Brian McNamara - Irish Pipes
Fort of the Jewels

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Readers of the Silver Apple News are already familiar with South Leitrim native Brian McNamara, whose tasteful piping was heard on both Leitrim's Hidden Treasure and his first solo project, A Piper's Dream. For his latest, Fort of the Jewels he is joined on a couple of tracks by piper Benedict Koehler and on others by harpist Grainne Hambley. His playing reaches new heights of technique and expression, assuring his place as one of Ireland's premier Uilleann Pipers.. Tune listing.

Notation many as an ABC file

Sound Clip

Arra Mountains (Paddy O'Brien), Slip Jig


Connaught Heifers - trad reel key D


Do It Fair


Gladstone Bill - Am /C reel Reel (played down a tone - C pipes)


Handsome Young Maidens - key A jig by Charlie Lennon , from Musical Memories book


Humours of Tullycrine - Am Hornpipe


Paddy Fahey's Jig - key D (played down a tone - C pipes)


Thomas Reilly Clerk of Fore - Am Single Jig


abc archive containing the following tunes

Captain Locker | Gladstone Bill | Paddy from Portlaw | Handsome Young Maidens | Top the Candle | Do it Fair | Paddy Fahey's

  • 1. Jigs: Paddy from Portlaw / Handsome Young Maidens (Charlie Lennon) / I love you not and I care not

    The selection of the first two jigs here was motivated by their strong Leitrim connections. I first learned Paddy from Portlaw after hearing it from fellow Leitrim musician Brian Rooney on his wonderful recording 'The Godfather'. A transcription of the tune may be found in Francis O'Neill's 1001 & 1850 collections.

    Maintaining the Leitrim theme in this selection, this second tune Handsome Young Maidens is a contemporary composition of the renowned composer and musician Charlie Lennon from Rossinver. My acquaintance with the music of the Lennon family extends back to my formative musical years when my brother Ray and I would often accompany our father, Michael on expeditions to Kiltyclogher and Rossinver to meet up with the Lennon family. I have always been captivated by the charm of this tune written in A-major and intrigued by the challenge it offers. I learned to play it many years back with my brothers and sister. It appears in Charlie's publication, 'Musical Memories' Vol.1, 1993, Worldmusic Pub. Originally written as part of Charlie's 'Island Wedding' production, this tune refers to the bridesmaids on a wedding day.

    I have heard versions of this final tune I love you not and I care not on a number of recordings including 'The Humours of Lisheen' by John and Julia Clifford on the Topic label in 1977, Fisherstreet's 'Out in the Night'(1991) and more recently by Maeve Donnelly and Peter O'Loughlin on Maeve's solo recording in 2002. I fell in love with the beauty of this tune when I heard it played by Maeve and Peter. A tune known by many titles, it can be found in O'Neill's 'Waifs and Strays' collection under the title 'I found my love in the morning', and in Kerr's Melodies as 'I lost my love'. A variant also appears in the Goodman collection as 'The Humours of Tralee'.

    Brian (Uilleann Pipes pitched in 'D'), Gráinne (Harp).


    2. Hop Jigs: Top the Candle / Do it Fair

    I learned these Hop jigs from the playing of the late Pat and Frank Reilly of Drumreilly, a neighbouring parish to my home parish of Aughavas. The extended Reilly family were noted fiddle players in the region and the custodians of a great local repertoire. Pat, a fiddle player like his bothers Michael and Hughie were sons of Terry and cousins of Frank. Terry and his neighbour Alex Sutherland became local fiddle masters having learned from Peter Kennedy, another fiddle master in the adjoining parish of Ballinamore. When listening to a 1963 reel-to-reel recording made by my father in the Reilly's home I stumbled on these fascinating tunes. The first of them is transcribed in O'Neill's 1001 and 1850 publications, where it is attributed to James Kennedy. James was a son of Peter Kennedy and along with his sister Ellen emigrated to the USA bringing much of their father's repertoire with them to Chicago. O'Neill's publications thus feature many references to the Kennedys.

    The second tune Do it Fair is introduced on the reel-to-reel recording by Frank Reilly as "another one of Kennedy's". To date I have not been able to find a transcription of this tune in any of the major publications though it appears in the local Sutherland manuscript and in the personal collections of the Reilly family. Two tunes in Canon James Goodman's collection bear some resemblance, i.e. 'The Surround' where the second part is strikingly similar, and the imaginatively named tune 'The rogue is mad to be at her'. Other tunes which would appear to be in the same 'family' include 'Hunting the Hare', in O'Neill's 1001 and 1850 publications which is the same tune as 'The Whigsborough Hunt' in Levey's collection. A Northumbrian tune entitled 'Little Fishie' also has a very similar second part. Whatever the origin of the version featured here, it certainly is a splendid melody!

    Brian (Uilleann Pipes pitched in 'D'), Gráinne (Harp).


    3.  Reels: Captain Locker / Gladstone's Bill

    This first tune, Captain Locker, is another of the tunes learned from the playing of the Reilly family of Drumreilly. The only known transcription of this tune appears to be in the unpublished Grier Manuscript. Pat Reilly played this tune in the Key of C and an attempt has been made here to retain the 'mood' of the tune by playing it on the 'flat' pipes pitched in the Key of C.

    Gladstone's Bill was also taken in part from the above mentioned Grier collection where it appears as a two part tune. Another two-part version of this tune was found in the unpublished and now seemingly lost manuscript of Larry Smyth (Abbeylaragh, Co. Longford), which had a common first part to that featured in Grier's manuscript but with an alternative second part. Larry had inherited the collection from his father Seán. The rendition on this recording attempts to preserve both versions by conflating the versions into a three part version. The Grier version can also be found in the local Sutherland collection.

    Brian (Uilleann Pipes pitched in 'C').


    4 Air: Dún na Séad (Fort of the Jewels)

    Dún na Séad (Fort of the Jewels) is an air I learned from the singing of Nollaig Casey who had in turn learned it from her father Seán Ó Cathasaigh. Nollaig recorded the song on 'Causeway' in 1995 with Arty McGlynn.  Also know as 'Cois abhainn na Séad' or 'By the River of Gems', Dún na Séad is the original Irish name for the beautiful village of Baltimore in West Cork. Once the principal stronghold of the O'Driscolls, the Lords of Corca Laighe, the song describes the beauty of Dún na Séad and remembers with sorrow a past love. A version of this air was also collected and recorded by Séamus Ennis and it is regarded as one of the great airs in the tradition.

    Brian (Uilleann Pipes pitched in 'C').


    5. Reels: Patsy Touhey's Favourite / Fr. O'Grady's Visit to Bocca (Josie McDermott)

    Collected by O'Neill, this first tune is accredited to the celebrated piper Patsy Touhey (1865-1923). It has been printed in three of O'Neill's publications; 'Music of Ireland 1850 Melodies', 'Dance Music of Ireland - 1001 tunes' and 'Waifs and Strays of Gaelic Melody'. According to O'Neill, this later version was special having been taken from Touhey's personal transcription. Born in County Galway though reared in the USA from a very early age, Touhey became one the greatest exponents of his chosen instrument and one of the most successful Irish-American musicians of his generation. His career coincided with the birth of the recording era which enabled him to leave behind a number of recordings of his music.

    The second reel is a composition of Josie McDermott. Josie was a flute player, composer and singer from the Ballyfarnon area of County Sligo. The title recalls the occasion of a visit by a missionary priest to his home townland of Bocca, near Ballydreen, Co. Roscommon during which he presented Josie with a flute to compose this tune for him. Josie subsequently included the tune on his recording 'Darby's Farewell' first issued in 1977. Josie's compositions very much 'fit' the musical style of my home area and this is no exception. I was very fortunate to have had a number of opportunities to share time and music with Josie before his death in 1992. He was a wonderful man and musician and his compositions bear testimony to this fact. A transcription of this tune can be found in the Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann publication Treoir, 1992. It is noted that a transcription of the tune under the title 'Tuesday Morning' has also been found in 'Music of Ireland', Ed. David J. Taylor; Dave Mallinson Publications, 1997.

    Brian (Uilleann Pipes pitched in 'D').


    6.  Single Jigs: Hug the Bundle / Maloney's / Thomas Reilly Clerk of Fore

    The first two jigs here were associated with the Co. Westmeath piper Joe Kilmurray who lived in Ballallen, Ballinacarrigy. I am grateful to Fr. John Quinn for notating these gems and ensuring their survival. Though Kilmurray was a noted piper, the first tune Hug the Bundle was transcribed from a recording of his whistle playing made in his home in 1966 when he was too old to play the pipes. No other reference has as yet been found for this tune in the published collections.

    The second tune, Maloney's, was notated from the lilting of Joe's brother Jim, a man who never played a musical instrument. The tune was recorded in the home of Pierce Butler at Abbeyshaule, Co. Westmeath in November 1973. This tune was also included by Stephen Grier in his 1883 collection under the same title.

    Thomas Reilly Clerk of Fore was also taken from the Grier manuscript. It appears to be associated with at least one song or maybe even two. According to research communications belonging to Fr. Quinn, a song was composed to commemorate the hanging of a Hugh Reilly, Clerk of Fore for alleged sheep stealing in 1814. In 1862 three men, Mumford, Gilligan and Ford were hanged at Glaxtown (County Westmeath), about four miles from Fore for alleged membership of a secret society. Subsequently in 1882 the 'Barbaville Murder' (barbaville is a few miles from Fore) appears to have provoked the composition of another song incorporating all three events. One verse is as follows:

    • "They swore that they were innocent,
      Although they suffered sore,
      Like Murphy, Ford and Gilligan,
      And Reilly, Clerk of Fore".

    Brian (Uilleann Pipes pitched in 'D'), Gráinne (Harp).


7. Hornpipes: Mrs. Crotty's / The Humours of Tullycrine

These are two tunes I learned from the playing of my great friend and duet partner here Benedict Koehler. I fell in love with these tunes when I first heard Benedict and his wife, harper and accordion player, Hilari Farrington, play this selection in North Hero, Vermont at 'The Piper's Gathering' in 2002. They associate these lovely tunes with concertina player and piper Gearoid O' hAllmhurain, and Parisian born fiddler Patrick Ourceau. Gearoid informs me that the tune has all the characteristics of single-row concertina tune &endash; played totally on the C row of the old style German made concertina and that he acquired it indirectly from Mrs. Crotty having learned it from Dublin fiddler Mary McElvaney.

  • The Humours of Tullycrine is very much associated with West Clare according to Gearoid. Tullycrine is a townland outside Kilrush, Co. Clare. Junior Crehan apparently was a big fan of this tune though he called it by an alternative title Sruthán an Chait which he associated with the blind piper Garrett Barry from Inagh (1847-1899). An alternative title yet again appears in Brendán Breathnach's first collection, Ceol Rince na hÉireann 1, entitled Chuir mé Feisteas ar mo Theachsa after the line in the song sung to the melody "I furnished up my house as well as I was able…..".

    Brian & Benedict (Uilleann Pipes pitched in 'D'), Gráinne (Harp).


    8. Air / Reel: A Stór mo Chroí / Biddy from Muckross

    This version of A stór mo Chroí (Darling of my Heart) was learned from the singing of Mairéad and Nollaig Casey of Bandon, West Cork. They learned their West Cork version from their mother Úna ,who hails from Allihies, who in turned learned it from her mother. It is a song of emigration with the words of the song having been written by Brian O'Higgins of Kilscyre, Co. Meath (1882 -1949). Brian, a brother of the late fiddler Frank O'Higgins wrote much poetry and song and was known better by his pseudonym 'Brian na Banban' (Banban being a poetic name for Ireland). The words of the song were initially published in 'Voice of Banba'. O'Higgins suggested that the words be sung to the air of 'Bruach na Carraige Báine'. This air would thus appear to be one of the many versions of Bruach na Carraige Báine. The 1922 publication by An tAthair Pádraig Breathnach , 'Songs of the Irish Gael 1' includes a setting attributed to Annie O'Reilly, who is described as Professor of Irish Traditional Singing at Ballingeary Irish College, Co. Cork. Numerous version of the air have been featured in the collections of Petrie, O'Neill and Roche.

    I learned the reel Biddy from Muckross from the recording of Mike Rafferty and his daughter Mary, 'The Road to Ballinakill', 2001. Mike has been a dear friend and musical hero to me ever since my first visit to Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey in 1989 when on a tour of North America with Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann I was so fortunate to be hosted by Mike and his wife Teresa. The tune itself is associated with the Kilcar region of Donegal and the Biddy in question was a musical lady and lilter from the headland of Muckross near Kilcar. Her performances included lilting at dances in the area when no fiddlers were available. There are a number of intriguing stories of how Biddy acquired the tune featured here including a version described in Caoimhín MacAoidh's publication 'Between the Jigs and the Reels'.

    Brian (Uilleann Pipes pitched in 'C').


9. Piece: The Humours of Glynn
  • This is one of a number of settings of the tune 'The Humours of Glynn'. On the1998 family recording 'Leitrim's Hidden Treasure' we recorded a four part jig version taken from the Grier manuscript. The version recorded here is a 'piece' version (Brendán Breathnach , Ceol Rince na hÉireann, p.13, an Gum, 1989) and is similar in form to that transcribed from Willie Clancy's playing in 'The Dance Music of Willie Clancy' Ed. Pat Mitchell, Mercier, 1976. This particular arrangement and interpretation owes much to Benedict Koehler for its inspiration. According to Edward Daly in his 'Poets and Poetry of Munster', the melody of the jig had been written by Mr. Pierce Power (early 1700s), a celebrated 'Gentleman Piper' from the village of Glynn, situated beside the river Suir between Clonmel and Carrick-on-Suir.

    Brian (Uilleann Pipes pitched in 'D').


    10. Jigs:  Paddy Fahey's (Paddy Fahey) / The King of the Pipers

    As we know, Paddy Fahey has never named any of his wonderful compositions, however his tunes are easily identifiable and have a trade mark style all of their own. Though suited predominantly to the fiddle some of his compositions work very well on the pipes. This is one I have enjoyed playing for years since first hearing it on the 'The Cliffs of Mohir' recording featuring Sean and Kathleen Ryan with Pat Lyons.

    The second jig is one of a number of versions of the tune The King of the Pipers and this four-part version would appear to be associated with Donegal noting its transcription in the 'Northern Fiddler' attributed to the playing of Francie and Mickie Byrne where it is also known as 'The Kilrone jig'. Though there have been a number of recordings of different versions of this tune, my interest in the melody was reawakened on hearing it played by Peter and Angelina Carberry on their beautiful 2001recording 'Memories from the Holla'.

    Brian (Uilleann Pipes pitched in 'C').


    11. Reels: The Spike Island Lasses / Dr. Taylor's Favourite / The Green Garters

    One of the great tunes in the piping repertoire, this first tune would seem like so may others to have started out life as a two-part tune and mutated into this now more commonly known four-part version. The two part version is associated with concertina playing and Mrs. Crotty in particular. The tune appears in O'Neill's 'Waifs and Strays of Gaelic Melody' as 'Reidy's Reel', named after a North Kerry fiddler from whom Patrick Stack learned it and passed it on to O'Neill. Brendán Breathnach also featured the tune in his publication 'Ceol Rince na hÉireann 1'.

    I remember learning this second tune Dr. Taylor's Favourite from Peter Maguire who always felt that it embodied the character of Leitrim music and suited the South Leitrim style of playing. O'Neill includes it in his 1001 and 1850 collections as Dr. Taylor's favourite where he identifies his source as John McFadden. Mc Fadden was a Mayo born fiddler who was noted for his duet playing with Aughavas pipers' James 'Old Man' Quinn and Sergeant James Early in the second half of the 19th century in Chicago. It can also be found under the alternative title 'The Bloom of Youth' in both of O'Neill's 1001 and 1850 collections attributed to Robert Lawson. This is the piper Lawson whom O'Neill in his 'Irish Minstrels and Musicians' publication describes as having inherited a beautiful set of Egan pipes from Aughavas born piper, Sergeant James Early which had originally belonged to Kerry man 'Dan' O'Keeffe (1821-1899) only to have them stolen from him in a New York 'Bowery' bar-room after he had been fed some "knock-out drops"! It is under this alternative title that Leitrim flute player John McKenna recorded it in 1934 on the Decca label. Paddy Kiloran recorded it under the title 'Tansey's Favourite' and this is one of the names by which it is featured in Breathnach's 'Ceol Rince na hÉireann 3'. Alternative titles include 'The Downshire Reel' in Seamus Gordon's (1826-96) collection in Trinity College Dublin and 'Gardiner's Favourite' in Pat McNulty's collection 'The Dance music of Ireland', 1975. It would however appear to have an even older name and to have a Scottish origin considering its inclusion in Aloys Felischmann's collection 'Sources of Irish Traditional Music c.1600-1855' under the titles 'Countess of Sutherland Reel' and 'Glasgow Ladies Reel'.

    The third and final tune in this selection was sourced by O'Neill from James Kennedy, son of Leitrim fiddle master Peter Kennedy of Ballinamore. It can be found in his 1001and 1850 collections. According to Breathnach in his 'Ceol Rince na hÉireann 1' publication, 'The Blacksmith's Daughter' is a version of The Green Garters. An alternative version in the key of G is to be found in a number of collections including the Grier manuscript.

    Brian (Uilleann Pipes pitched in 'D').


    12. Slip Jigs: Hardiman the Fiddler / The Arra Mountains (Paddy O'Brien)/ Redican's Mother

      As invited guest tutors to the 2003 U.S. West Coast Piper's tionol in San Francisco, Benedict and I were asked to play together in the Saturday night concert and set about identifying tunes in common. These three formed part of our selection that night and I liked them so much that I decided that we should feature them on this recording. Hardiman the Fiddler as it has become known can be found in 'The Dance Music of Willie Clancy' and in O'Neill's 1001 and 1850 collections where it is entitled 'Hardy Man the fiddler'.

    The Arra Mountians is a composition of the late Paddy O'Brien (1922-1991), Newtown, Co. Tipperary and featured on his recording 'The Banks of the Shannon' (1973) with Seamus Connolly and Charlie Lennon. The mountains are on the Eastern shore of Lough Derg, Co. Tipperary. I was attracted to the tune on hearing it played by Gráinne Hambly on her 2003 recording 'Golden Lights and Green Shadows'. It thus seemed appropriate that Gráinne should join us on this track.

    The final tune was proposed by Benedict and we associate it with the playing of Jack and Fr. Charlie Coen, natives of Woodford, Co. Galway who have lived most of their lives in New York. In the sleeve notes of their recording 'The Branch Line' (1977) they noted that this tune came from Larry Redican who originally learned it from his mother, hence the title. The first part of the 'Barony Jig' in the Roche collection has much in common with this tune.

    Brian & Benedict (Uilleann Pipes pitched in 'D'), Gráinne (Harp).


    13. Reels: Hobble the Boutches / Sandy over the Lea

    Yet another tune learned from the Reilly clan, Hobble the Boutches could almost be regarded as Pat's signature tune, considering the regularity with which he played it on visits to our home in Aughavas or in his own home in Drumreilly. Like 'Captain Locker' it was played in the Key of C and is thus played on the 'flat' pipes here. A transcription may be found in Ryan's Mammoth collection.

    The second tune was learned from the unpublished manuscript [1844-1846] of Thomas 'Blind' Kiernan from Drumlish, Co. Longford. Kiernan was a fiddle master and reputedly the teacher of the aforementioned Peter Kennedy of Ballinamore who in turn instructed the Reilly families in fiddle playing. A transcription of the tune featured here is to be found in Aloys Felischmann's collection.

    Brian (Uilleann Pipes pitched in 'C').


    14. Air: Táimse im'chodladh

    This is a patriotic or political piece composed in eighteenth century Munster, of the Aisling or 'vision' tradition, in which a beautiful lady (personifying Ireland) appears to the poet in a vision, to encourage resistance and hold out hope of victory against the invading forces. Numerous versions of the melody exist including three different transcriptions in the Petrie-Stanford collection, and another in the Bunting collection. The version played here may be found in 'Ceol ár Sínsear' published in 1913. The songs in this collection were in the main collected from singers in Cork and featured Munster versions of the words and airs. No author is given for Táimse im' Chodladh (I am asleep). It is also included in the more contemporary publication 'Cuisle an Cheoil' published by the Department of Education in Ireland. The Roche collection,Vol.1 also features this version of the melody. This is also another of the great airs associated with the Uilleann pipes.

    Brian (Uilleann Pipes pitched in 'D').


15. Reels: Ormond Sound (Paddy O'Brien) / The Connaught Heifers
  • This was the selection that was never intended. During the microphone set up in the studio Benedict and I began playing Ormond Sound and felt so good about it that we decided to find another tune as a companion. The Connaught Heifers was suggested and though we had never played it together previously and only did one take, I think this captures why we so enjoy playing together &endash; attempting to anticipate each others interpretation and variations and an apparent innate common understanding of what the tune is about.

    I actually learned the first tune, Ormond Sound, from Benedict at a session in New Hampshire in 2001 after I played a concert hosted by our mutual friends Mary and Charlie of OssianUSA. It is another composition of the great composer Paddy O'Brien, Newtown, Co. Tipperary and can be found in the 1992 publication 'The compositions of Paddy O'Brien'.

    A transcription of the second reel can be found in Brendán Beathnach's 'Ceol Rince na hÉireann 1',and also in 'The Dance music of Willie Clancy' (Ed. Pat Mitchell). A version also appears in the Petrie-Stanford publication under the title 'The Silver Mines'.

    Brian & Benedict (Uilleann Pipes pitched in 'D')


    16. Hornpipes: Kilcooley Wood (Sean Ryan) / The not so Bashful Bachelor

    The compositions of the late Seán Ryan, Nenagh, Co. Tipperary (died 1985) have always been amongst my favourite tunes and this first hornpipe is one of his gems. Seán was a tremendous fiddle player as well as a wonderful composer and recorded with his wife Kathleen and their friend the late Pat Lyons a recording entitled 'The Cliffs of Mohir' on the Outlet label. Kilcooley Wood refers to a wood-land close to Seán's native homestead. I learned this tune from Seán's son Brian, a flute player and pianist.

    I finish with another tune from the collection of Stephen Grier. Grier who lived much of his life in Gortletteragh where he compiled his noteworthy collection of almost 1000 tunes dated 1883 was a piper and an integral part of the rich and vibrant piping tradition of South Leitrim during the 19th century. Over twenty of the tunes featured in his collection have been recorded on the1998 family recording Leitrim's Hidden Treasure and another seven on the 2000 solo recording A Piper's Dream which also featured a detailed description of the piping tradition in the area.

    The first part of this tune which is played here in the key of D corresponds with The Wily Old Bachelor as transcribed in O'Neill's 1001 collection and as The Bashful Bachelor in Breathnach's (Ceol Rince na hÉireann 3). In both these publications the tune is transcribed in the key of G. The second part however would appear to have been married off to a different bachelor as it is completely different to that transcribed by O'Neill and Breathnach!


    Brian (Uilleann Pipes pitched in 'D'), Gráinne (Harp).


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