From Uwe

Session in The Sandboat, Ballydehob 2015

We are very pleased that Ballydehob Session regular Uwe Hage has sent us some tunes on his flute!  Uwe plays a wooden instrument, hand made by Eugene Lamb in Fanore, Co Clare in the 1970s. More on Eugene Lambe in a minute, but let’s hear the tunes. First up is an air by Turlough O’carolan – Eleanor Plunkett:


…Nellie of the flowing hair,
eyes the colour of green grass
And always up with the day, you lovely sunny one…

O’Carolan, again, composed Madam Maxwell:


O’Sullivan (1983) writes that Madam Maxwell was probably Judith Barry (1699-1771) of Newtown Barry, Co Wexford, daughter of James Barry. She married John Maxwell of Farnham, Co Cavan, in 1719, who later became MP for Cavan (from 1727-1756), High Sherriff (1739), and, upon succeeding to the estate of Farnham on the death of a cousin, became in 1756 the Baron Farnham of Farnham, Co Cavan, thus transforming Madam Maxwell into Lady Farnham.

Lastly from Uwe (for now) is a tune which we do hear in the session on occasion. It’s a hornpipe: The Boys of Blue Hill:


The question is – where is The Blue Hill? Knockgorm (or the Irish An Cnoc Gorm) literally means ‘Blue Hill’, and you will find these in Co Cavan, Co Kerry (near Tralee), close by us in Bantry, West Cork (opposite Whiddy island) and even – it has been suggested – Chicago! But nobody seems to know which one, or who ‘The Boys’ were… If anyone knows for sure, please drop us a line.

Regarding wooden flutes, Eugene Lambe was one of the first to revive making traditional flutes in Ireland, beginning around 1977. In time he also turned to making uilleann pipes. Here is an archive clip from RTE in 1984. I can’t find out whether he is still making, but in 2013 the following was written about him:

…Eugene has been many things: marine biologist, consort of beautiful women, historian, singer and writer of wonderful songs, etc. He moved to Kinvarra (Co Clare), where he built a boat … and now sails the world…

Maybe that’s exactly where he is now – sailing the world. But here he is also, in 2013, talking about the responsibilities of playing Irish traditional music:

O’Carolan – and a Barn Dance

Susie’s beautiful rendering of Sí Bheag Sí Mhór the other day put me in the mood for more compositions from Turlough O’Carolan. So I got out my Anglo concertina and recorded these two. I play them in our Ballydehob sessions very occasionally, and it would be good if more of us took up the repertoire.


First up is a well-known one, Lord Inchiquin. I am playing this in the key of A, which is unusual, but it suits my instrument. This melody is said (by Donal O’Sullivan Carolan The Life, Times and Music of an Irish Harper 1958) to be the only tune that O’Carolan composed while visiting Munster. He stayed with the Wrixon family, Ballygiblin, near Lombardstown, Co Cork sometime before 1720. The Wrixons became the Wrixon Bechers and then the Bechers, who have been extant in West Cork up to present times. Lord Inchiquin, however, is likely to have been the 4th Earl of Inchiquin William O’Brien (1700 – 1777), whose family seat was Dromoland Castle, Co Clare. The O’Briens claim ancestry going back to Brian Boru, the 10th century High King of Ireland. Here he is:

Secondly I am playing O’Carolan’s Planxty Maggie Browne. This jig – in G – has been the subject of much debate, some claiming that it was written by Scottish fiddler Niel Gow (1727 – 1807). No matter – I’m prepared to hand it to Turlough, although I’m probably playing it a shade too fast . . . It would sound more sedate and stately, perhaps, on the harp. I can’t find out who the Maggie (or Margaret) Browne is.


Lastly, it’s back to my melodeon for a request from a Ballydehob Session member. I have been playing this 4-part barn dance, Pearl O’Shaughnessy’s, for quite a while now in our session but with little uptake. Probably, I suspect, because it’s in C, which isn’t a popular key nowadays for musicians (although it once used to be). But I think it sounds good in the range; I learned it from East Clare concertina player Mary Macnamara, whose playing style came down through generations of her family, and is quite liberal in the use of keys. In the session I would play the whole tune through three times: AA BB CC DD etc.


Susie’s Tunes

We were treated to Oliver Nares playing his Eric Martin melodeon on an earlier post – here. Today we have some wonderful contributions from Susan Nares who is a hive of musical industry up above us in Stouke townland. I’m delighted that Susie sent in a piece by Turlough O’Carolan, the travelling Irish harpist and composer who lived from 1670 to 1738. Turlough was blinded by smallpox at the age of eighteen and was then ‘apprenticed to a good harper’. At the age of twenty-one he was given a horse and a guide, and set out on his travels through Ireland composing songs for patrons. In his life he was following the tradition of the ancient Irish bards, who travelled from family to family, using poetry and story (and sometimes song) to pass on geneaology and history. It was a much respected profession, and the bards would be given free food and lodging wherever they went. I hope we will get many more O’Carolan tunes on these posts.

O’Carolan pictured on an Irish 50 Punt banknote

Susie’s first piece is played – appropriately – on her harp – Sí Bheag Sí Mhór. The title is said to mean ‘Little Hill and Great Hill’:


According to the traditional Irish whistle player L E McCullough:

. . . This piece was inspired by the folklore that surrounds two hills in Co Leitrim said to be inhabited by the spirits of ancient warriors whose mortal bodies lie entombed within the hills. From time to time these spirits revive their quarrel . . .

Oliver has sent us some photographs taken of Susie playing – they are fascinating. He says “I was attempting to photograph the music as well as the musician”. Here’s one to go with the O’Carolan tune:

Susie’s next track contains two pieces on the flute – Christmas Day in the Morning and The Cliffs of Moher. Christmas Day in the Morning is attributed to a Shetland fiddler, Fredamann Stickle, who used to play this tune to the laird every Christmas. Susie’s version is very individual – and graceful. The Cliffs of Moher is a jig we hear in the Ballydehob Session quite often and we should all have it under our belts. Thank you, Susie, for these great tunes – and for your performances!


Susie on flute, by Oliver Nares