Clare County Library
Music of Clare
Home | Library Catalogue | Forums | Foto | Maps | Archaeology | Folklore | Genealogy | History | Museum | Online Resources | Search this Website | What's New

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

There is a beauty and perfection in his music, born out of pure creativity rather than of the intellect. I feel if you were to give him a few bits of cast-off tunes, he would sculpt them into something that could fly—like making an aeroplane out of a scrapheap.[1]

I am entranced by the music of Patrick Kelly, a fiddler from West Clare who died almost thirty years ago. His was a highly personal music - played mostly in the kitchen, on his own - and of a singular creativity, mixing wildness and sweet in crafting lovely versions out of common tunes. In this, Patrick’s playing was not unlike that of Tommy Potts, also a very individual and creative musician. There is an argument to be made that an art is defined not by the mainstream - amateur watercolorists painting the mountains of a weekend - but by the people on the fringes - Picasso stretching our concept of portraiture. Patrick didn’t alter the structure of a tune in the way that Potts did, but both put an unmistakable stamp on a tune, making it their own, and both are considered beacon musicians of the twentieth century, players regarded as exemplars of the tradition. Patrick mostly stayed at home and was little recorded, yet his influence can be heard in the playing of a number of prominent fiddlers, including Martin Hayes, Séan Keane, James Kelly and Caoimhin O Raghallaigh. It was a stroke of fortune for me to be given a copy of ‘Ceol an Chlair’, vol. 1 by a friend in Montreal some years ago. ‘Ceol an Chlair’, long out of print, is a legendary album issued by Comhaltas in 1979 featuring the unaccompanied fiddling of Bobby Casey, Junior Crehan, Joe Ryan, John Kelly and Patrick Kelly. I was already aware of Casey and Junior, but was completely taken in by the tracks of Patrick’s playing at the end of the album, a fascination that continues.


Aeroplanes out of Scrapheaps