He was one of the original founding members of the Irish folk band The Dubliners; he played tin whistle, mouth organ and guitar, as well as singing. Ciarán was responsible for bringing a Gaelic element to The Dubliners’ music with songs such as “Peggy Lettermore” and “Sé Fáth Mo Bhuartha” being performed in the Irish language. He was the only member of the group to receive a university education and was also fluent in Irish.
Bourke collapsed on stage from a brain haemorrhage during a performance in 1974. He never made a full recovery, and eventually died in 1988. Forced to leave the group due to his haemorrhage, he made a final brief appearance with them on The Late Late Show tribute to The Dubliners in 1987.