Dave Hegarty

Dave Hegarty needs no introduction to anyone who has been involved with the uilleann pipes over the last thirty years. He is a committed and generous contributor to the world of piping, most especially on the technical side where his freely-shared reed-making expertise has been availed of by many thankful pipers down through the years.

I first met Dave at a party in a flat on Dublin’s South Circular Road some time in the early seventies. He had heard me play a few tunes on the pipes and approached me to find out how he could obtain a set himself. I believe I directed him to Matt Kiernan and Dan O’Dowd. Dave subsequently struck up enduring relationships with both of those great men, but particularly with Dan, visiting him and Mae regularly on the Malahide Road and it was there that Dave began to develop his particular interest in reed-making. Shortly after I met him I discovered that Dave lived only around the corner from me in the Tenters and we encountered each other frequently in the neighbourhood and at the meetings of Na Píobairí Uilleann in Parnell Square.

Dave also pursued an interest in the history of the pipes around that time and this led him in 1980 to depart with Breandán Breathnach and Andy Conroy, two great friends of his, on a jaunt to the west of Ireland, seeking the trail of the famous pipers John Reilly and Johnny Gorman. Dave’s account of this expedition may be found in An Píobaire (2.8).

It was his interest in reed-making that prevailed, however, and the fruits of his investigations were eventually published by Na Píobairí Uilleann, initially in 1980 as Reedmaking Made Easy (with a second edition in 1983), and subsequently in an expanded exition in 1999 as The Uilleann Pipe Reedmaker’s Guidance Manual. This edition was financially assisted by NPU member Kevin Spencer’s wife Maureen, in memory of her recently-deceased husband, and the edition is dedicated to Kevin’s memory. In each case Dave declined to profit from the publications, donating the revenues from sales to furthering the activities of Na Píobairí Uilleann. More recently he extended this generosity further by agreeing that the manual should be made freely available to NPU members through our website.

For many years he has been a familiar feature of the Willie Clancy Summer School, presiding over the reed-making activities and providing instruction and encouragement to all who seek it and, on occasion, aid and comfort to distraught pipers. During the evenings he will inevitably be found in the company of musicians, sharing the crack, the stories and the music. Aren’t we lucky to have him?

Terry Moylan (An Píobaire 4.23)