The Sands Family

Our first awakening to the world of music was listening to the sound of our father's fiddle and mother’s accordion leaking underneath the bedroom door accompanied by the flicker of an oil lamp.

We should have been asleep of course but even as children we thought it more sinful to be asleep than to be awake when the neighbours came in with fiddles under their arms and black bottles squeaking in their inside pockets.

Strings seemed to sing to the rhythm of shadows as bare toes tapped silently below the quilt and the music being played had as much of a Scottish snap to it as an Irish lilt.

And although the players came from different sides and toed their own particular lines their hobnailed boots beat out a rhythm of unison from other times. It seems there was always music in the family.

Our mother’s family The Connollys from Burren were all singers and her father Owen Connolly was the local poet and his poems are still recited to this day.


Our mother wrote songs too.


Oh it’s down the Carrick road you go and round by Charlie Grants

If you want to go for a good night’s dance

And all the valley hall girls surely will enjoy

Dancing round the floor with a Broxtown boy

A Broxtown boy a Broxtown boy

Dancing round the floor with a Broxtown Boy.


Our father Mick Sands from the townland of Ryan was a fiddle player. All his family were musical and according to him the ones who weren’t fiddlers were diddlers…that is they lilted for local dances. Later he would tell us that there was an admission fee of sixpence to get into Broxtown hall but if you played the fiddle well you would get your sixpence back again on the way out. One night he walked out of that hall with whom he would say was the lovliest girl of them all Bridie Connolly from the parish of Burren near Warrenpoint...

Throughout the long years that followed in good times and bad times hard times and sad times they would welcome neighbour and stranger alike into their home with a song a smile a story or a poem.


And then we came along. First Mary then Hugh and then Tom. Then came Ben, Colum, Eugene (Dino) and Anne. We all took to the music like ducks to water. Mary played piano with the fiddlers and Hugh was the first to take a guitar into the house. Our father viewed it with a mixture of curiosity and suspicion. "Where's the bow"? He said. He didn’t want a guitar snapping at his heels he wanted to move along in his own time. Hugh and Mary taught the rest of us what they knew and then went their own ways straying never far away from music and song. The rest of us would go on the road as the Sands Family. There were no plans, it just happened that way.


We would sing the songs our forefathers sang of pretty fair maids in the month of May or even June but when July and August arrived in our growing, and the lads and lassies were among those being maimed and killed, new songs would be written.


In 1968 we made our first LP and the following year we were working at the hay when the word came round of a ballad competition in Dublin town.

Bards a plenty were on their way and the winners would be going to Americay .  It was time to be leaving the farm behind;

Away…ay it's a long long way to be on the road together to be singing for each other

Away…ay it's a long long way and away we'll be going in the morning.

Well Big Bill Fuller he was there with Ciaran macmathuna in a judgement chai.

Dolly mcmahon she slowly rose and says this contest is really close

Well we held our breath and we tried to pray who would be going to Americay

She rose again and our hearts did pound the winners are the ones… from the County Down

Away…ay it's a long long way on the road together to be singing for a song

Away…ay it's a long long way and away we'll be going in the morning.

Well when we came to New York town a different planet from the Co Down

Big Bill Fuller slowly drawled tonight you'll be playing in the Carnegie Hall

Well the place was packed out to the door we player our songs and they called for more

Colum turned to say It's a long long way from turning hay

Away…ay it's a long long way on the road together to be singing for each other

Away…ay it's a long long way and away we'll be going in the morning.

Well away we went the whole world round every day it was a different town

But sorrow raised its cruel hand when Dino died on the autobahn

We took him home to the Co Down friends and neighbours all gathered round

And from the grave he seemed to say i’ll always be with you when the music plays.



Latest Album

Keep On Singing...

Presenting the latest album (number 16 if anyones counting!) Keep On Singing. Featuring the classic family feel and good humour that has ensured the Sands Family remain popular all across the globe.

keep on singing Carnegie Hall Sands Family 1972

Great Memories

One of our earlier promotional posters. It was an exciting moment taking a trip to Americay and a great honour to play in Carnegie Hall, New York.