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

Appendix 3: Patrick Kelly Interview, Séamus Mac Mathúna 1966

Get back to Doran again. Would he play a long batch of music when he’d play?

Oh he would.

Three or four reels together?

Well, I would say that he did, but it strikes me that he played the reels single, that he didn’t double, if my memory serves me right. A reel was never played double in here with the old fiddlers at all, was only played single. The parts were only played single: they weren’t played double.

And Doran did the same?

I think he did. And I heard another peculiar thing that night with the lads, you heard them playing ‘The Bucks of Oranmore’ that now. Well everyone you ever heard playing it, except myself, they started it the last part, and it strikes me that those started at the part that I start. Did you notice that?

I think so.

I’d say they did.

Doran—was he collecting that time now?

Oh Christ, he had an assload of money, he brought an assload of money out of West Clare. Oh a hat or something would be thrown down on the ground, or something like a sieve. I don’t know exactly what it was now. I met him again back in Kilkee at the races, following him around like every other gom, sure, and he was, he couldn’t keep it in. But I don’t think he had someone with him in Kilkee.

Used Willie be around him?

Probably – not in Kilrush. Oh, he was in the wagon with him – most of the music Willie got was off the wagon, he was up here in Clahans and various places and Willie, that’s how Willie followed him up. But there was a famous fellow in Glenbeg by the name of John Harrison, and a famous doctor by the name Paddy Hehir, and they spent their life as young lads following Garrett, and John Harrison invited Johnny Doran for a night’s music, and he did arrive in good time, and the house was full, street was full, everywhere was full, but an act of parliament had been passed here, I think by the Fianna Fail government at that time, that allowed only about 30 people in a house for entertainment, a dance. I think around 30 people. And guards landed in due time out there, and cleared the whole goddamned place, but Harrison brought him again, and he said that he was a better piper than Garrett Barry. And Harrison was a kind of good dancer too. He went around cutting stones of course, I saw him cutting locally.

Was there much singing around here?

No, there’d be no tradition in their singing. It was the one thing that was never here, was any touch of traditional singing,

You knew Denny fairly well, I suppose.

He was the best of them lads I knew because the rest of them were dead when I was getting strong, and Denny was alive. And I knew the Schooner, the Schooner he got small pox, but that he remembered to see the birds. Remembered to see the birds, he was three years of age. And it struck your grandfather back at the bridge too, he was another one that it struck.

Denny Mescall, did he teach many himself?

Oh, he taught it. Didn’t he walk back from where he lives to the protestant church in Kilkee to teach Magrue’s wife music, two bob a tune. And you can put that down anyway to about 14 miles a day. That’s a long run. Well, he done that. But I was always interested.

The one thing Denny didn’t do, or that he did do, he always insisted on leaning on the bow. He was a small bit deaf, and the majority of the fiddlers he left were all a bit on the rough side.

Baby John had a few students, didn’t he?

He did, but sure, they were no good either. They weren’t worth a damn. There’s a great art in teaching music. Well there was another thing in favor of anybody, which was in Denny’s favor, and in Daniel Mack’s, and my father’s favor. Once they started teaching, whatever age they were, they kept it up, and they could call, half a part of a tune, and you playing below, and they’d hear and they could correct you in whatever mistake you made. But they were very particular about the bow hand.

Well, fiddling is fading in West Clare, isn’t it?

Ah, dead and gone.

[speaking of Tomeen O’Dea] and of course, it was all slow. Their music was slow music, more to be listened to than danced with. And to finish up with Denny Mescall going out to dances, playing, was that he was nearly kicked out of it. He wasn’t fast enough – the times had changed, the rhythm had changed. They wanted sets that were fast, and he couldn’t change over.

Your father taught you music.


Here in the house.


What was it, he was a farmer?

Yeah – he hadn’t much to do: he worked more with his own people back near Michael Murphy’s.

Would he have a type of people that come, was it young people who came?

‘Twould surprise you the advanced people that came, and people that I had no account of

Had he a special time?

No, no – time didn’t matter in them days. Time didn’t matter.

Would he take them one at a time, would he?

He’d take them single. Well, if they were good enough, which you often would have them. I could sit down in the corner on two stacks of turf, of course there was turf in every corner that time, and I could be sitting down over there, listening to him teaching the music, and I could play that when they were finished.

You started on the fiddle at what age?

Around ten.

‘The Foxhunter’s’ now, would he tune up the fiddle for that?

Oh, he would.

Would he give you lessons as well, or would you just pick it up?

Oh, he gave me lessons, he did. Such as that ‘Apples in Winter’, or ‘Gillan’s Apples’ I should say, or the ‘Ace and Deuce’, things that I do remember. And the ‘Job’ of course, but he played another tune then that I never heard, or knew anything about, ‘The Downfall of Paris’, which was this old one up in Glenbeg that heard it played on the radio years after he’d been buried, they told me that me father played it. ‘Tis in the book.

He taught two bands then, of course. He taught a band in the period, maybe around ’92 or ’94, and then another in 1917. He was a great nationalist, which very few of the Kellys were.

Appendix 2

Aeroplanes out of Scrapheaps