World music record-breaking attempt delayed in Donegal

A chairde

Though delayed, final preparations continue for a historic World Records Breaking fiddle-playing Event in Gaoth Dobhair in Donegal in a remote corner of north-western Ireland, known as the ‘Forgotten Land.’ The event is being organised in co-operation with Canada-based multi-national company, The Jim Pattison Group, owners of the Guinness Book of World Records.  

The Guinness World Records breaking event to be held next Spring will be the highlight of a dynamic on-stage extravaganza of music, dance, song, poetry, and a few cultural surprises.  

The event, entitled ‘Faeries and Fiddlers,’ is expected to attract a very large attendance including selected national and international VIPs. The aim is to break not one but six different world records, an historic record for the Guinness Book of World Records itself.

They include – youngest and oldest female fiddle players; youngest and oldest male fiddle players; longest fiddle tune; and largest assembly of fiddle players in one place anywhere in the world. Being so unique, the event is expected to be aired in Europe and North America wide on multiple platforms, including print, broadcast and digital. 


Sean Hillen

Among many things, Donegal is renown for its specialised style of fiddle-playing so it is a fitting place for the Event to take place.

Lead organiser of the event is Sean Hillen, author, travel, tourism and entertainment writer and former international publisher. Sean now lives in the village of Bun na Leaca in the heart of the Donegal Gaeltacht. 

The plan for the world-record breaking attempt was formulated after discussions on with a number of leading figures including Donegal TD for the Gaoth Dobhair region, Sinn Fein finance spokesperson, Pearse Doherty, Micheal Heaney, CEO of Irish-language group, Udaras na Gaeltachta and Colm O’Baoill, co-ordinator of Foras na Gaeilge in Gweedore, Dónall Ó Cnáimhsí, Irish language planning officer, as well as local Donegal County Councillor and Udaras board member, John Sheamais O’Fearraigh. 

Udaras na Gaeltachta and the Irish-language planning group in the Donegal Gaeltacht are supporting marketing efforts as Gaeilge and it is hoped the event will be supported by a number of other groups such as Donegal Tourism, as well as a range of private companies, banks and individuals. The event will help support a number of worthy causes, including people with cancer, motor neurone disease, Alzheimer’s, autism and a life-threatening genetic condition particular to the Donegal region known as hereditary amyloidosis. 

Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh from Gaoth Dobhair in the Donegal Gaeltacht, and one of the leading fiddle players in the world, and co-founder of the ‘super group’ Altan, has been informed and granted some suggestions to help the event be successful, including involving Rab Cherry, fiddle player and an excellent fiddle maker who is a key member of Cairdeas na bhFidiléirí.

Fiddle player extraordinaire Martin McGinley, manager of a great project, Donegal Music Education Partnership, a columnist with the ‘Donegal News,’ has also been informed about the event and it is hope that young musicians who have undergone training under that scheme will be able to take part in the world record-breaking event.

This event is expected to be one of the most historic single cultural events ever to take place in Donegal and will attract a very large local, national and international audience,” said Mr. Hillen, who writes for JustLuxe, a US travel and hospitality publication with an estimated 2.5 million readers and Sean also owns and operates his own luxury blog, World Itineraries.  

“Aside from supporting a range community initiatives  helping people less fortunate, the event will also highlight the rich vein of arts and cultural talent in Donegal and support the regeneration of rural Ireland, which has suffered some setbacks in recent years. The important role played by women in rural Irish society will also be emphasised.”  Sean was a former foreign correspondent for The Irish Times in Dublin and The Times in London, as well as Time magazine in New York. 


Born in west Belfast, Sean, a joint Irish and American citizen, also worked at the United Nations Media Center in New York and was chairperson of a national US Fulbright Commission. 

The plot of one of his books, contemporary novel ‘Pretty Ugly’ links Gaoth Dobhair with New York, Washington DC and Kansas City, where Sean was a daily newspaper correspondent in the science and medical field. 

Sean is also co-founder with his Transylvania-born wife, Columbia, of ‘Ireland Writing Retreat,’ an international creative writing retreat established seven years ago, whose latest week-long edition attracted authors and participants to Gweedore from countries such as Mexico, Iceland, Denmark, the US, Ireland and various parts of the UK. The retreat takes place several times a year and has expanded beyond Ireland’s shores to France and Romania.

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