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Traditional Irish Music (Part 1)

My earliest memories are great big sessions in my New York city apartment. A dozen musicians, and maybe a dozen listeners, all gathered around the table, playing music and laughing. I have a recording of the party right after my christening. Not yet a week old. Some of the best music I have heard, on that cassette tape. Many of new York city's greatest players, right there in my apartment building. Among them, Martin Wynne. He played a gentle version of Lad O'Byrne's reel.

My Father started playing music when he was a kid. He learned from both his parents. Both fiddle players. He started out on the penny whistle, and then moved on to the accordion. He left Ireland for England when he was 14 to send money home, after his dad died. He was on his way to becoming one of the best musicians in the country(that's what people tell me). When his father died, so did any ambition to record. He stayed in England off and on until he was 29. Then he moved to New York.

He met my mother in the traditional Irish folk scene in new York city. She was a young metropolitan communist hippie. He was just looking for somewhere to drink. She was into folk music because it was trendy and all back to the land and stuff. He was into folk music because he didn't have a radio growing up.

He was very quiet my whole life. We didn't talk. He was from a different culture. He was very poor growing up. No electricity type stuff. He learned to work. He didn't learn baseball, or football. He didn't go hunting or fishing. He just worked. But when he came home, he played. Every night religiously. The story goes that they used to give him a penny whistle in the bars. That got him back into it. Then someone suggested that he take up the flute. Not much different. That's what he played when I was growing up.

My mom died when I was 11, and I turned into a little shit. I had complete freedom. I didn't have to go to school, didn't have to work. I could just do whatever I wanted. My dad didn't understand public schools. He didn't understand what his role was. He was hardly ever home, and when he was he was dead tired. He left at 4 in the morning, came home at 5 or 6. He showered, changed into shorts and a polo, and went laid down on the couch where he would watch the news or read the paper. After about an hour, he would sit up, pick up his flute and start playing. We didn't talk about much. He knew I was into computers and games and school(HA!). He figured if I just kept going and he just kept going I would turn out alright. My mom had an old bodhran(drum) that she used to mess around with. I took it down from the mantle one day, and started to play along. This was the first time we really connected. Looking back, I think it is probably why traditional irish music is so important in my life.

Like I said. I was a shit. Ended up getting sent to live with my Uncle.

Wow. I just realized how involved this story is. I was really just going to introduce my love of irish music to the community. I guess I am writing my bio. Didn't I say that in the beginning? Irish music is my life. It is my Bio.

To be continued...

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Wow, glad

I finally clicked on this to read, thanks for sharing this with us.
Will be sure to read your next installment.

"We can see with our eyes, hear with our ears and feel with our touch, but we understand with our hearts."


I happened to be listening to the Dubliners when I saw this article. I'm a huge fan of them, the Clancy Brothers and of course Tommy Makem. I'm in the process of learning the tin whistle, the tenor banjo, already play guitar and banjo, have a fiddle, but will wait until I get a rounded grip on the others first.

Hey man....thanks for sharing that

We have something in common…..I lost a parent when I was young too. Six….My dad on Father’s Day none the less in 1966.Drunk driver ran him off the road…..local sheriff son…..drag racing……and of course being from a small town nothing ever happened to him. They lived right up the street from us…..maybe that’s one of the reasons I hate government so much. Pretty much lost my mother the same day……because she went to work….working two jobs to keep a roof over our heads. But I remember the parties….family parties and my family all sat around playing cards and music too. I can relate to being a little shit too……never liked school…..thought I was smarter than the teachers……and I probably was. In 9th grade I went to class one day a week for a semester and got all B’s. But I realize now that I could have done more with it if I had tried. But I landed on my feet too…… somehow works out for those willing to work.

But I wouldn’t want my Kids doing it!

"Before we can ever ask how things might go wrong; we must first explain how they could ever go right"


I lost a parent at age 5 too

My Dad died of heart failure. That morning, I woke up to a flashing ambulance in my driveway. I stood there in the kitchen doorway with my brothers and sisters staring at my Dad's bare feet sticking out from under a blanket. And I pretty much lost my mom that same day as she then had to work two jobs to keep the house and feed 5 kids. I was a latch key kid who learned quick how to do laundry and cook for myself. That kind of start changes you for sure.

I love Irish music but I found it later in life. I'm Scottish by heritage but my family has been in this country since the 1730's. I don't know, but Celtic music speaks to my soul. Do souls have memories? I feel like mine does.

I am so sorry for your loss Thimbleberry

Hearing your story made me realize I may have been somewhat luckier, My dad just didn't ever come home form work one day. I ran into a family friend at a wedding a few years ago, He told me that while at the grave site as he was holding me I asked him "What they were doing with my daddy".....makes me cry to think about it today.....but I am glad he told me because at least I know that I was present and it was real.

"Before we can ever ask how things might go wrong; we must first explain how they could ever go right"


egapele's picture

Interesting, thanks for posting

Lots of parallels - my parents emigrated to NYC from Ireland, too. They moved to the Bronx, where I grew up. And my mother died when I was 13. And Irish music was definitely a huge part of my life, even though none of us played. I was told Kathleen Largey had dinner with us once but it was when I was a baby. Great story and, again, thanks for posting.


That's incredible. What part of the Bronx? That's where I used to live!


egapele's picture

Off the Grand Concourse

I am wondering if all the Irish bars you hung out at were all near or on Bainbridge Avenue?

My old man, yes...

I confined myself to the few up in kingsbridge. 231st and Broadway.


Please do continue.

Although I am most definitely not Irish, I love the authentic Irish music! I like most ethnic music but, there's just something about the sound and feel of Irish tunes. I don't know what word to use to describe it but, I feel it deep inside, like some primitive instinct.

Here's some Paddy Maloney and the Chieftains for you: and

“It is the food which you furnish to your mind that determines the whole character of your life.”
―Emmet Fox