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PostPosted: Sun Dec 24, 2017 5:09 am 
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Just to flag up a fine new book about the old Kerry piper, thoroughly researched and well produced by Ciarán Dalton.


Thumbs up, if you're into that sort of thing. :thumbsup:


My brain hurts


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 24, 2017 6:32 am 

Joined: Fri Jun 14, 2013 7:15 pm
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In case anyone's wondering who he is, O'Neill had this to say about Gandsey:


As a performer on the Irish or Union pipes, the subject of this sketch appears to have been unrivaled in his day, at least as far as musicians of his class had come within the scope of Mr. And Mrs. S. C. Hall’s observation in their compre- hensive travels throughout Ireland in the thirties of the nineteenth century.

Much prominence has been given the celebrated piper and his talents on pages 39 and 40 of Irish Folk Music; A Fascinating Hobby, in connection with the history of the “Fox Chase,” and which therefore need not be repeated here. Much supplementary information, however, concerning this charming character, having since come to hand; it is submitted with great pleasure for the edihcation of those interested in Irish musical biography.

Gandsey was long distinguished as “Lord Headley’s piper”, and it was his privilege for many years to receive instruction beneath his lordship’s roof, where his fine original talents were applied to what was worthy of care and cultivation, and where his attention was riveted to the most exquisite melodies of the mountains and glens.

The venerable bard (who died in 1857 at the patriarehal age of ninety) had much Saxon blood in his veins; for his father was an English soldier, who, being quartered at Ross Castle, fell in love – most naturally – with a pretty Kerry girl.

Having espoused him and his fortune, she followed them to Gibraltar, bequeathing her child James to her mother’s care. An attack of smallpox left him nearly blind, but he could just tell how many candles were lighting on the table. Possibly the skillful surgery of the modern oculist could have effected a cure, as the sight had not been totally destroyed.

The child evinced early genius for music, turning when absolutely an infant the reeds of the lake into musical instruments. When old enough, his grand- father sent him to one of the rustic schools where Latin was taught; and not only the master, but the pupils, loved to instruct and aid the precocious blind boy.

Gandsey possessed original talent in many ways. His wit was ready and keen, and he threw the genuine character of the strain into his performance.

But, gentle reader, from the words of Mrs. Hall you are invited to judge for yourself. “The door opens and the blind old man is led in by his son: his head is covered by the snows of age, and his face, though it retains traces of the fearful disease which deprived him of sight, is full of expression. His manner is elevated and unrestrained-the manner of one who feels his superiority in his art, and knows that if he do not give you pleasure, the fault is not his. Considering that perhaps you do not understand suihciently the beauty of Irish niinstrelsy, he will test your taste by playing some popular air or quadrille; and you already ask your- self if you are really listening to the droning bagpipes. His son accompanies him with so much taste and judgment on the violin as to cause regret that he is not practiced on his father’s instrument, for you would have the mantle hereafter – and long hence may it be – descend upon the son. You ask for an Irish air, and Gandsey, still uncertain as to your real taste, feels his way again, and plays, per- haps, `Will You Come to the Bower?’ so softly and so eloquently that you forget your determination in favor of `original Irish music, and pronounce an `encore.’ Do not, however, waste any more of your evening thus; but call forth the piper’s pathos by naming `Druimin dhu dheelish,’ as an air you desire to hear; then observe how his face betrays the interest he feels in the wailing melody he pours not only in your ear but into your heart.

“What think you of that whispering cadence-like the wind sighing through the willows? What of that line-drawn tone, melting into air? The atmosphere becomes oppressed with grief, and strong-headed, brave-hearted men feel their cheeks wet with tears.

“Said we not that Gandsey was a man of might? The piper feels the eiiect of that air himself; and as he is not a disciple of Father Mathew, a flagon of ale or a mixture of mountain dew will `raise his heart’ and put him in tune for a planxty. There it comes: ringing, merry music – joy giving, light-hearted strain, the overboiling of Irish glee.

“Some of the martial gatherings are enough to rouse O'Donoghue from his palace beneath the lake – one in particular, `O’Donoghue’s whistle,’ is full of wild energy and fire. In but too many instances these splendid airs have not been noted down. The piper learned them in his youth from old people, whose perishing voices had preserved the musical traditions so deeply interesting – even in an historical point of view – to all who would gather from the wrecks of the past, thoughts for the future. There are few of those memories of by-gone days that Gandsey does not make interesting by an anecdote or a legend; and in proportion as he excites your interest, he continues to deserve it.” The instrument on which he performed to the great delight of Mrs. Hall, and in fact all who ever heard him, was a bequest from his friend and instructor, Thady Connor, who asserted Gandsey was the only musician in that part of the country worthy to inherit so precious a gift. When questioned as to the accuracy of the authority for a certain story, the kindly old man smiled and bowed but made no verbal reply. As he did not express any doubt concerning its truthful- ness, we may as well repeat the story as told to the amiable authoress by no less a person that Sir Richard Courtenay himself, in a chapter devoted to “Irish Pipers in Literature.”

From "Irish Minstrels and Musicians:"

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