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Aeroplanes out of Scrapheaps: Patrick Kelly from Cree by Brendan Taaffe

Appendix 2: Patrick Kelly Interview, Mick O Connor 1972

Patrick, would you tell us about your music: it’s not just Clare music, it has origins in Kerry.

Yes, I would say that it has origins in Kerry because my father got a heap of music from George Whelan, the blind fiddler that came in from Kerry, maybe 80 years ago or thereabouts. And he left a lot of music here in West Clare, but he didn’t go north, never went into Miltown, which surprises me. But he would have stayed a very long time here because a good part of the music in West Clare that I heard was played and taught by George Whelan. I saw and heard and played with a blind man by the name of Schooner Breen, that’s buried thirty or thirty five years, probably, and he wasn’t a great player, but he had a lot of music that he got from George Whelan. Played on the fiddle. Then I heard my great friend Denny Mescall that every tune he got was from George Whelan, every tune he was able to play was from George Whelan and I don’t believe that he ever altered a note, and he absolutely knew nothing about music but everything he got he held it until the day he died, which would be around 1934 or 5. He was probably 84 or 5 at that time, and I would say that he played good music up to the age of 80, a very active man and he’d spend a lot of his time going around the country teaching music to people such as __’s mother, which he walked seven miles to teach her music from __ to ___ and maybe he’d do that a couple of times a week, but he taught her a lot of music I’m sure. He had a wonderful collection of music, but he didn’t leave any really good player after him because the man was a small bit deaf and he always insisted on leaning on the bow, and that was the only problem. He had a wonderful bow hand, one of the best I ever seen. Of course, Thady Casey was another very good player and had a lot of music and he used to say himself that he wasn’t a great fiddler but I thought that he was very good, and that tradition went dead in West Clare when Thady died.

He’s not long dead, is he?

No, about twelve months probably is all. He was a wonderful dancer, of course.

And your father played as well?

Yes my father spent his life playing music, but he died young. I was young when he died. I had a certain amount got from him, such as the foxhunter’s reel, and a lot of set pieces. But he had a lot of music that I don’t recollect at all. Or probably I did, but I being too young I didn’t learn any music.

Did he play the same style as Denny Meascall?

No, no he did not. Completely different style, I would be thinking. A different style of music. He was a great air player. He had a great opportunity: he had two sisters that were reared in the convent, or were educated in the convent and they had all of Moore’s melodies and one of them was a noted singer. She even knew Doctor Sigurson in Dublin, and she got in with him and he wrote her when he was cruising in the Mediterranean. She was a noted singer and that’s how my father was such a great air player, because he was brought up with them two girls, more or less, which is a great advantage to know something about the song, for to play airs.

Well, a lot of flings and mazurkas, waltzes, schottisches. I played a schottische here, a mazurka here for John Kelly the other evening, ‘The Prince’s Imperial Gallope’. Three parts on it – it just came into my head a few days before John Kelly called here.

[plays ‘Prince’s Imperial Gallope’ on fiddle]

[plays reel on whistle]

Tomeen O’Dea’s reel isn’t it?


Where did he live, around Kilrush, is it?

Killanena. He lived to be a very old man, he was there in a great time, when the great players were born. There was a great flute player at that time by the name of Patcheen O’Loughlin. He came from the north where all the O’Loughlin’s are still there. North Clare. And he was a noted player, flute player. Tomeen knew him very well and he always called to see Tomeen. And Tomeen also played a little on the fiddle, but he was a very poor fiddle player, and he was the only man I every heard playing Gollnaman sanair (sp???). I never heard my father or Denny or any of those old players playing it, but he played it on the flute and he had great wind and he made a wonderful job of any air he played. The Dear Irish Boy was his favorite I’m sure, and he’d nearly put you to sleep with it. He was a man of about six foot four, and he lived to be 93 years of age. And not alone would he have been a great player, but he was a gifted man. He cut the image of the blessed virgin in a stone that he had in the corner, and had a great job made of it until somebody came in one night, sat on the stone, knocked it over on its side and broke the nose. So he came at it again and he repaired the nose, but it wasn’t a great success the second time in that it was when he had it done first. He made a fiddle then, he made a wonderful fine job of it.

You hear a lot of this: I remember talking to Paddy K from Donegal, he told me he made a fiddle when he was five years of age. Even pipers, Willie Clancy, you want to be some other craftsman or handy like, to be making reeds, or to make your own parts.

Oh the reeds are a very important part of it altogether, that’s beyond an ordinary person to do a thing like that. Tomeen had a very good fiddle. But then I heard on the radio the other night a man playing a fiddle that he made out of a piece of a motor car, and so on and so forth. But we had a man that made a fiddle out of a scrap can, when petrol came out first, ‘twas in two gallon cans they were. And the famous blacksmith of Glenbeg, John Harrison, made one which sounded better than Tomeen’s fiddle

I want to ask you, Patrick, did you know anything about the Moloney brothers, the pipe makers?

Oh I did – I heard Harrision talking about them long before they were ever heard of. Harrison was the blacksmith, and he was a great dancer and a great singer. Every piper – he even brought – the man that died in Dublin from the wall there – he brought Johnny Doran. John Harrison was an old man when Doran was around, but when he heard Doran he had him up there for two nights and two great nights they were. And he was delighted to see and hear Johnny Doran, because of course, he spent his life after famous piper Garrett Barry. Garrett was blind and he had to be conveyed from one house to another, whether it was a mile, two mile or ten mile. And Harrison was very interested in music, he was a very good dancer, very light on his feet and he was a gifted man. He made a fiddle, and a dulcimer, and he put a light up on the stair that frightened half of West Clare before satellites or anything was every known.

You were saying about the Moloney brothers.

Yes, I heard him talking about the Moloney brothers long before anybody knew anything or heard about them here, that they repaired the pipes for Garrett. Garrett was buried probably around eighteen hundred and one or thereabouts, and the man brought him from the __ side up to Ennistymon was a man by the name of Din Donoghue, and he got people who were noted dancers and musicians, and he says, Mrs. Galvin was one of the family, and ‘tis from that.

That’d be Mrs. Galvin the concertina player.

No, fiddler. She was from out of the south, but Din drug him [Garrett Barry] in his horse and side car, from Cloneen up to Ennistymon hospital, and he was admitted there as a labourer, and he died about 1901.

He was wonderful but Harrison said that Johnny Doran was a better piper than he. He said that.

Willie [Clancy] you see had a great advantage because his father was in and about there at the time of Garrett Barry and his father had a lot of music, and he had a lot of dance music. And Thady told me that he danced to Garrett Barry, and he had no boots on him. Of course, very few youth had any boots at all. Thady. Harrison also told me, we talked about it in the car, he made the first ha’penny bike we had seen here in West Clare. And he told me that he walked down to Limerick without shoes, but he had them on his shoulder, put them on going into the city, and took him of again coming out and he jaunted home without any boots. He was an awful blacksmith, he was fifty years before his time.

You also knew Mrs. Crotty well, didn’t you?

I did, I did. Many a night I spent with her. She was a wonderful woman, she didn’t mind, if she got a mile outside the town, she didn’t mind if it was burned down to the earth, when she was gone out of it. Anyway, it was all music and being in Miltown, Miltown was her favorite spot, Willie and company.

Would you say there’s a difference in the music of West Clare from this side down and from Miltown up?

There is, mind you, there is a difference in the style of music, because Thady’s style and mine were completely different altogether. He had music from a great player up there, he called him O’Donnell, and O’Donnell had great music because Thady had great music. Everything he played was good.

You were talking about Denny Mescall, and you also mentioned Daniel Mack to me.

I don’t know very much about Daniel Mack, but I got a tune or two belonged to him, which is O’Connell’s Farewell to Dublin on fiddle, but I didn’t know anything about him. He was a very old man when I saw him play, and he was as near to me as Denny, but he wasn’t traveling out too much at that time. But he had a wonderful collection of music.

Would he have had this music from George Whelan?

Well, mind you, I’m not sure of that – that’s the whole thing, I don’t know about him. But he also had another brother that played, but he wasn’t as practical as Daniel because he didn’t teach music, and he was James, he had a lot of music too, I’m sure. A very nice man though – he had a son also that played, Seamus Mac, a postman up to recently, and he still had his father’s music, but somehow he got careless and didn’t follow it up at all. He was well able to play at one time. There was an ad for fiddlers for country dancers when the country dances were in full swing, but the gramophone put an end to a lot of that music when it came out.

Appendix 1

Aeroplanes out of Scrapheaps

Appendix 3