[from Irish Folk Music – A Fascinating Hobby, Capt. Francis O'Neill, 1910]
"No glory I covet, no riches I want,
Ambition is nothing to me;
The one thing I beg of kind heaven to grant
Is a mind fit for humor and glee.
With passions unrumed, untainted with pride
And music for life as my share,
The wants of my nature are cheaply supplied,
And the rest are but folly and care.
How vainly, through infinite trouble and strife,
The many their labors employ;
Since all that is truly delightful in life,
Is what all, if they please, can enjoy."
No sentiment betrays itself more commonly among musicians the world over than professional jealousy. In the early stages of this insidious failing, it may be no more harmful than rivalry, yet it is but too often true that not a few permit their feelings to transgress the limits of pardonable competition.
It would be too much to claim that our Irish musicians in Chicago were exempt from this proverbial failing, and even if its existence must be admitted, it was wisely kept under good control, and never passed the bounds of prim decorum, unlike the case related by Mrs. S. O. Hall, in which the musicians of her native place in Wexford were involved.
“In our younger days every district had its own appointed and particular musician. `Kelly the piper’ belonged exclusively to the sweet seashore of Bannow; `Andy the fiddler’ to the sunny hill village of Carrick, and Tim Lacy to the townland of Ballymitty. Tim’s instrument was not specified, for he was a universal master; could take a turn, at the pipes, a hand at the fiddle, a blow at the flute, or a `hate’ on the big drum, and was, in fact, so desultory in his habits as hardly to excite the jealousy of any one in particular; for Irish fiddlers and pipers are a most captious and irritable race, as combative for precedence as a bevy of courtiers.
“We remember `Kelly the piper, and `Andy the Fiddler, challenging each other to a musical contest, which was kept up during five successive Sundays after Mass, and only brought to a conclusion by Andy's letting the music out of Kelly’s pipes with a reaping hook; while, in return, Kelly immolated Andy’s fiddle on the prongs of a pitchfork.”
This occurred over seventy years ago, and while the “Irish Music Club” of Chicago was by no means a mutual admiration society, professional rivalry among its members was never publicly demonstrative or offensive.
Mr. John Conners, dean of the pipers, was an affable, jolly man, good-natured and diplomatic.
Although he had a very flattering opinion of his own abilities, his criticism of others Was humorous and tolerant. Generous enough to concede the superiority of “Barney” Delaney and possibly one or two others as jig and reel players, he rather pitied their pretensions to compare with him at all in the execution of airs.
He named his tunes for the benefit of his audience as he played them, and it was well that he did, for his versions were not always either common or conventional.
Like all musicians, he dearly loved appreciation and applause. By the initiated this stimulant was administered sparingly, for his appetite in this respect was so well un-derstood that after a tune or so rarely a word of approval was spoken, lest in a spirit of generosity he would continue his performance indefinitely.
On one occasion, while he was playing at Delaney*s resi- dence the silence became chilling and oppressive after a little while, so he unbuckled his pipes and laid them on the table. Deeming it entirely safe at this juncture to be at least courteous, my brother-in-law incautiously ventured to remark, “That was pretty good, Mr. Conners.” This belated though qualified approval of his music so touched his sensibilities that, with the pleased inquiry, “Did you ever hear this one, Mr. Rogers ?” he buckled on the pipes again and continued the entertainment.
At another time, Mrs. O’Neill came along as Mr. Conners was placing his instrument in the buggy awaiting him in front of Delaney's house, where he had been playing for an hour or two. “Oh, I knew it must have been you, Mr. Conners, when I heard the music, as I approached the house,,, was the “jollying” greeting which fired his brain. But she paid for it, all right enough, although the result was unexpected, under the circumstances.
“Mrs. O’Neill, you always had such a fine ear for music,” he responded, with evident delight, “and even if I am in a hurry Pll play a few `cunes' for yourself.,’ There was no escaping such kindness, so she simply had to endure it as well as the glowering glances of others who had enough of it already.
He was a much married man and buried his third wife before the dark angel summoned himself to glory at the patriarchal age of eighty-two years.
His last wife’s wake was numerously attended and by the natural process of gravitation the “craft” as the music lovers were termed, assembled in the kitchen to condole with the bereaved widower.
Serious as such occasions are to the family, the majority are little affected by grief and this instance was no exception. The conversation had eventually drifted to music, when in a sly way Delaney remarked, “ `The Gudgeon of Maurice’s Car, is a fine reel, I always liked it.,’ “Yes,” answered Ennis, “it is a good reel, but I can hardly ever think of it. How does it go ?,’ Now this was the wid- ower’s pet jig and he couldn't stand for such a mistake as that, so he corrected them. “’Tain't a reel at all, ‘tis a jig.” “Is that so ?” inquired McFadden. “Who knows it ?” Sergt. Early thought he could start it, and did, but got stalled at the end of the first strain. All of them - the jokers - pretended ignorance or forgetfulness of the second strain. Poor Mr. Conners, taken off his guard by their apparent earnestness, and for the moment oblivious of the draped casket and its lamented occupant in the front parlor, was tricked into humming the fugitive strain for this gang of schemers!
Who could imagine anything more wierd and incongruous?
The good-natured man did not long survive, but he was game to the last; “practiced” on his beloved pipes, and willed them to “Barney” Delaney. “The only one who could do them justice,” he said.
His wishes in that respect were carried out by his children, but not his desire to have Delaney play a lament on them while the casket was being borne from the house to the hearse.
There was a “character” named Murphy living alone in a shanty on city land at the approach to Archer Avenue bridge, whose acquaintance I made soon after my transfer to the Deering Street District. He was nearly blind and kept a semblance of a notion store for a living. There was but little demand for his tobacco and candies, but a black bottle or two carefully placed out of sight in a dark cupboard had many patrons. He pretended to “play the pipes,” and never was there so dignified and self-conscious a “performer,’ as he. His so-called music was simply atrocious, but as those who came to woo his black bottle were seldom discriminating he was complacently regarded as a “joke.”
And so he was. His seriousness and egotism were irresistible.
Michael Houlihan, a loose-jointed Kilkenny man, lately appointed, in the exuberance of his spirits gave a neat exhibition of jig and reel dancing on the smooth station-house fioor one day while on reserve duty.
“Begor, Mike, you ought to go up and dance for Murphy,” was the approving remark of an onlooker. Caught by the compliment, the dancer earnestly inquired, “And who is Murphy?”
Several willingly gave the desired information with an additional eulogy on the fame of the great blind piper.
The writer, being the Desk Sergeant on duty, relieved Houlihan from reserve at once, and before long “Big Pat” stole away to sec the fun, and on the arrival of the Lieutenant I was enabled to leave also.
The scene at Murphy’s when I arrived was ludicrous beyond description. Houlihan, already-alive to the joke, good humoredly pranced about the door, while the piper, “God save the mark,” figured a chanter that emitted spasmodic squeals, which by no stretch of the imagination could be identified as tunes, “Big Pat,” who enjoyed the rare faculty of voiceless laughter, was apparently in convulsions.
Patrolman Fitzmaurice, who was off duty, sat in a dark corner, but betrayed his presence by explosions of hilarity which he did his best to control. This jerky jocularity of Fitzmaurice was evidently disconcerting to the piper, for after a few interrogative glances towards the former he reverently put away his “little instrument,” as he fondly called it, heedless of Houlihan’s compliment, “Begor, Mr. Murphy, you can almost make 'em spake.”
The joke was too good to end there, so it went much further.
Far out on the “Northwest Side’, of the City lived an airy fellow named Tom Bowlan, who was a good Highland piper and an excellent fluter.
The mention of a blind piper never fails to arouse inter- est, as most Irish harpers, pipers and even fiddlers until recently were blind or afliicted with some other infirmity. Naturally when “Murphy, the blind piper,’ from County Glare, was spoken of to Bowlan, he was bound to hear him.
It was arranged that on the next Sunday Bowlan was to dine with me and then we would call on the inimitable Murphy.
We will not enter into the details of what happened except to say that Bowlan rather enjoyed the situation when he found he had been “sold,” and invited Murphy to play at the wedding of a friend. This our piper was obliged to decline, although grateful for the offer, on account of his blindness and consequent inability to travel in the night time.
When we reached the street my guest turned on me and said things not ordinarily mentioned in polite society. “That fellow hasn’t a sin on his sowl,” is the terse way he expressed his opinion of the “bard,” meaning that he was mentally irresponsible.
Bowlan played the same game on his neighbor McCabe, a man who being out of work one winter “turned” a set of Highland pipes for himself, filing down beef bones picked up in the vicinity for mounting instead of ivory.
This latest victim put us all in the shade in the game of practical joking, the final dupe being no less a personage than Alderman Michael McNurney of the old Tenth ward. That dignified official was something of an Irish piper himself, and possesed among his treasures the great set of Union pipes on which the famous Flannery was playing when he dropped dead in Brooklyn, Now York, many years ago.
The alderman, accompanied by two or three other dignitaries, drove through the City and out along Archer Avenue, where the magnificence of their equipage attracted much attention.
What transpired in Murphy’s store, or what kind of a performance was enacted, except the “Spanish Waltz.” which was inflicted on every audience, we never learned, but the musical alderman let it go at that, and meekly submitted to much merry bantering among his acquaintances for some time.
As Murphy had never ventured to embark on the stormy sea of matrimony,’ he could not have been the subject of the following verses by the poet Ritchie:
“Ould Murpby the piper lay on his deathbed,
To his only son Tim, the last words he said,
`My eyes they grow dim, and my bosom grows could,
But ye’ll get all I have, Tim, when I slip my hould,
Ye’ll get all I have, boy, when I slip my hould.
“There’s three cows and three pigs, and ten acres of land,
And this house shall be yours, Tim, as long as ‘twill stand;
All my fortune is three score bright guineas of gould,
An ye’ll get all I have Tim, when I slip my hould,
Ye’ll get all I have, son, when I slip my hould.
“Go fetch me my pipes Tim, till I play my last tune,
For death sure is coming, he ‘ll be here very soon;
Those pipes I have played on, ne’er let them be sould
If you sell all I have Tim, when I slip my hould,
Should you sell all I have Tim, when I slip my hould.
“Then ould Murphy the piper, wid the last breath he drew,
He played on his pipes, like an Irishman true,
He played up the anthem of Green Erin so bould-
Then calmly he lay down, and so slipt his hould!
Then gently he lay down, and slipt his last hould.”
Although poor Murphy shuffled oil this mortal coil a score of years ago, his memory endures both fresh and green, and it cannot be said that he had lived in vain either, for he served his adopted country faithfully as a soldier during the Civil war, and furnished much pleasant entertainment for his fellow man for many years thereafter.
At a small party given at my residence on a special occasion, the fiddler Dan Horrigan was seated in what proved to be an insecure chair beside the arch between two | so as to be clearly heard in both rooms. To avoid a ponderous couple that came whirling along, the fiddler leaned back and tilted his chair so that it collapsed and let him fall to the floor in a sitting position. Nothing disconcerted, he continued the music without losing a note, or changing his position, to the end of the set. The situation was decidedly comical and no one enjoyed it more than the fiddler himself.
It not infrequently happens that poor performers are the most insistent in displaying their self-conceived talents in public. Of this class was one John McDonald, a detective at police headquarters, who had some rudimentary schooling on the fiddle. One of his pet conceits was that he was quite a musician, but it was not on that account but because of his officious supervision of the dancing platform and his faculty of “calling off” the quadrilles that he was tolerated.
At a picnic held at Willow Springs I observed him preparing to play during a lull in the orchestra. With an impressive swipe he drew the bow, fresh rosined, across the strings, but only a dull rumble was the responm. Repeated effort had no better result, while the circling crowd enjoyed his discomforture.
Inspector Shea, it seems had covertly contrived to have Mac's fiddle strings soaped, that being the only practical way to keep him from wasting time that could be used for more agreeable entertainment.
The peculiar hobby of collecting Folk Music followed by a high police official of a great City, seemed so inconsistent with the nature of his duties that it attracted the attention of the press. Occasional mention of our meetings and proceedings awakened an interest in our favorite pursuit, which worked to our advantage, until ultimately we found ourselves the subject of a full page illustrated article in the Sunday issue of the Chicago Tribune. This was honor indeed, and it was a welcome recognition of the intrinsic value of our enterprise.
A dramatic sensation originating in comedy, in which the writer was the central figure, took place soon after.
Wearied by a strenuous day at Police headquarters, and needing relief in the outer air, I thought a drive through the outskirts of the City would be advisable. Starting out from the City Hall late in the afternoon, an uneventful tour of the West Division was made, and finding myself a short distance from Sergt. James O’Neill's residence it seemed a favorable opportunity to make a short call. While contentedly scanning the evening papers in the parlor, happy in the freedom of the moment, in through the kitchen rushed a policeman with bulging eyes to announce that the “Chief was assassinated.” This was news to me, but I didn’t believe it. With a look of terror he precipitately backed out on seeing me, convinced that it was my ghost which appeared to him, and it was with diiiiculty he told the Sergeant the outlines of the alleged tragedy.
It appears that after my departure from the City Hall evasive answers were given by Secretary Markham to those who inquired for me, instead of saying that I was out on a tour of inspection. Some wag, whose identity was never learned, started the rumor of my assasination and of course the story spread like a prairie tire.
Reporters from all of the daily papers were put on the case, so that when I reached home at eight o’clock they were encountered on the streets, and on the front porch and even in the parlor.
Next morning I found myself favored by the news- papers with an entire front page profusely illustrated. The artists, whose imaginations were given free rein, depicted me with flute and Sergt. O’Neill with violin, in front of a music stand, engaged in playing old Irish airs, while the rest of the police force was trying to discover my mangled remains.
Great interest was manifested by some of our best musicians in learning certain rare tunes which took their fancy, so that scarcely a meeting took place without several new ones being put in circulation. Sunday evenings were generally devoted to this pleasant pastime at our scribe’s residence.
One Monday morning I unexpectedly encountered John McFadden in the corridor outside my office door in the City Hall, and wondering what could have happened since we parted the evening before, I asked, “What brings you here so early, John ?” “I want to see you privately in your office, Chief,” he quietly replied. To my suggestion that we could transact our business just as well where we were as in my office, where so many were waiting, he did not agree, so in we went through three intervening rooms.
When the door was closed behind us Mac did not keep me long in suspense. “Chief, I lost the third part of `Paddy in London’ which you gave me last night. I had it all when going to bed, but when I got up this morning, all I could remember were the first and second parts, and I want you to whistle the missing part for me again.” When he left he had it all once more, and he never forgot it either, for it is one of his favorite tunes which is most admired.
Among the coterie which had banded together for the purpose of indulging in the pleasures of Irish melody, there were a few sly jokers, keen of wit and prone to take advantage of the little weaknesses and peculiarities of their associates.
Like some famous prose writers who fondly fancy they excel in poetry, Irish musicians of acknowledged skill in special lines cherish the belief that they are equally proficient in all, and would resent any hint or suggestion from even their dearest friend, that their style or execution left anything to be desired.
Often the anxiety of such persons to demonstrate their fancied abilities only served to emphasize their shortcomings. This the jokers are aware of, so they request, nay, insist, that their prospective victim play one of his favorite tunes. Being vociferously applauded, he is easily led on amid apparently sincere appreciation into playing another class of tunes in which his defects are displayed, while a sly wink and a poke in the ribs here and there indicate their delight at the success of the scheme which lured the unsuspecting musician into exposing his weakest point.
Another type is the amateur or unskilful piper or fiddler whose intense enthusiasm carries him beyond the bounds of discretion in attempting to play in public. Seemingly unconscious of his imperfections, he is easily persuaded by those clever jokers into giving a performance which may be amusing but not entertaining.
By the majority this praotioe is not approved, although tolerated, for the reason that to discourage or prevent it, would most likely offend those in whose interest it was done, and who could not penetrate the duplioity which induced them to fill a role similar to that of the clown at a circus.
Others again are so captivated by their own playing that it requires no little diplomacy to prevail on them to give somebody else a chance without lacerating their feel- ings. So impatient and ill at ease are they when another is winning applause that they find some pretext for cutting short his performance and getting the instrument into their own hands.
One of our club members when much younger than he is now lost the valve from the inner end of the blow pipe or mouthpieco of his Highland pipes, but contrived in its absence to prevent the escape of the wind with the tip of his tongue. After a time this expedient became a fixed habit, as he had mastered the art of substituting his tongue for the valve without inconvenience.
When he passed his instrument to some other piper to take a turn at playing, the latter of course furnished much amusement but no music.
‘This game was played successfully for quite a while, but eventually the joke came to be transferred to the joker. A piper well known to the writer accepted an invitation to attend the funny man’s birthday party, but anticipating what was likely to happen he took with him his own set of bellows pipes, all in fine trim, and quietly left them in the hall unobserved.
The honored yet mellow host, after a prolonged spell of playing on the trick instrument, insisted on his visitor giving them a few tunes. The latter complied, but it was on his own set, instead of the defective instrument which was handed him.
The visitor’s performance evoked such favorable ‘corn- ment that the joker felt his reputation slipping away. In the hopes of regaining lost ground he seized and buckled on the bellows pipes, but his lack of familiarity with this method of iniiating the bag proved as disastrous to him as the valveless blowpipe did to his victims.
That night's experience cured him of the propensity to enjoy the discomfiture of others, as it brought forcibly to his attention the fact that no one possessed a monopoly of the possibilities of practical joking.
Rivalry and competition generally ending in contests between pipers were quite common in Ireland in the early part of the nineteenth century. No doubt that spirit would be as common and assertive today were there enough Irish pipers in Ireland to create any real competition.
Mention is made by Carleton of a case in which a ‘piper named Sullivan pursued a rival for eighteen months through the whole Province of Mnnster before he overtook him, and all in order to ascertain, by a trial of skill, whether his antagonist was more entitled to have the epithet “great” prefixed to his name than himself.
It appears that the friends and advisers of Sullivan,s rival were in the habit of calling him “the Great Piper Reillaghan,” a circumstance which so roused the aspiring soul of his opponent that he declared he would never rest night or day until he stripped him of the epithet “great), and transferred it to his own name.
Sullivan was beaten, however, and that by a manoeuvre of an extraordinary kind. Reillaghan oifened to play against him while drunk, Sullivan to remain sober.
The latter, unsuspicious of any plot, and being anxious under any circumstances to be able to boast of a victory over such a renowned antagonist, agreed and much to his surprise was overcome, the truth being that, like O’Carolan on the harp, his opponent was never able to distinguish himself as a performer unless when under the inspiration of whiskey.
Sullivan, not at all aware of the trick that had been played on him, of course took it for granted that as he had been defeated by Reillaghan when drunk, he stood no show against him when sober, and departed during the night, humiliated and crestfallen by this blight to his cherished ambition.
One of our best Chicago Irish pipers, Adam Tobin, is equally fluent on the flute and fiddle, and being of an accommodating disposition, is correspondingly popular. A young lady of his acquaintance had a date with her sweetheart one evening, but the latter being persona non grata with her father, how to circumvent the old gentleman’s watchfulness and keep him ignorant of her absence, was no simple problem.
The proverbial resourcefulness of her sex did not fail on this occasion, for she hit on a plan which required but Tobin’s kindly cooperation to prove successful. Her father was a great lover of Irish pipe music and enjoyed any discussion relating to that or kindred subjects - so she confided her difficulty to the sympathetic Adam and arranged for him to drop in early in the evening, and of course engross her father's attention until she returned from the theatre.
Everything worked out splendidly except that she did not show up at the appointed time. Tobin, however, po sessed the loyalty and fortitude of Casabianca and continued playing and arguing until he collapsed from pure exhaustion long after midnight.
But what happened to the fair lady? Nothing much, only that when she got home, she stole quietly in and upstairs to her dormitory unobserved; her mind being so absorbed between the fear of detection and the delights of the evening, that she never thought of the gallant Tobin and his heroic sacrifice.
The musical number on the programme arranged for the night of Dr. Douglas Hyde’s address at the Auditorium in 1905 was so disappointing - ludicrous, it might be termed - and out of all proportion to the importance of the occasion, that the idea of allowing the gieat Apostle of the Gaelic Revival to return to Ireland under false impressions of Irish musical talent in Chicago could not be entertained. As one humiliated Gaelie Leaguer expressed it, “Something should be done to take the bad taste out of his mouth.”
The following from the New World gives a fair idea of how the genial Doctor came to change his impressions:
A NIGHT IN IRELAND.
“It is doubtful if anything in Dr. Douglas Hyde's experience while in America was so thoroughly enjoyed by him as the “Night in Ireland” arranged by Father Fielding and Chief O’NeiIl a few days before he left Chicago. Mr. Bernard DeIaney’s residence on Forest Avenue was chosen as the meeting place, and at the appointed hour the “Craoibhin” arrived, accompanied by Father Fielding and Father Fagan of Galway, Ireland. There was no formality observed at that meeting. It was an Irish meeting, pure and simple. The priests were there, as they used to he in olden times in Ireland, encouraging the national music, songs and dances of their country. Pipers and fiddlers of world-wide renown were present, such as Delaney, Early, Tobin and McCormick, Cronin, McFadden, O’Neill and Clancy, men whose names are familiar at the very cross roads in Ireland today. The Irish step dancing of Dan Ryan, the Hennessy brothers, and Richard Sullivan were pronounced by Dr. Douglas Hyde to be the best he had ever witnessed. He heard the songs of his native land sung in Irish and English, by Mrs. P. F. Holden and Father Scanlan. Father Green, Father Fagan and Chief O,Neill chatted with him at intervals in Irish. Father Small, who was toastmaster on the occasion, was particularly happy in his remarks on the Irish Irishman, the English Irishman and the American Irishman. Father Fielding played that beautiful descriptive tune called the Modhereen Rua (or Fox Chase), which Dr. Hyde said an Englishman couldn’t even whistle if the Almighty promised to endow him with a sense of humor.
In the midst of this unconventional Irish hospitality, the “Craoibhin Aoibhinn” sat for hours listening to those men of Erin pouring forth an inexhaustible flood of music, songs and melodies of the motherland. On several occasions he was visibly affected. He was moved to ecstasy at the thrill of his own music heard in a foreign land. No wonder, for a night with those men above named would put a soul under the ribs of death. The “Craoibhin” was astonished at the wonderful proficiency of the players and the inexhaustible extent of their repertoire.
There is nothing in art so grand, so thrilling as the irresistible vigor and mighty onrush of some of the reels they played, filled with the hurry of flight, the majesty of battle strife, the languishment of retreat, the sweep of a rallying charge with a laugh at fate, though yet the whole was over still accompanied by the complaining magic of of a minor tone like the whisper of a far away sorrow. Dr. Douglas Hyde enjoyed that “Night in Ireland” and expressed himself as delighted with what he had seen and heard. He thanked all present, particularly Father Fielding, for arranging such a pleasant meeting, and also Chief 0’Neill, whom he complimented on his great efforts in keeping alive in a foreign land the jewels of our fathers which were inherited from them beyond the dawn of history and are still entwined with our very heart strings.”
A visit to the county of Clare, in 1906, increased materially our store of unpublished tunes, but in order to reach Clashmore House, our destination near Feakle, I was obliged to engage a jaunting ear at Killaloe, but made a brief stop at Scariff on the way to see an old acquaintance.
Hospitality being at all times the order of the day in Ireland, I ventured to drink a glass of porter. Had I any suspicion of its acridity, the most fiery beverage would have been taken in preference.
The driver, who had enjoyed his bottle of stout, noticing my distress, explained the causes which led up to it. “You see, sir, the holy fathers gave a mission in Scariff last Week, and, begor, they paralyzed the town. No doubt in the world, sir, what you just drank is the first that came out of that kag in a week !”
The vitalizlng effect of the Gaelic League agitation in recent years has been felt throughout Ireland from the centre to the sea, and of course Feakle, an old but small town in East Clare, was no exception.
“Paddy” Mack and “Tommy’, Hinchy, fiddlers, great in their day, had long since joined the Heavenly choir, and so had the pipers “Mickey” Gill and “Mickey” Burke, better known as “Mehauleen euis na thinne.” An amateur band was organized and in due time acquired enough proficiency to parade on St. Patrick’s Day, marching and countermarching on the one main street of the town, cheered on by tumultuous applause.
No one was more conspicuous in the band and prouder of it than Johnny Doyle, who pounded the bass drum, except his father. When the band countermarched, the old man, Michael Doyle, returned to the public house to have another drink in honor of the day and the event, but he never failed to reappear on the street when the rising flood of music announced the band’s return.
After a few repetitions of that performance the father seemed to think his son was not putting enough soul into his work, and he determined to remind him of it at the first opportunity.
When the band came within hailing distance on its next approach, the old man, aroused by the inspiration of the beverage he had imbibed and his son’s fancied neglect, stepped out in front menacingly and giving vent to his indignation, fairly shouted at the drummer, “Thanam an dhial a vosthard; hit it, why don't you? Is it afraid of it, you are? Bate it in airnest, you caolaun, you !”
The result was electrical, but as the parade came to an end then and there, Johnny didnlt have a chance to redeem himself.
Another story in which Michael Doyle was the leading character, although in no way connected with music or song, may be found not less interesting to the general reader on that account.
Mr. Doyle was much given to speculation and frequently indulged in the excitement of cattle jobbing in a small way. He was by no means an aggressive dealer, but walked about unobtrusively at the fairs on the lookout for a bargain in heifers and calves. Emulating the example of the intrepid explorers of old who ventured into distant lands, Doyle decided to attend a cattle fair at Killamey in the County of Kerry, a two days' journey each way, on foot.
When his destination became known all of his friends from the country around were on the tiptoe of expectation, to hear from him on his return all about Killarney - that wonderful place of world-wide renown - that miracle of picturesque grandeur which defied the power of pen to describe.
Now how was Michael Doyle, their neighbor, trafficker and traveler, actually feasting his eyes on the sublime scenery. What a treat it would be to hear his story, and how they would enjoy the description of nature’s magnificence by one who saw and could tell them all about it.
“Yerra, how are you, Michael? And you’re looking well after your long journey.” “I suppose you must be tired.” “How did you make out ?” Such were the greetings which assailed him on every side. Hardly waiting for replies to those formal questions, his callers continued: “Killarney must be a wonderful place entirely, Michael, by all the accounts we heard of it. I suppose you traveled it all; the lakes and the castles and the abbeys and everything. Tell us what you think of it.”
“Well, then,” replied the traveler, ruefully, “they can all say what they like about it, but there's wan thing I can tell yet:Killarnvy is a dom bad place to buy a chape calf!”
The wonderful skill and proficiency of the classes of youthful dancers, who competed for prizes at the Munster Feis in the City of Cork, which I attended in the sumner of 1906, was a delight and a revelation. It had never been my good fortune to witness anything oven approaching the grace, rhythm, precision, and uniformity of their performance on either side of the Atlantic, they were a credit to their instructors as well as to themselves.
'Tis very true they were not worried by the introduction of any unfamiliar tunes, for “Tatter Jack Walsh,” “Miss McLeod,” and “The Rights of Man”, jig, reel, and hom- pipe respectively, with monotonous repetition, served for all occasions.
Before the dancers came upon the stage, the piper, a handsome fellow, who I understood was the forceful and moving spirit in the music revival, occupied the centre of the stage, and ostentatiously tuned his instrument in full view of the wondering audience. The round, full, organ tones of the regulators, which the man of music industriously fingered, had roused the awed assemblage to the highest pitch of curiosity and oxpeotation, when out from the wings tripped the blushing boys and rosy colleens to take their places.
Of course they nearly filled the stage, so the piper, in an apparent spirit of accommodation, swung around to one side behind the drapery so adroitly that only his legs and knees, with the wonderful Irish pipes resting thereon, were visible to the audience. With commendable promptness the dancers and the expectant onlookers, many of whom had trayeled far to enjoy and encourage the revival of traditional Irish music, were treated to a “tune on the pipes,” No, sad to relate, but on a French celluloid flageolot which the piper deftly extracted from an inside pocket.
The mute but conspicuous Irish or Union pipes placidly reposing on the piper's knees, Mr. Wayland told me, were an old set of the Egan make, that were a full tone below concert pitch. As they could scarcely be heard distinctly above the drumming of the dancers on the platform, he prudently adopted the expedient described.
The Irish were always noted for their drollery and humor, and this incident but serves to show they have not deteriorated in that respect, even when apparently unconscious of their mirth-provoking absurdities.
While visiting Mr. Rowsome, an excellent Irish piper and pipe maker in Dublin a week later, in strolled John Cash, the aged piper from Wicklow County, who had come all the way to play at the Mansion House reception in connection with the annual Leinster Feis.
A well-built and corpulent man he was, deliberate in speech and movement, and well past the scriptural limit in years. After fortifying himself with a generous stimulant he “put on the pipes,” a set as wheezy and antiquated as their owner, but his weary and uncertain manipulation of them in the effort to play “Nora Chreena” with concords on the regulators, showed all too plainly that age and affliction had unstrung the nerves and broken the spirit of the old bard. In his dignity and helplessness, John Cash was a truly pathetic figure.
In the midst of the stream of gay humanity which entered the Mansion House next evening came John Cash, carrying his instrument in the traditional green bag under his arm.
At the ball which succeeded the reception by the Lord Mayor and Douglas Hyde, the orchestra, which consisted of three fiddlers and an amateur Irish piper, and John Cash, were stationed on a platform which commanded a good view of the ball room.
Several numbers were danced without the intervention of the Wicklow piper, although he had always tuned up and appeared anxious to co-operate. The manager, a bright young fellow, it was noticed, always found some pretext for keeping him out of it, although he was per- mitted to occupy a place among the musicians as a con- cession to his age and profession.
Impatient and ill at ease, poor Cash repeatedly essayed to play, but the resourceful manager as often found means to restrain him, the result being that he never got an opportunity to identify himself with the programme while I was present.
The attitude and movements of Mr. Andrews, the young piper, were all that could be desired, but not a note from his instrument could be heard from any position which the writer could reach, including the balcony immediately above him. The combined tones of the three violins had drowned out the weak voice of the chanter.
Among the dancers a few men wore the ancient saffron-colored kilts. One of them, a lithe young fellow, carried a set of war pipes lately come into fashion again, but there was no indication that their use in a musical way was contemplated.
Here were two Union pipers in the orchestra and one war piper among the dancers; yet the only music to be heard was furnished by three fiddlers. This condition of affairs could hardly have been intended as a joke; still, the situation was not altogether wanting in certain elements of Irish humor and pleasantry.
One could not help becoming reminiscent, taking into consideration the importance of the occasion and other circumstances. And this was in the very heart of the one-time “Land of Music and Song”- the country renowned above all others for the excellence of its music and musicians.
When we come to think of it as the Glorious Green Erin which produced the celebrated bards, Rory Dall O’Cahan, O’Conellon and O’Carolan, and such famous harpers as Gerald O’Daly, Cornelius Lyons, Cruise, Miles O’Reilly, John and Henry Scott, Heffernan, Murphy, Hempson, O’Nei1l, Fanning, Higgins, Quin, Carr, and Rose Mooney, we are amazed at the musical degeneracy of our day.
Besides the harpers, there were in those times great Union pipers, whose celebrity extended beyond the confines of their native land such as Jackson, “Parson” Stirling, Talbot, Gaynor. Ferguson, Crump, Coneely, Gandsey, and a host of others.
We may derive some qualified pleasure in contemplating the prominence of Irishmen by birth or blood who have achieved fame in the world of music in more recent times.
Many scaled the heights of distinction, but their compositions are cosmopolitan and not national. Neither do their productions give promise of a revival of those characteristic Irish strains typical of Gaclic temperament which most strongly appeal to the sentiments and aspirations of a regenerated Ireland.
"Hail, Music, goddess of the golden strain!
Thy voice can spread new blessings o'er the plain;
Thou the sad heart can cheat of all its cares,
And waft soft soothings on thy melting airs;
Bend the rude soul to wish the gentle deed
At pity 's touching tale to bleed;
Thy magic can the noblest aims inspire,
And bid pale terror feel the hero 's fire."