Peter Carberry was born on the 8th February 1924, to Peter Carberry, Kenagh, in the parish of Kilcommick, Co. Longford and Lizzie Rooney of Tarmonbarry, Co. Roscommon. Peter still resides in the area – postal address Derryhawn, Kenagh, Co. Longford, population around 1,800. He attended school in Kenagh from the age of six to fifteen years.
Peter’s first instrument was a Clarke’s ‘C’ tin whistle, which he received from a neighbour, Mrs. Regan, while collecting with the Wren Boys one St Stephen’s Day. Before arriving home that evening he had learned to play an old jig he’d heard from his father, who played the melodeon. His mother, Peter recalls, was a fine traditional singer, and his uncle, Michael Carberry, a champion traditional step dancer, “The Blackbird” being his favourite. A brother of Peter’s played the banjo.
In April 1937, accompanied by his father, Peter met Johnny Doran for the first time at the opening of the Gaelic Athletic Association’s Pearse Park in Longford.
On leaving school he commenced casual work with the local farming community until aged seventeen years, when he was employed by Bórd na Mona (Peat Board). Around this time he joined The Rising of The Moon Céilí Band. This band was organised by a Michael (Black Mick) McGann, a non-musician, and its members were Sean Egan and Larry Kelly, fiddles, Michael McGann (not related to Black Mick), the two-row accordion, Michael Geraghty and Peter Carberry, flutes and Pat Higgins, drums. Peter says “The band did not go down too well with some of the locals. They used jeer and hurl abuse at us.”
In October 1946, then aged twenty-two years, Peter married Patricia Rogers from Ardagh, just east of Longford town. It was at an aeraiocht (open-air entertainment) in Kenagh that Peter first met Willie Reynolds, piper, from Walderstown, Co. Westmeath and Leo Rowsome, Dublin. He was to meet them later on a number of occasions at the sports in Killashee, four miles south-west of Longford town. During these years Peter continued with the céilí band, taking first place over Willie Reynolds’ Walderstown Band at a feis in Ballymahon.
Jimmy Dolan, a piper from Colehill, near Ballinacarrigy, Co. Westmeath, and nephew of Jim McCrone, piper and pipemaker, met up with Peter’s brother, Kevin, and formed a pipes/banjo duet. They were regularly engaged to play at local house dances. Jimmy, fond of dancing himself, would occasionally hand the pipes to Peter to continue playing while he danced.
For some years now Peter had been developing a very keen interest in the pipes, but could not afford to purchase a set because of his financial circumstances. However, his father gave him a heifer calf to rear and after two years he sold the heifer for fifteen pounds, ten shillings. With this money, and another five pounds, he purchased his first set from Jim McCrone.
His influences as a young piper were R.L. O’Mealy, whom he heard for the first time at an aeraiocht in Trysnagh, Ballinacarrigy, and Leo Rowsome. Peter speaks very highly of both pipers, saying “Rowsome was out of this world.”
There was another family of musicians living about seven miles from Peter, the Hanlys of Currole, Newtowncashel. House dances were a regular feature at that family home. Peter said of James Hanly, fiddle player, that he had a vast repertoire and a great gift of quick learning and recall, as had his own brother, Kevin. James’ sister, Molly (mother of Sean Keane of The Chieftains) played fiddle, and another brother, Peter, the pipes.Around the age of twenty-five years Peter ordered a Rowsome set, the price was then fifty pounds. He did not have the ready cash but Leo generously agreed to accept the money by instalments during the making of the set, leaving very little due on completion. Fourteen years later he purchased a Moss Kennedy set, originally owned by Padraig O’Connor of Dundalk.In 1958 Peter joined Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and traveled extensively for many years on their world tours.
He has six children, Máiréad, Kitty, Patricia, Noel, Peadar and Brendan. The dancing tradition of the grand-uncle, Michael, has been passed on to Noel, Kitty and Patricia, the latter two being dance teachers; the piping to Noel and two of Peter’s grandchildren.Peter has been a member of Na Píobairí Uilleann since its founding; he was present at the first meeting in Bettystown in May 1968 and became a Patron of the Society at its 30th Anniversary Celebratory Dinner in Dublin on 31 October 1998.On behalf of Na Píobairí Uilleann, I congratulate Peter for his sincere dedication to the art of uilleann piping and I wish him and his family well in the future.
Seán Potts (An Píobaire Vol 3, no. 38 January 1999)