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Tag: uilleann pipes

The third post of pre-Christmas 2018: March

Saturday, 15 December, 2018

The review of the year as echoed in Rainy Day posts continues with our 15 March reflection on the magisterial uilleann piper Liam O’Flynn. “For he had gone alone into the island / And brought back the whole thing,” as his great friend, the poet Seamus Heany, wrote. And, indeed, Liam O’Flynn brought back the whole legacies of Leo Rowsome, Willie Clancy and Seamus Ennis for future generations of pipers. RIP.

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Fulsome are the tributes that have been published following the death yesterday of the uilleann piper Liam O’Flynn. And deservedly so, as he was unique. That mastery of an ancient tradition imbued him with the confidence to place his music before a restless, modern audience demanding progress but still wishing to retain some links with the past and the enthusiastic resonance — from Clonnmel to Copenhagen — ensured the success of the groundbreaking group Planxty.

Liam O’Flynn was charming and erudite, witty and cultured, polite and professional and, above all, human. Those fortunate enough to have known him know how much he’ll be missed. At this time, it’s appropriate to paraphrase C.S. Lewis in A Grief Observed: “His absence is like the sky, spread over everything.”

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Tomorrow, here, the fourth post of pre-Christmas 2018. One of our most fascinating April subjects was the notorious Silicon Valley scam artist, Elizabeth Holmes.


Liam O’Flynn: Seán Ó Duibhir a’ Ghleanna

Saturday, 14 April, 2018 0 Comments

It’s been a month since the uilleann piper Liam O’Flynn died and not a day has passed since without a reflection on the void left by his absence. Like many Irish traditional musicians, he began his musical journey with the tin whistle and his attitude to this humble instrument was typical of his approach to all things: respect. Here, he plays the air of the 17th-century song, Seán Ó Duibhir a’ Ghleanna.

Note: Seán Ó Duibhir a’ Ghleanna (John O’Dwyer of the Glen) was the subject of many songs in Irish and English that portray him as a romantic, rebellious symbol of the old Gaelic order crushed during the Williamite War in Ireland. Its fate was sealed on 12 July 1691 when the Dutch general Godert de Ginkell defeated the French commander Marquis de St Ruth at the Battle of Aughrim in Galway. This led to the Treaty of Limerick and the scattering of the Irish troops (“The Flight of the Wild Geese”) to Europe, where they found employment in the armies of France, Spain, Austria and Prussia.

“Here’s a health to your and my King
The sovereign of our liking
And to Sarsfield, underneath whose flag we’ll cast once more a chance.
For the morning’s dawn will wing us
Across the seas and bring us
To take our stand and wield a brand among the sons of France.
And though we part in sorrow
Still Seán Ó Duibhir a’ Ghleanna
Our prayer is ‘God save Ireland and pour blessings on her name’.
May her sons be true when needed
May they never fail as we did
For Seán Ó Duibhir a’ Ghleanna, we were worsted in the game.”


Memento mori

Friday, 16 March, 2018 0 Comments

The 8th of October 1982 was a Friday and it didn’t rain in north County Dublin. In the wider world, it was the day when Poland banned the Solidarity trade union and the musical Cats opened on Broadway, but it was also the day when Séamus Ennis, the legendary piper and music collector, was buried in Naul. One person, and only one person, could have played the obligatory lament at the graveside and the honour went to Liam O’Flynn, who had studied and lived with the master himself, and who best embodied that tradition to which Ennis had devoted his life.

Today, the lament will be played for Liam O’Flynn and all the grace and gravitas that marked a career and a life that gave so much joy to so many people will fulfill the inexorable mortal destiny of “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” RIP.

Liam O'Flynn lament


Remembering Liam O’Flynn

Thursday, 15 March, 2018 0 Comments

Fulsome are the tributes that have been published following the death yesterday of the uilleann piper Liam O’Flynn. And deservedly so, as he was unique. That mastery of an ancient tradition imbued him with the confidence to place his music before a restless, modern audience demanding progress but still wishing to retain some links with the past and the enthusiastic resonance — from Clonnmel to Copenhagen — ensured the success of the groundbreaking group Planxty.

Liam O’Flynn was charming and erudite, witty and cultured, polite and professional and, above all, human. Those fortunate enough to have known him know how much he’ll be missed. At this time, it’s appropriate to paraphrase C.S. Lewis in A Grief Observed: “His absence is like the sky, spread over everything.”


Colm and Tadhg and Turlough

Sunday, 17 December, 2017 0 Comments

Back at the beginning of this month, the Irish uilleann pipes were honoured as an important and unique cultural heritage symbol by UNESCO, the controversial UN organization that was founded in 1945. The move was a “valuable recognition of the skills, imagination, creativity and importance of those who make, restore and play na píobaí uilleann,” said President Michael D. Higgins. One of those who plays them increasingly well is a young lad from County Carlow, Colm Broderick, and here he’s accompanied on the organ by Tadhg Griffen as they play O’Carolan’s Concerto, which was composed by the 18th century harper, Turlough O’Carolan.