Leon Rowsome (1936–1994)

Celebrating the life and musical times of a fourth generation uilleann piper and pipe maker: a blog by Kevin and Caitríona Rowsome.

Leon Rowsome (1936–1994) was a fourth generation uilleann piper from Dublin. He inherited his musical skills and pipe making abilities from his great-grandfather, Samuel Rowsome of Ballintore, Ferns, County Wexford, his grandfather, William Rowsome, who established a pipe making and repair business in Harold’s Cross, Dublin and his father, master piper and pipemaker, Leo Rowsome. 

Leon, the eldest son of Leo and Helena Rowsome, was born on 20 October 1936. Baptised Leo Laurence Rowsome, Leon was one of four musical siblings and was raised by his parents in Belton Park, Donnycarney, Dublin 9.

The Cliffs of Moher, jig ; The Battering Ram, jig / Leon Rowsome. Recording courtesy: RTÉ Archives


Leon Rowsome, with his parents, Leo and Helena, crossing O’Connell Bridge, Dublin, ca 1938;
Leon Rowsome, with his parents, c1940; Brothers, Leon and Liam Rowsome with parents, 1942.


Leon began to play the uilleann pipes when he was eight years old, and learned his piping almost exclusively from his father, Leo. It wasn’t long before he gained recognition as a piper of natural talent and dexterity.

Leon Rowsome, mid 1940s; Leon Rowsome, late 1940s; Leon Rowsome, early 1940s.

As a performer he was a member of The Rowsome Quartet and regularly played the pipes on radio broadcasts with Leo Rowsome, Seán Seery and Willie Clancy. 

Left: The Rowsome Quartet, 1950s, Leo Rowsome, Leon Rowsome, Seán Seery, Willie Clancy;
Right: The Rowsome Quartet, 1950s, Willie Clancy, Leon Rowsome, Leo Rowsome, Seán Seery.


In addition to playing in The Rowsome Quartet, Leon and his father Leo often played the pipes as an uilleann piping duo. The following images courtesy NUI Galway | Ritchie-Pickow Digital Collection reveal an occasion of uilleann piping by father and son at a garden party in the American Ambassador’s residence, Phoenix Park, Dublin in 1953.

See Appendix 1 for a full listing and links to 16 photos of Leo and Leon Rowsome in the NUI Galway Ritchie-Pickow Digital Collection.

Children play musical chairs to the music of Leon Rowsome (left) and Leo Rowsome (right), 1953;
American Ambassador’s daughter, Maria Taft, dances to the piping of Leo and Leon Rowsome, 1953.
Images Courtesy: NUI Galway | Ritchie-Pickow Digital Collection.


A talented multi-instrumentalist, Leon was also versatile on the piano and piano accordion. He developed a love for Scottish dance music in his early teenage years and enjoyed tuning in to Scottish radio.

                                             Leo Rowsome, Liam Rowsome, and Leon Rowsome


The Blackbird, air / Leo Rowsome, Leon Rowsome, Liam Rowsome (Recording courtesy: Louis Quinn Collection at ITMA)

Cooleys Reel; The Green Gates, reel / Leo Rowsome, Leon Rowsome, Liam Rowsome (Recording courtesy: Louis Quinn Collection at ITMA)


EDUCATION

Leon attended school in St. Joseph’s C.B.S., Marino, Dublin 3. He often played at school concerts and other functions, and was a member of the Marino School Band, pictured below. Four of his contemporaries in the band were: John Sheehan,  composer of the ‘Marino Waltz’; Paddy Moloney, leader of The Chieftains; Proinnsías Ó Duinn, who became conductor of the RTÉ Orchestra, and Leon’s brother, fiddle player Liam Rowsome. 

Leon graduated from University College Dublin with a Bachelor of Commerce Degree in 1959. He also achieved a Certificate in Teaching Irish (Teastas i dTeagasc na Gaeilge), and a Diploma in shorthand and typewriting.

Left: Leon Rowsome on graduating from UCD with a Bachelor of Commerce Degree, 1959;                 Right: Scoil Mhuire, Marino School Band, 1952, including Leon Rowsome (front row, first from left), Proinnsias Ó Duinn (front row, second from left), Paddy Moloney (front row, second from right), Hugh Byrne (front row, at right), Liam Rowsome (third row, third left) and John Sheahan (back row, third from right).

FAMILY LIFE

Leon married Nóirín Ní Fhlaitheartaigh, a native of the Kerry Gaeltacht of Corca Dhuibhne, on 10 February 1962. They had one son, Kevin (uilleann pipes/flute), and four daughters, Mary (flute/piano), Anne (fiddle), Nuala (piano) and Caitríona (harp/piano) - and ten musical grandchildren.

Left: Leon and Nóirín Rowsome on their wedding day, 10 February 1962, with Leon’s parents – Leo and Helena. Image courtesy Nóirín Rowsome;
Right: Leon and Nóirín Rowsome with (left to right) Kevin, Anne, Nuala, Caitríona and Mary, 1973

VOCATIONAL TEACHING

Leon took a teaching post as a vocational teacher in Rathdowney, Co. Laois from 1962–1965.

Leon and Nóirín moved back to Dublin from Rathdowney in 1965, and on his return he took up a position teaching commerce in Swords Vocational Technical school.

Leon gave grinds to school pupils in the late 1960s and taught commerce, Irish, music, shorthand and typing in Coolmine, Clonsilla in the 1970s and 1980s. He retired from vocational teaching in 1983.


UILLEANN PIPES TEACHER

Leon, like his father before him, was a gifted musician, performer and craftsman. In addition to holding a full-time job as a vocational teacher, Leon made uilleann pipes in his spare time, taught the pipes, broadcast on TV and radio, and toured internationally as a solo uilleann piper.

In the 1960s, Leon would sometimes deputise for Leo in the Dublin College of Music (formerly known as the Municipal School of Music, now the Technological University Dublin Conservatoire). On Leo’s passing in 1970, Leon took on the position as uilleann pipes teacher, and taught the pipes there on a part-time basis for fifteen years, up until his retirement as uilleann pipes teacher in 1985.

Leon also taught the uilleann pipes in the Pipers’ Club in Thomas Street, Dublin in the early 1970s, and played and taught the pipes at Irish summer schools.

Leon Rowsome, Mick O'Brien, Gay McKeon, 1971;
Leon Rowsome, Kevin Rowsome and Con Durham (former student of Leon at the College of Music, Chatham Row), Dingle;
Extract of brochure of the first Willie Clancy Summer School, 1973 with Leon Rowsome playing at 3 pm piping session.

PERFORMER

Brothers, Leon and Liam, on pipes and fiddle 

Leon often played the uilleann pipes with his brother, Liam Rowsome, on fiddle. 

The Maids of Mount Cisco, reel; George White's Favourite, reel / Leon Rowsome, uilleann pipes; Liam Rowsome, fiddle. Courtesy: Louis Quinn Collection at ITMA

In the summer of 1967, Leon and Liam played as a duo in Jury's Cabaret The Molly Malone Show at Jury's Hotel, Dublin. The show was performed daily, seven nights a week, for one month, 7 May–7 June. The costume worn by Leon for the cabaret was a báinín jumper and cap.

Popular venues for traditional Irish music in the 1960s and 1970s, where Leon would play the pipes as a soloist, and also as a duo with Liam on fiddle, included the Old Shieling Hotel in Raheny, the Hollybrook Hotel, the Baggot Inn, Slattery's of Capel Street, the Stag's Head and the Embankment in Tallaght.

Newspaper ads about performances by Leon and Liam as a duo or by Leon as a soloist in the 1960s and 1970s


In 1972, Leon and Liam played uilleann pipes and fiddle, at Gormanstown, County Meath. Leon and Liam were introduced in Irish by Seamus MacMathúna as: 

"the sons of ‘The Piping King’ himself, God rest him."
                                                     


Leon playing piano with the Ballinamere Céilí Band;                                                                                          Leon playing piano accordion with the Blackthorn Céilí Band.


In addition to being a talented uilleann piper and performer, Leon was versatile on the piano and accordion and put these talents to good use in céilí bands. 

Leon played the piano with the Ballinamere Céilí Band in the 1950s and founded the Blackthorn Céilí Band in May 1967. 

Blackthorn Céilí Band members included: Leon Rowsome, Tom Harpur from Wexford (fiddle), Tommy Byrne from Wexford (piano accordion), Ambrose Bonny (drums), Kevin and his brother from Drimnagh (fiddle), Nóirín Mee/Hand (vocals, piano) and May Rice (vocals). 

The band began to tour in 1967. Tour dates that year included:

2 July Carna, County Galway; 7 July Tubbercurry, County Sligo; 9 July Cork City; 11 July Mountbellew, County Galway; 6 October Dromore, County Sligo; 12 November Clarence Hotel, Dublin.

Newspaper articles about performances by Leon with the Blackthorn Céilí Band.

PERFORMANCES ON RADIO AND TV

Leon Rowsome maintained a busy schedule of live performances on radio and in various venues throughout Ireland in the 1960s and 1970s. A range of national and provincial newspapers include articles detail many broadcasts and performances by Leon during this time, both as a solo uilleann piper, and as a member of the Blackthorn Ceili Band. Newspaper articles also include details of his television appearances and workshops on the history of the uilleann pipes.

Newspaper articles from 1962 to 1971 about performances by Leon as a solo uilleann piper on Radio Eireann
Newspaper articles about TV appearances and workshops by Leon, including one at Project Arts Centre – 'Leon Rowsome to present workshop on history of Uilleann pipes and pipe making in July 1975'.


In the 1970s Leon made a television appearance on the Tommy Makem and Ryan’s Fancy Show in Canada. In her thesis The most (imagined) Irish place in the world?: the interaction between Irish and Newfoundland musicians, electronic mass media, and the construction of musical senses of place (Ph.D, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2013, p. 272) Evelyn Osborne quotes Manny Pittson on their informal approach to selecting guests:

"The guest list was compiled by me in consultation with Tommy and Denis. There was no science - we simply consulted our own record collections, double checked with Dublin's leading folk music critic and then made our choices. If memory serves, we offered negotiated fees in the 250 range per show. I can't recall how we handled ground costs but the Sheraton Connaught was offering singles during the Messer era for 9.00 per night. My favourite guest was Leon Rowsome a bear of a man whose instrument was the traditional uillean (elbow) pipes, which are pumped by a bellows strapped to the musician's body under the elbow. By its appearance a fiendishly difficult instrument to master, it has a delicate, plaintive sound that speaks of the Celtic world long gone."

In 1981, Leon travelled to Galway for an interview and live music performance on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta. The interview in Irish between Seán Bán Breathnach and Leon Rowsome was on the radio programme Aoi Cheoltóir. The programme was first broadcast in 1981, and re-broadcast on 7 March 2015. 

The interview is available to listen to on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta https://www.rte.ie/radio/radioplayer/html5/#/rnag/10381752, and a written transcription of the full broadcast in Irish and English has been provided by Caitríona Rowsome as an addition to the blog. [See Appendix 2]


TOURS OUTSIDE OF IRELAND

Leon gained international acclaim touring Europe, America and Canada as a solo uilleann piper in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1972 he toured Germany as a solo uilleann piper. 


He toured in England, playing the uilleann pipes, from 1976–1978 and 1983–1985. While on tour in the UK, which was mainly during the summer months, Leon played the pipes at folk festivals and promoted the instrument on BBC Radio.


Kevin, Mary and Leon Rowsome, circa 1985


These tours gave audiences the opportunity to listen to, and engage with the seldom heard uilleann pipes. UK concerts were performed in venues throughout Yorkshire, Derbyshire, London, Manchester, Liverpool, Durham, Lincolnshire, Nottingham, Windermere, Birmingham and Leicester. 


In the 1970s and 1980s, Leon was regularly booked by the Celtic Congress as a solo uilleann piper from Ireland, and toured with them in Brittany, England, the Isle of Man and Scotland. Among the other performers on tour with the Celtic Congress was harp player Róisín Ní Shé. 

Leon Rowsome, circa 1972.
Leon Rowsome and Vincent Broderick, circa 1972.

PIPE MAKING

Leon carried on the Rowsome family tradition of pipe making and repair work from his workshop at his home in Dublin in the 1970s and 1980s. Unlike the present day, pipemaking was at an ebb and Leon provided a critical contribution to continuity of the popularity of the instrument.  The growing demand for uilleann pipes combined with a steady stream of orders kept Leon busy making pipes for customers within Ireland and further afield. Many of the orders were for beginner pupils who were starting to learn the pipes in local music schools and colleges. Leon was frequently asked to make chanter reeds and gained the reputation of being an expert reed maker.


RECORDINGS

During his lifetime, Leon made two uilleann piping albums. The first album was a solo uilleann piping LP in the 1960s on the Walton Glenside label, Leon Rowsome and his uilleann pipes: Irish airs and dances. Some years later he made a second album for Dolphin Discs, Irish traditional pipes. 

Leon also featured among other artists such as Tommy Peoples, Jimmy McGreevy and Mary Bergin, on the Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann Bonnie Kate LP in 1970. The 1973 LP Anne Byrne Sings Irish features Anne Byrne, vocals, Paddy Roche, guitar/vocals and Leon Rowsome uilleann pipes.


ARTICLES WRITTEN BY LEON ROWSOME

Leon wrote a number of articles of his memories, as a fourth generation uilleann piper/musician, from early years to adulthood. The articles capture a wealth of musical knowledge, experience and good-humoured persona. They also share memories of musical greats in his lifetime. 

Carn: a link between the Celtic nations vol. 1, no. 4 (1973/74) p. 17Carn is published by the Celtic League and the series, including Leon's article is available to view and download from their website.

The two-part article 'In My Father's Time' was originally published by Na Píobairí Uilleann in An Píobaire vol. 3, issue 12 (September 1992), p. 16 and vol. 3, issue 13 (January 1993), p. 16-17:

In it Leon wrote that many people came to visit the family home in Belton Park when he was young. One such person was Brother Gildas, a De la Salle brother who:

had a lovely flat set of pipes – boxwood, and brass keys. I used to love playing them when they were in for repair. They were beautiful and mellow. Brother Gildas was a De la Salle brother and spent a while teaching me ‘The Teetotallers Reel’ emphasising the long ‘D’.
 

Leon’s father, Leo Rowsome passed away on 20th September 1970, while adjudicating The Fiddler of Dooney competition in Riverstown, County Sligo. Suaimhneas na bhFlaitheas dá anam.

The year after Leo’s untimely passing, Leon presented prizes to the winners of the 1971 The Fiddler of Dooney competition.


Leon [Rowsome], a vocational teacher, has his father’s old position of Uilleann pipes teacher in the Municipal College of Music, Dublin, makes pipes in his spare time and is rapidly building up an international reputation as a piper, appearing on TV programmes on both sides of the Atlantic.
Sean Reid, 1975


                    Leon and son Kevin Rowsome, circa 1971.

Our parents were wonderful for encouraging us to learn and play music from an early age. Dad had great musicality, a wonderful sense of humour, and an abundance of kindness and generosity. He especially loved to hear traditional Irish music being played by us, his children, and would have a big smile on his face, and give words of encouragement when we played music – whether on pipes, harp, flute, whistle, fiddle or piano.

"Tá [Caoimhín] ag foghlaim na píobaí uaim fhéin, agus ó Chlub na bPíobairí i mBaile Átha Cliath freisin. Agus tá mo iníon, Máire, an-mhaith ar an bhfeadóg stáin"

                                  Leon Rowsome, in 1981, on RTÉ Raidio na Gaeltachta.

We, in turn, loved to hear him play the uilleann pipes and to watch him in his workshop making sets of pipes to be played by many an aspiring piper.

Grandchildren of Leon and Nóirín Rowsome, 2017 (left to right): Alastair McGranaghan, Naoise Rowsome, Mark Lysaght, Tierna Rowsome and Luke McGranaghan


Leon passed away on 7 April 1994. He has left behind a legacy that is inspiring. A fourth generation uilleann piper, pipemaker, recording artist, performer and teacher; humble, hard-working, good-natured and gregarious – Leon was a man of great character and one who is remembered with great fondness. Leon Rowsome (1936–1994), ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal ceolmhar.
Kevin and Caitríona Rowsome, 2021

With sincere thanks to the ITMA, to NUI Galway for permission to use images from the Ritchie-Pickow Collection, to Sean Quinn for permission to use recordings from the Louis Quinn Collection at ITMA, to RTÉ Archives for permission to use RTÉ recordings held in ITMA, to Na Píobairí Uilleann for permission to reproduce 'In My Father's Time' and to Peter Fawcett and Phil Speight for information on UK tours. 

Special thanks also to Mick O’Connor and to Grace Toland.

Kevin and Caitríona Rowsome

Appendices

Appendix 1

The Ritchie-Pickow | NUI Galway Digital Collection contains sixteen photos in total of Leo Rowsome and his son Leon Rowsome playing the uilleann pipes at the American Ambassador's Residence in the Phoenix Park, Dublin in 1953. 

The young piper in each of these photos, although unnamed within the collection, is Leo's son, Leon Rowsome, who would have been 16 years of age at that time. 

The 16 individual Leo Rowsome and Leon Rowsome images can be found at:

https://digital.library.nuigalway.ie/islandora/object/nuigalway%3A8310

https://digital.library.nuigalway.ie/islandora/object/nuigalway%3A8311

https://digital.library.nuigalway.ie/islandora/object/nuigalway%3A8312  

https://digital.library.nuigalway.ie/islandora/object/nuigalway%3A8313 

https://digital.library.nuigalway.ie/islandora/object/nuigalway%3A8314

https://digital.library.nuigalway.ie/islandora/object/nuigalway%3A8315

https://digital.library.nuigalway.ie/islandora/object/nuigalway%3A8316

https://digital.library.nuigalway.ie/islandora/object/nuigalway%3A8317

https://digital.library.nuigalway.ie/islandora/object/nuigalway%3A8318

https://digital.library.nuigalway.ie/islandora/object/nuigalway%3A8319

https://digital.library.nuigalway.ie/islandora/object/nuigalway%3A8320

https://digital.library.nuigalway.ie/islandora/object/nuigalway%3A8321

https://digital.library.nuigalway.ie/islandora/object/nuigalway%3A8322

https://digital.library.nuigalway.ie/islandora/object/nuigalway%3A8323

https://digital.library.nuigalway.ie/islandora/object/nuigalway%3A8336

https://digital.library.nuigalway.ie/islandora/object/nuigalway%3A8337



Appendix 2

Interview transcription by Catríona Rowsome

RTÉ Raidio na Gaeltachta, interview in Irish between Seán Bán Breathnach and Leon Rowsome, on the radio programme Aoi Cheoltóir. First broadcast 1981, and re-broadcast 7 March 2015.

https://www.rte.ie/radio/radioplayer/html5/#/rnag/10381752    

AS GAEILGE (IN IRISH) Transcription by Caitríona Rowsome

[Leon Rowsome ag ceol agus i mbun chómhrá le Seán Bán Breathnach (SBB) ar an gclár Aoi Cheoltóir (1981)]

[Seinnann Leon Rowsome ar na píobaí uilleann]

SBB:  Dhá ríl bhreá ansin, An Beauty Spot agus Longford Collector, casta ag Leon Rowsome. Céad Fáilte romhat, Leon.

Leon: Go raibh maith agat, a Sheáin.

SBB:  Tá turas fada curtha díot agat inniu ó Bhaile Átha Cliath.

Leon: Sea, tá.

SBB:  Cén aois a rabhais nuair a chasais na píobaí i dtosach?

Leon: Do thosaigh mé ag casadh na píobaí nuair a bhíos ocht mbliana d'aois agus bhíos ag dul timpeall an teach ag seinm nóta amháin ar feadh tamaillín, ach diaidh ar ndiaidh do tháinig mé i bhfeabhas, agus do mhúin m'athair na píobaí dom, agus, bhuel, do tháinig sé go nádúrtha chugham. 

SBB:  Tá gach uile sheans, ar aon nós, go raibh tionchar mhór ag ceol t'athair ort...

Leon: Do bhí. Do bhí tionchar mhór ag ceol m'athair orm, ach do bhíos ag éisteacht le ceoltóirí eile freisin. Tar éis tamaillín, bhuel... níor chuireas mórán áird orthu go dtí go rabhas timpeall cúig bliana is fiche d'aois, nó mar sin. Sé sin Willie Clancy, Johnny Doran agus Patsy Touhey – ceoltóirí cosúil leo siúd. Ach chomh maith le sin, nuair a bhíos trí bliana déag d'aois do thosaigh mé ag cuir suim an-mhór ar fad i gceol na hAlbann. 

SBB:  Cén túdar a bhí le sin?

Leon: Is dócha, Bobby McLeod, Jimmy Shand agus daoine cosúil le sin; an accordion agus Bonnie...  cosúil le sin.

SBB:  Sin é a fáth mar sin go gcasann tú an bosca ceoil freisin, is dóigh.

Leon: Sin é an fáth, 'sea, Casaim nócha fán gcéad ceol Gaelach ar na píobaí agus ar an mbosca casaim  nócha fán gcéad Albannach. 

SBB:  Agus cén píosa ceoil eile a chasfaigh tú dúinn tráthnónna?

Leon: Ar na píobaí?

SBB:  Sea.

Leon: Bheul, an chéad phíosa eile a chasfaigh mé anois ná Fiach a' Mhada Rua. Seo píosa anois, atá cuir síos ann mar gheall ar tóir nó fiach an tsionnaigh; Tosnaíonn sé le sodar na gcapaill i ndiaidh an mhada rua; ansin éiríonn an luas níos tapúla; ansin cloistear fuaim na nadharca; ansin cloistear an fuaim – marú an tsionnaigh; tar éis sin, tá caoineadh an mhada rua; ansin The Foxhunters' Jig; agus ag deireadh thiar thall tá an filleadh abhaile.

[Seineann Leon Rowsome, Fiach a' Mhada Rua ar na bpíobaí]

SBB:  Fiach a' Mhada Rua. 

SBB:  Cad as an sloinne 'Rowsome' ? An dtéann traidisiúín an cheoil i bhfad siar iontu?

Leon: Sea, téann sé siar ceithre gliúin go dtí Contae Loch Garman agus roimhe sin, is dócha gur tháinig an chlann trasna leis na Huguenots, ón bhFrainc is dócha, in Éoraip, in áit éigin. Ach do bhí an cheol... do bhí na píobaí... Mo shean-athair agus a athair roimhe – píobairí an-mhaith a bhí iontu ar fad.

SBB:  An cuimhin leat iad siúd?

Leon: Ní chuimhin liom mo sheanathair. Fuair sé bás sarar rugadh mé. I naoi déag triocha sé (1936) a rugadh mé fhéin.

SBB:  Fear óg fós, bail ó Dhia ort!

Leon: Bhuel, tá mé beagáinín os cionn dachad anois!

SBB:  Bhuel, ar ndóigh, agus do chuid píobaí leat tá súil agam go mbeidh blianta, blianta romhat fós. De réir cosúlachta, leanann an traidisiún leis na Rowsomes, mar tá leaid óg agat atá ag casadh na bpíobaí?

Leon: Caoimhín! Sea, tá sé ag foghlaim na píobaí uaim fhéin, agus ó Chlub na Píobairí i mBaile Átha Cliath freisin. Agus tá mo iníon, Máire, an-mhaith ar an bhfeadóg stáin. Agus i láthair na huaire tá sí ag seinm thíos i gCiarraí, Baile an Fheirtéaraigh, timpeall na háite. Is trua nach bhfuil sí anseo; agus is trua nach bhfuil Caoimhín anseo freisin, ach dúirt sé go rachadh sé ag iascaireacht inniu – tá sé amuigh ag iascaireacht.

SBB:  Agus an aimsir go breá aríst againn, b'fhéidir gur aige siúd atá an chiall.

SBB:  Ar ndóigh, tá caint Chiarraí nádúrtha ag an bhean ina bhfuil tú ceangailte léi – Nóirín. Tá sí sa stiúdeo linn [le Caitríona, an iníon is óige]. Is as an mBuailtín, i gCiarraí í nach ea?

Leon:  Is as an mBuailtín, Noirín, 'sea – as Baile Bhoithín, Baile an Fheirtéaraigh. Cabhairíonn sí liom go mór maidir le déantús na píobaí uilleann, i mBaile Átha Cliath. Is féidir léi obair leathair, obair adhmaid agus obair miotail [a dhéanamh], agus déanann sí na boilg ar fad. Ansin cabhairíonn mo dheartháir chéile atá pósta le deirfiúr Nóirín – Máirtín, tagann sé as Cill Channaigh – cabhairíonn sé linn go mór freisin. Le déanaí tá demand mór ann ó thíortha eile, i gcomhair píopaí uilleann. 

SBB:  Anois cuirfimid ar leithligh iad na bpíobaí, agus casfaigh tú an bosca ceoil an uair seo. Céard a chasfaidh tú?

Leon: Casfaidh mé dhá fonn a thaitníonn go mór liom. Fuaireas as céirnín iad. An chéad – tugtar Tribute to Donald MacLeod ar an chéad cheann agus an dara ceann – tugtar Jack Adrift air.

[Seinnann Leon Rowsome ar an mbosca ceoil] 

SBB:  Tá tú fhéin ag teagasc scoile i mBaile Átha Cliath le roinnt blianta, Leon. Abair anois mura mbeadh post mar sin agat, an mbeadh tú in ann slí mhaireachta a dhéanamh as / de na píobaí?

Leon: Is dócha go mbeinn, tar éis tamaillín, ach b'fhearr liom bheith ag plé le páistí agus ag múineadh páistí freisin... ag múineadh scoile. Táim ag múineadh i Scoil Pobail Chúil Mhín, Cluain Saileach, agus freisin múinim na bpíobaí i Scoil Cheoil na Cathrach. Táim ag múineadh tráchtáil, ceol, luathscríobh 's clóscríobh, agus beagán Gaeilge anois is arís.

SBB:  Ar thug tú faoi deara go bhfuil suim ag na daltaí, suim mhór sa cheol acu, seachas mar a bhíodh blianta ó shin?

Leon: Tá. Tá suim mhór sa cheol acu, ceart go leor. Táim ag baint triail as iad a chuir ar an bhfeadóg stáin agus suim a mhúscailt iontu ins an cheol Gaelach agus ceol go ginearálta.

[Seinnann Leon Rowsome ar na bpíobaí]

Leon: Bheul, b'shin é Blind Mary agus Banríon na Bealtaine, Do tháinig an cheann sin (Banríon na Bealtaine) isteach i m'aigne nuair a bhí Louis McManus ag filleadh abhaile go gtí an Astráil nuair a... bhí sé ag imeacht... do smaoinigh mé ar an gceann sin, níor sheinn mé é le timpeall cúig bliana is fiche... ach tháinig sé isteach i m'aigne. Anois seinnfidh mé cúpla píosaí Albannacha a chuala mé nuair a bhí mé ar Teilifís na hAlban timpeall deich mbliana ó shin. An chéad cheann.. is dócha gur na MacDonald Sisters nó Calum Cameron nó daoine mar sin a bhí ag canadh. Fal da Lal O an chéad cheann agus Hyland... agus cúpla cinn eile... níl mé róchinnte mar gheall ar na hainmneacha.

[Seinnann Leon Rowsome ar an mbosca ceoil]  

Leon: Anois seinfidh mé píosa do máthair Noirín, mo mháthair chéile, The Rights of Man. Sin píosa a thaitníodh go mór le Séamus, a fear chéile, a fuair bás i 1970, beannacht Dé lena anam. Agus tar éis sin seinnfidh mé slip jig ar a dtugtar The Drops of Brandy.

[Seinnann Leon Rowsome ar na píobaí uilleann]

Leon Rowsome ansin ag ceol agus i mbun chómhrá le Seán Bán Breathnach ar an gclár Aoi Chainnteoir, clár a chraolidh an chead uair sa bhliain 1981

AS BÉARLA (IN ENGLISH) Transcription by Caitríona Rowsome

[Leon Rowsome playing music and conversing with Seán Bán Breathnach (SBB) on the radio programme Aoi Cheoltóir (1981)] 

[The programme starts with Leon Rowsome playing a couple of reels on the uilleann pipes]

SBB: Two lovely reels there, The Beauty Spot and Longford Collector, played by Leon Rowsome. Welcome, Leon!

Leon: Thank you, Seán!

SBB: You have travelled a long way here from Dublin, today.

Leon: Yes, I have.

SBB: When did you start to play the [uilleann] pipes?

Leon: I started to play the pipes when I was eight years old and I'd go around the house playing one note for a little while. But little by little I started to improve; and my father [Leo] taught me the pipes, and well – it came naturally to me. 

SBB: The chances are, at any rate, that your father's music had a big influence on you.

Leon: It had – my father's music had a big influence on me – but I'd listen to other musicians too. After a while, well... I didn't take much notice of them until I was about 25 years old – that is, Willie Clancy, Johnny Doran and Patsy Touhey – musicians such as these. In addition to that, I started to get very interested in Scottish music when I was 13 years old. 

SBB: In which artists?

Leon: I suppose, Bobby McLeod and Jimmy Shand, people like that. The accordion and Bonnie...

SBB: Then that's why you also play the accordion, I suppose.

Leon: That's why, yes. 90% of the music I play on the pipes is Irish music, and 90% of the music I play on the accordion is Scottish music.

SBB: And what other music will you play for us this afternoon?

Leon: On the pipes?

SBB: Yes.

Leon: Well, the piece that I will play next is Fiach a' Mhada Rua (The Fox Chase). This is a piece that describes a fox hunt or chase. It starts with the cantering of horses after the fox (the Gallop); then the speed quickens (the Chase); then the sounding of horns is heard, followed by the demise of the fox; after that, the lament for the fox, followed by The Foxhunters' Jig; then at long last, the return home.

[Leon Rowsome plays Fiach a' Mhada Rua (The Fox Chase) on the uilleann pipes]

SBB: Fiach a' Mhada Rua

SBB. From where does the surname 'Rowsome' originate? Does the music tradition go back a long way in the Rowsomes?

Leon: Yes. it goes back four generations to County Wexford, and before that it's believed that the family came across with the Huguenots from France... someplace in Europe. But there was music, pipes... My grandfather [William Rowsome] and his father before him [Samuel Rowsome] were very proficient pipers.

SBB: Do you remember them? 

Leon: I don't remember my grandfather [William]. He died before I was born – I was born in 1936.

SBB: You're a young man yet, God be with you!

Leon: Well, I'm a bit over 40 now!

SBB: Well, at any rate, I hope you'll enjoy many, many more years to come with the pipes. It appears, that the tradition continues with the Rowsomes, as you have a young lad [son] that plays the pipes?

Leon: Kevin, yes. He is learning the pipes from me and from the Pipers' Club in Dublin also. And my daughter Mary, is very good on the tin whistle. At the moment she is playing in Ballyferriter, Kerry – around there. It's a pity that she is not here; and it's a pity that Kevin is not here also, but he said he'd go fishing today – he's out fishing.

SBB: As the weather is good again, he's making the most of it.

SBB: You're married to Noreen, a native Irish speaker from Kerry – she's with us here in the studio [with Caitríona, youngest daughter]. She's from Ballyferriter, isn't that right?

Leon: Noreen is from An mBuailtín, yes – Ballywiheen, Ballyferriter. She's a terrific help to me with pipe-making in Dublin. She is capable of leather work, wood work and metal work. She makes the bags and my brother-in-law, Martin from Kilkenny, who is married to Noreen's sister, he is a great help to us also. Recently there is a big demand for uilleann pipes from other countries.

SBB: Now we'll put the pipes to one side, and you'll play the accordion this time round. What will you play?

Leon: I'll play two tunes that really appeal to me. I got them from [listening to] a record. The first is called Tribute to Donald MacLeod and the second is called Jack Adrift.

[Leon plays the accordion]    

SBB: You are teaching for a number of years now in a school in Dublin, Leon. If you didn't have that job, would you be able to make a living from the pipes?

Leon: I suppose I would, after a while. But I prefer engaging with, and teaching children. I teach in Coolmine Community School, Clonsilla and I also teach the pipes in the College of Music, Dublin. I teach commerce, music, shorthand and typing, and a little Irish now and then.

SBB: Did you notice that students have a big interest in music, compared with how it was years ago?

Leon: They have. They have a great interest in music, alright. I am experimenting with starting them on the tin whistle, to awaken their interest in Irish music and in music in general.

[Leon plays two tunes on the pipes]

Leon: Well, that was Blind Mary and Banríon na Bealtaine, That one – Banríon na Bealtaine – came to mind when Louis McManus was returning to Australia – when he was leaving I thought of that one. I hadn't played it in about 25 years, but it came to mind. But now I'll play a couple of Scottish tunes that I heard when I was on Scottish television about 10 years ago. The first one was sung by, I think, The MacDonald Sisters or Calum Cameron or people like that. Fal da Lal O is the first one and Hyland... and a couple of others... I'm not too sure of their names.

[Leon plays the accordion]      

Leon: Now I'll play a tune for Noreen's mother – my mother-in-law [Mary] – The Rights of Man. That's a tune her husband – Séamus [James O'Flaherty] – was fond of. Séamus died in 1970, God rest his soul. And after that, I'll play a slip jig called The Drops of Brandy.

[Leon plays two more tunes on the uilleann pipes, drawing the radio programme to a close]

Leon Rowsome there playing music and in conversation with Seán Bán Breathnach on the programme Aoi Chainnteoir, a programme that was first broadcast in 1981


Appendix 3

Newspaper references for articles shown in blog images.

Figure 2: Newspaper articles about performances by Leon with the Blackthorn Céilí Band:

Blackthorn Ceili Band with May Crawford (vocalist), Inniscarra, 1967

Blackthorn Ceili Band (Of Radio and Television fame), Sligo Champion, May 31, 1968

Blackthorn Ceili Band (Of Radio and Television fame), Sligo Champion, June 07, 1968

Blackthorn Ceili Band, St Finian’s Hall, Kinnegad, Meath Chronicle, June 08, 1968

Blackthorn Ceili Band, Fleadh Ceili Lurgan, An Cnoc, Connemara, Connacht Tribune, July 12, 1968

Blackthorn Ceili Bank, Leitrim Observer, August 10, 1968

Blackthorn Ceili Band, Leitrim Observer,  August 24, 1968

Blackthorn Ceili Band, Leitrim Observer, August 31, 1968

Blackthorn Ceili Band, Sonna Hall, Westmeath Examiner, March 15,1969

Blackthorn Ceili Band, Radio Eireann broadcast, Ceili House, Irish Press, April 8, 1967

Figure 3: Newspaper Articles about Performances by Leon as a solo uilleann piper on Radio Eireann

Ceili House, Sean O Murchu introduces Leon Rowsome (pipes), Irish Press, January 20, 1962

Radio Eireann broadcast the previous Friday, Nationalist and Leinster Times, March, 22, 1963

Ceili House, Sean O Murchu introduces Leon Rowsome (pipes), Strabane Chronicle, August 9, 1969

Ceili House, Sean O Murchu introduces Leon Rowsome (pipes), Ulster Herald, August 9, 1969

Ceili House, Sean Ó Murchú introduces Leon Rowsome