O'Neill - Irish Minstrels and Musicians, Volume 1, Issue 1, Page 114

O'Neill - Irish Minstrels and Musicians, Volume 1, Issue 1, Page 114
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periodical Publisher
Regan Printing House, Chicago, 1913
periodical Editor
periodical Title
O'Neill - Irish Minstrels and Musicians
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2 z6Iris/ i 2 .Iinstrels and ] /Iusicianspersonality and freedom from those failings which so often mar cordiality in themusical profession.WILLIAM CONNOLLY AND JOHN CONNOLLYAmong the pipers of whom we have any record, few if any were so success-ful financially and none possessed the nomadic instinct to such a degree as WilliamConnoily, who was horn at Militown, County Gaiway, about the year 1839. Hisfather, known as Liam Dali, or lilind William, born at the beginning of thecentury, was a piper of great repute.In his young days lie went to Liverpool, accompanied by his brother, John,hut their experience not being up to their expectations, they decided to cross theAtlantic. vVhile John remained in the United States, \Villiams restless tempera-ment impelled him to try his luck in Canada. Fortune favored him in thisventure, and, finding things to his liking, he tarried in that country for anunusually long time, playing on the steam packets plying up and down the St.Lawrence River.having made considerable money, he longed for a change of scene, returnedto the United States, and settled in Brooklyn, New York, where he bought ahouse. This property he disposed of in 1863, fearing lie would be drafted intothe Federal army, the Civil War being then at its height. Besides, lie realizedthat it was much easier for him to handle a chanter than a rifle, so he lost notime in getting back to Liverpool, in which cosmopolitan city he remained fouryears.Before his return to America, when all danger had passed, this inveteratebird of passage took occasion to pay a visit to the old home in Galway. Modestyevidently was not his most conspicuous virtue, for we are told that he engaged aboy to carry his set of bagpipes through Militown, with a view to impress thepeople with a due sense of his importance.Brooklyn, New York, his next destination, soon lost the (listinguished piper,for lie went to Waltham, Massachusetts, and built a dance ball in which he wasto be the great attraction. Golden visions eventually lured him to California, soSan Francisco enjoyed a musical treat for some time; but as happiness is alwaysat the end of the rainbow, which recedes as we approach, Connolly retraced hissteps to the Atlantic coast. After a brief stay in the East he again headed forthe Golden Gate.Still restless and dissatisfied, lie bade a final adieu to California, intent onpurchasing Hibernian Hail, Brooklyn; but as his wife would not consent to thesale of her home in Waltham, the project had to he abandoned. Another movewas the result, this time to the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. where he died afew weeks later, after acquiring possession of a prosperous saloon.Mr. Burke, to whom we are indebted for the above information, saysWilliam Connolly was the best general player on the Irish pipes on either sideof the Atlantic. Michael Egan, the famous maker of the Irish or Union pipes,who knew all the best pipers of his day, was of the same opinion.His brother John, it seems, was something of a rambler also, for in an articlein The Advocate of Melbourne, Australia, issued August 17, 1912, we find thatan Irish piper named J. Connolly returned to San Francisco, after a few monthsresidence in Melbourne many years ago. Patsy Touhev, who regarded himas a fair performer, reports that he died about the year 1895 at Milford,Massachusetts.Pipers in the Second Half of the 19th Century 227WILLIA i MADDENOn the authority of Mr. Burke we are told that this piper was a greatperformer, excelled only by William Connolly. Little is known of him exceptthat he was a native of Bahlinasloe, county of Gaiway, and that the renownedpiper Patrick Flannery was his uncle. After the latters death, in 1855, Madden,accompanied by John Coughian, visited Ireland, where he remained two yearsbefore returning to New York.In Maddens case, necessity was not the motive for his choice of a profession,for all his faculties were unimpaired. The predilection for music not infrequentlyproves irresistible, and where social position or some lucrative calling presentsno hindrance or restraint, the profession of wandering musician is taken up asan agreeable means of obtaining a livelihood.OWEN CUNNINGHAMThis great performer on the Irish pipes, who was known among his ownpeople as Cunnigam, belonged to the city of Gaiway, although Mr. Cummings ofSan Francisco claims he lived at Athenry, his own native place. Both may beright at different periods. The (late of his birth is unknown, but lie flourishedaround the middle of the nineteenth century. According to Mr. Nicholas Burke,he was much given to rambling and was seldom to be found at home. Goingfroni one gentlemans place to anothers, all over the country, he remained ateach for an indefinite period, as did the harpers in their day.Captain Clancy of the Chicago police, who was born some eight miles north-east of Gaiway City, remembers Cunnigams visits to his fathers house in thefifties. The piper drove his own jaunting car when traveling on his annualsummer tours, and he put up for a week or so among his selected patrons.During his stay at the Clancy homestead the people flocked from milesaround to bear him, and so did the pipers within reachto listen, learn, andkeep still, for they admitted his superiority.The Captain, who has a clear recollection of the piper and his instrument,describes him as rather tall and thin, with high cheek bones and sallow complexion.His pipes were longer, slimmer, and softer in tone than the modern concertinstrument made by Taylor of Philadelphia.Twas Cunnigams proud boast, and one often repeated, that lie received onehundred pounds a year from the Duke of Northumberland for staying at thecastle and playing when required for six or eight weeks around the Christmasholidays.lIe also claimed to have played before royalty and to have filled engagementsat one of the most fashionable of London hotels. His return to his native homein Galway, in prosperous circumstances only in the summer season, gave colorof probability to his story, especially as the duke was known to be a great loverof Irish music and a liberal patron of accomplished Irish pipers.Cunnigam was an incorrigible rambler, and his peregrinations in the yeari86i extended to America, but his travels in the land of the free were confinedto the cities of Boston, New York, Brooklyn, and vicinity. Restless in spirit asthe Flying Dutchman, his stay in America was short, for the demon of dis-content seemed to possess him and keep him forever on the move. So he returnedto Ireland, but from an article on The Irish Music Revival which appeared inthe issue of The Advocate, August. 17, 1912, we learn that Owen Cunningham,
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O'Neill, Capt. Francis
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O'Neill - Irish Minstrels and Musicians

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