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PostPosted: Tue Mar 05, 2019 3:36 pm 
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Thanks for the lively discussion!


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 06, 2019 5:01 am 
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I've been studying Micho Russell. Sometimes he says no one appreciated the music, but then other times he's in a band playing paid gigs in nearby towns.


I don't think these statements are mutually exclusive. First of all, Micho would play anywhere and with anybody but I don't think he was a bandsman. He was briefly in a band in Ennistymon during the first half of the forties. I have no idea how long they were on the go but I don't think it would have been very long. At that time the house dances in the area were winding down, being suppressed anywhere except the most remote locations. And even then people would be on the look out to see if there were guards coming.

Dances were forced into the parish halls and if musicians wanted an outlet at all, they were forced into the dancebands. These bands would have to cater for dancers, the music was of lesser interest, some nights it was all popular music, waltzes and that sort of thing, other nights there would be more emphasis on sets and perhaps the odd ceilidance. It was hard work and noisy, not much musical satisfaction to be had. And I don't think Micho was in any sort of organised musical set up after that time.

I can't find the picture of the band Micho was in, although I have it somewhere but here are two: both Ennistymon based bands, one more for popular music and one more for the jigs and reels. All these bands more or less drew from the same pool of local musical families, the Byrts, Armsteads etc. In the snap of the Corcomroe band below you can see Paddy 'Organ' Mullins who was also the fluteplayer in the Kilfenora ceili band for decades. Now, there's a bandsman and a powerful fluteplayer. I have a little video interview with him, in it he talks about his flute, 'if you take all the wind I put through it, you'd have a hurricane. I put a hurricane through that flute'. Lovely.

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Some musicians would also play for dancers on the prom in Lahinch during the summer. Couples would pay a little money to dance a figure of the set. Micho, Jimmy Hogan and some of those used to be into that.

But around that time, it was all winding down.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 06, 2019 7:07 am 
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Thank you, that's very interesting


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 11, 2019 4:28 pm 
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In Henry Glassie's epic Passing the Time in Ballymenone, also available in an abridged and amended form as The Stars of Ballymenone, music is very interesting. The books are about a rural area of Fermanagh in the 1970s. His main source on music is Peter Flanagan, fiddler and whistler and singer, and his brother Joe. Both say that in their youth cieli bands were common and that they would "battle" when they met, to magnificent effect. Both men say "the Troubles" put an end to this musical practice. Glassie describes music in the Flanagans' house, and also Peter winning over a crowded bar full of young men who want to sing then-current songs about the troubles. Flanagan has a large stock of much older tunes. Glassie has the very greatest respect for Flanagan, who he regards as an artist in the truest possible sense of the word. Flanagan was inspired by Coleman's records and disliked the radio. He played on and off, more in the spring than the winter, seasonally. His best known "student" is Cathal McConnell; as far as I know the only recordings of Flanagan may be in Glassie's possession.

What's interesting is that Flanagan is both a celebrated local musician and an oddball in the community, or maybe that's the wrong word: he's a bit of an outsider. Flanagan himself says this is because musicians are "curious" people, not like others, and have an intrinsic motivation that's different from a desire to entertain or make money. The end of his life, in the latter of the two books, is lonely and the world seems hostile.

Glassie is unclear on whether this is "the troubles," or changing tastes in music, or the fact that artists are always at some odds with their own society. Here again it's not clear if the music is dying or if Flanagan is dying. It's both, but for most of his life Flanagan's music was local and occasional.

The two books are worth reading--Glassie is an extremely distinguished anthropologist/folklorist who had a long and varied career, with work in several areas--his book on the material culture of colonial America, for example, is excellent and could not be more different from his book on Fermanagh, which is extremely personal and clearly Fermanagh got "under his skin." He intrudes himself in the writing too much but he's very observant and respectful.


Last edited by PB+J on Tue Mar 12, 2019 6:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 12, 2019 11:07 am 
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PB+J wrote:
His main source on music is Peter Flanagan, fiddler and whistler and singer, and his brother Joe.


Hello

Just to refer to the above. A piper by the name of John Flanagan lived in Lucan, Co. Dublin in the late seventies. His father (also John I think) was from Fermanagh and was forever organising trips to meet the local musicians in Fermanagh. The likes of Mick Hoy and Eddie Duffy would be mentioned. Unfortunately, with all the wisdom of a nineteen year old, I declined his invitations. One of my musical regrets.

I started out in the seventies in Dublin and I had to do a lot of ferreting out of music. My big break came when I met a man called Paddy King, a dancer from Cooraclare. He was a truck driver and involved in set dancing. I traveled quite a lot with him, especially around Clare.

Cheers

John


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 12, 2019 11:20 am 
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Seanie wrote:
PB+J wrote:
His main source on music is Peter Flanagan, fiddler and whistler and singer, and his brother Joe.


Hello

Just to refer to the above. A piper by the name of John Flanagan lived in Lucan, Co. Dublin in the late seventies. His father (also John I think) was from Fermanagh and was forever organising trips to meet the local musicians in Fermanagh. The likes of Mick Hoy and Eddie Duffy would be mentioned. Unfortunately, with all the wisdom of a nineteen year old, I declined his invitations. One of my musical regrets.

I started out in the seventies in Dublin and I had to do a lot of ferreting out of music. My big break came when I met a man called Paddy King, a dancer from Cooraclare. He was a truck driver and involved in set dancing. I traveled quite a lot with him, especially around Clare.

Cheers

John


Peter's father was named Phil Flanagan and he played the flute.

Tell me more please!

Glassie does not describe a really thriving music scene in the 1970s when he did his field work. Peter Flanagan is even then kind of out of step, and it's like the whole celtic revival thing never happened. DeDannan was 1975, no? Clannad was 1970. The Chieftains were big in the US by then. I'm trying to think of trad or trad-ish bands that were big enough to make it into the radar in the US, outside of the hiberno-american community.

This is why I kind of get hung up on timelines. Glassie is there in 1972, and there is a full fledged celtic revival going on, but in Ballymenone it might as well be 1880, the way Glassie tells it. His Ballymenone books are quite beautiful and he clearly loves the people he's dealing with, but he's telling the "irish music is dying" story at a time when there is a full fledged international revival of Irish music in progress. there's some slippage there that bugs me a little. Maybe Ballymenone was just really a backwater.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 12, 2019 6:17 pm 
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PB+J wrote:
Glassie does not describe a really thriving music scene in the 1970s when he did his field work. Peter Flanagan is even then kind of out of step, and it's like the whole celtic revival thing never happened. DeDannan was 1975, no? Clannad was 1970. The Chieftains were big in the US by then. I'm trying to think of trad or trad-ish bands that were big enough to make it into the radar in the US, outside of the hiberno-american community.

This is why I kind of get hung up on timelines. Glassie is there in 1972, and there is a full fledged celtic revival going on, but in Ballymenone it might as well be 1880, the way Glassie tells it. His Ballymenone books are quite beautiful and he clearly loves the people he's dealing with, but he's telling the "irish music is dying" story at a time when there is a full fledged international revival of Irish music in progress. there's some slippage there that bugs me a little. Maybe Ballymenone was just really a backwater.


I don't know if this will help you or not, but I lived in Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh in 1975 and 1976, and wandered most of the countryside on both sides of Lough Erne during that time. Since then, I have returned numerous times for (sometimes) extended holidays. The "troubles" were still in full swing, and all of Northern Ireland was under martial law, and occupied by the British army.

There are two main themes that need understanding about Fermanagh in that time, in my opinion. The first is that because of the troubles and associated religious intolerance, traditional music was associated with Catholics and Republicanism, and hence was mostly played at home (in the "right" housing schemes/neighborhoods). It was a potentially polarizing activity, not often done in public. Fermanagh at that time was roughly 50% Catholic and 50% protestant. It might have been 60-40 or 40-60, but the point is, there was tension, even if not on the same scale as Belfast or Derry. Less so out away from town, but still present. Almost eveyone's life was touched by the troubles in one way or another.

The other consideration is that Fermanagh in the mid-70's was still very backwards by today's standards. Even in Enniskillen, there were not that many cars or telephones, even fewer refrigerators, and some people (myself included) lived in old row houses without indoor plumbing. Out in the rural county (which is to say most of it), it was even more like the previous century. People commonly lived in two-room stone houses, with a wood-burning stove and a fireplace as the only heat. Most without indoor plumbing, though as I remember most had electricity by then, which amounted to a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling of each room. My point in all this is not to disparage Fermanagh or paint a dreary picture, but only to point out that things were vastly different than they are today, and it was a time and a place not to be understood by a visit to the prosperous Ireland of today.

So, to Glassie living and writing in this time, it might well have seemed like the music was dying. The music I heard was all in the homes of friends, though there was one (Catholic-owned) record store in Enniskillen where I bought cassette tapes.

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Last edited by An Draighean on Thu Mar 14, 2019 5:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 12, 2019 6:45 pm 
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Thanks, that's very interesting and useful


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 12, 2019 10:09 pm 
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It's tough to tell from the photos, Mr. Gumby, but it looks to me like yer wan is holding a six string banjo/guitjo and yer man in back possibly has a 20 button concertina (my eyes differentiate just two rows). If you have access to a higher-res version, are you able to confirm that?

I'd be interested as to the tuning of those instruments, as well as their role. I presume the six string banjo would be more of a rhythm/accompaniment instrument, tuned like a guitar. Nice and loud to get over the din, and it's possible to play tunes on it as well. If it really is a 20 button concertina, I wonder what its tuning is and what that says about the keys the band was playing in.

Anyway, a little digression, back to our originally schedule programme...


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 13, 2019 1:52 am 
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Peter's father was named Phil Flanagan and he played the flute.


In 'The Hidden Fermanagh' McConnell speaks about 'Pee Flanagan' and seems to say the father's name was Claude. 'There were four of them Pee, Phil,Mac and there was Joe'. They lived in a place called Ristoney' which seems to suggest Phil and Pee were brothers. But perhaps I am reading it wrong ?

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I'd be interested as to the tuning of those instruments, as well as their role. I presume the six string banjo would be more of a rhythm/accompaniment instrument, tuned like a guitar. Nice and loud to get over the din, and it's possible to play tunes on it as well. If it really is a 20 button concertina, I wonder what its tuning is and what that says about the keys the band was playing in.


I can only guess. More than a few people who were thee suggest the old german concertinas played in C (C/g concertinas then, played on the rows) but there are odd examples of D/a concertinas as well. The Corcomroe band would have been a ceiliband, playing tunes and the odd song. Paddy Organ's Rudall would firmly place them playing in D.

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Last edited by Mr.Gumby on Wed Mar 13, 2019 4:08 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 13, 2019 3:11 am 
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Mr.Gumby wrote:
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Peter's father was named Phil Flanagan and he played the flute.


In 'The Hidden Fermanagh' McConnell speaks about 'Pee Flanagan' and seems to say the father's name was Claude. 'There were four of them Pee, Phil,Mac and there was Joe'. They lived in a place called Ristoney' which seems to suggest Phil and Pee were brothers. But perhaps I am reading it wrong ?




I'm sure you're reading it right. Glassie does refer to Peter as "P." This happens a lot, with books that involve history. They often give you different sets of information. Skepticism is the order of the day.

From "Stars of Ballymenone," p. 158

"When P and Joe were cubs in Cavan, the household contained five girls, five boys, and Mrs. Flanagan’s father, James Maguire, called James the League for his work in the Land League agitation. The family moved northeast to Kinawley in Fermanagh, then northeast to a small house in Sessiagh, and finally east to Drumbargy. Two of the sisters went away to America and married. Two of the brothers, Phil and Frank, farmed together near Lisbellaw in Fermanagh. Peter and Joseph remained in the old house, landless laborers, renting a tin roof over their heads and patches of moss for spuds and bog for turf.

Their father, Phil, was remembered as “the neatest wee man.” Dapper and stout, with tiny dancer’s feet and a bold, flamboyant moustache, he was a tailor who had traveled throughout Ireland, and to Scotland and England as well, receiving his professional training in Leeds. Ned Cooney of Sessiagh, a tailor himself, told me Phil Flanagan was a fine craftsman. He made the policemen’s tunics and Billy Cutler’s wedding suit. Tailoring was his trade, music his love. Phillie Flanagan was an artist with the violin, and on the great wooden concert flute, Peter said, “he was Ireland’s best. He had great volume. He could fill the flute, me father, and he had some right songs, so he had. When he was tailorin, he used always to sing. He was very fond of Moore’s Melodies, and his father before him was a great singer of Moore’s.” Music filled their home. Mrs. Flanagan was a singer, that valuable kind of singer who knows all the words to the songs others forget. A sister played the harp. Brother Phil played Big Head, the musician in the mumming squad
."

Seems pretty clear "P's" father was called Phil, unless Glassie is reporting it wrong, which of course is possible, and that he had a brother Phil.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 13, 2019 4:33 am 
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I'm sure you're reading it right


Cathal McC does tend to jump from one thought to the next so it isn't always completely clear if you're catching up with his train of thought or that he has left you behind.

In the interview in 'The Hidden Fermanagh' he starts off talking about 'Stuttering Mickey', his grandfather and the flute that belonged to him then he goes:

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I started to learn the whislte from Pee Flanagan. That would really have been from observation- people learnt that time by watching.

Q:-And was he a whistleplayer, or flute or both?

He played the whistle. He probably played the flute in his younger days - I never saw him play it. He played the whistle very traditional, you know [lilts] , very strong, very, very good fingers for rolling the notes and he played the fiddle way down his chest, old style. He would have played Coleman tunes and various things. I would have learnt those tunes from Pee Flanagan

Q-Your stony steps?

Not that one. [...] He learnt from his father, who was Claude (they were all small men), and he maintained that the Claude was French. There were four of them: Pee, Phil, Mac and there was Joe, and my mother told me they used to play up in Arney. They were entertaining. Pee was also a good singer. Pee learnt me those tunes, but ofcourse my first influence on the flute was John Joe Maguire, The Puck.

(Hidden Fermanagh pp 38-39)


And a bit further :
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Pee's father, Claude, was a tailor and he died before I got to know them. He knew he was going to die and just went around visiting everyone.

ibid p41


It could be 'Claude' is a local name or a nickname, that was a common enough practice. That, or someone got it wrong, not that it matters a lot for the overall story.

Maybe ten years ago a tribute was paid and a presentation made and all that stuff to Cathal McConnell. His brothers were there and a load of Fermanagh musicians, 'Big' John McManus and people like that. During the course of the afternoon there were some videos played of Cathal visiting places where he visited and learned at. They were sort of archive material, from the seventies perhaps, not recently done anyway. Unfortunately I can't remember where he went and who the musicians were he talked about and visited. My son was 15-ish at the time and he took videos of that material as it ran. I can't locate it right now, it may well have been lost with other videos in various computer crashes, it may be on the storage drive. It was nice stuff to watch anyway, even if northern styles are really at the very edges of what I am generally interested in.

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Discussing obscure tune settings on Main street : Cathal McConnell, Peter O'Loughlin, Nicky McAuliffe

The BBC and various bodies did a fair bit of collecting work up there reasonably early on, Ciaran MacMathuna was up north by the late fifties but I am not sure how deep he went into rural areas, I do remember hearing his recordings of Sean Maguire's father playing the whistle and stuff like that. The BBC recorded fairly extensively during the mid sixties. There is a BBC lp, from 1967/68, that includes Cathal McConnel playing with Tommy Gunn, Sean McAloon and people like that.

And if I let my brain go in full associative freefall I can add there was a postcard made of Seán McAloon during the sixties/seventies 'an Irish piper', been looking for it for a long while. Last week the antique shop in Galway had some new old stock including that one. I got five. :thumbsup:

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