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Paddy Coneely – the Galway Piper – 1885

Freeman’s Journal 26th December 1885 p45 (abridged)

UilleannPipes  photo: 'Ganainm'  Wikimedia Commons
UilleannPipes
photo: ‘Ganainm’ Wikimedia Commons

In every district of Ireland there is, or was a generation ago, always one musician who, by reasons of his superior skill, received a kind of patent of nobility and whose name was always spoken in association with that of his locality. In this way the subject of our sketch was known as the Piper of Galway.

Who that lived or travelled thirty odd years ago, in the city or the hills, in the fastnesses of Connemara, or by the shores of Lough Corrib and Lough Con,  did not feel his bosom bound with gladness or melt in sorrow at the sweet strains of his matchless and inimitable pipes. His memory was wonderfully retentive and he could perform on his instrument thousands of airs, especially those of his native land. “Felim’s Death on the Field of Athrenee,” and “Red Hugh’s March to the Curlew Mountains,” he played with wonderful and enchanting power; from the Ros Catha of the warlike bard to the saddening symphonies of the “Coolun,” or the plaintive pleading tenderness of the “Molly Asthore,” he was equally and eminently famed. The music of Carolan and the melodies of Moore were all in the gift of this poor blind piper of Galway.

A more interesting character was seldom met with – a man deprived by fate of eyesight, yet by the light of his mind tracked his journey through life in one continued stream of sunshine, beloved by many and respected by all whose respect was worth possessing. Despite his humble condition and the loss of sight (which would be deemed by most persons as one of the greatest of human calamities) he was a happy man.

He was always singing, in sunny weather sprightly airs, and in gloomy weather pathetic ones; but he never looked sad, except when a tale of sorrow excited his pity or when he was about to separate from friends.

Perhaps the most eminent trait in his character (independent of his musical one) was his habitual, we might say, his constitutional benevolence. Many anecdotes of his goodness are told. He was always a temperate and prudent man and would never lower the dignity of his professional character by playing in a tap-room or any place where drunkenness was known. He had a great love of approbation, a high opinion of his musical talents, a strong feeling of decent pride and a great love of country. Green be the shamrocks on his grave.