cussen, a well-respected banjo player and original member of the traditional Irish band, Shaskeen, and has grown into a world-renowned business which sells online, through several retailers and from its showroom in the West of Ireland. Tom was delighted when his son Fintan joined the business in 2004, which has helped to ensure that Clareen Banjos continues to grow and succeed well into its 4th decade. Fintan is now the company director and his wife Frances also joined the team in 2018. Sean Hatton, an experienced mandolin player, has been part of the team since 2013.
We manufacture the banjos by hand in our workshop in Galway using the highest quality parts and materials. We pride ourselves on attention to detail and finding the right banjo for each customer. We often customise banjos to our client’s taste, adding family names and crests, as well as tailor, made designs. Fintan, Tom and Frances can offer a personal service allowing customers to try as many instruments as possible, to find the banjo that is perfect for them. We offer playing and technique tips in addition to information on taking care of your instrument.
Fintan and Tom are continuously working to bring new and innovative elements to their banjos, to improve it’s quality and tone/playability. Our instruments have stood the test of time and continue to hold their value long after purchase. We offer a 3-year guarantee on our handmade instruments, but we continue to service instruments for their lifetime.
A Brief History – Where the Passion Comes From
Tom, a native of County Limerick, moved to Galway in 1967 when he was offered a job in the University as a trainee technician.
Tom moved to London in 1968 for work. There he took to the banjo seriously. Tom plays tenor banjo in one of Irelands leading Traditional Irish Music bands, Shaskeen which was formed in London in 1970. Irish Traditional Music was at its peak in London at this time. Shaskeen restarted in Galway, Ireland in 1972 when Tom returned to Galway to work again in UCG and in the next 10 years or so often played up to 6 nights a week with one night off to recover, if they were lucky.
Tom looked after his own banjo repairs and decided to make Irish Handcrafted Banjos. He opened Clareen Banjos in the late 70s to early 80s making the first banjo in 1979. Based in Clarinbridge, Co. Galway, Tom’s passion for the banjo and his electro mechanical background has helped him to develop a range of banjos that uniquely compliment every level of playing skill.
Tom is now retired from the university but continues to work in the business and gig with his band. In 2020, Shaskeen celebrated their 50 year anniversary and launched a new album.
Read a recent article about Clareen Banjo’s in the Irish Times.