Dr O’Beirne’s Recordings Collection, 1960s

Dr O’Beirne’s Recordings Collection, 1960s

Now playing: Connie the soldier, jig / Sonny Brogan, accordion
  1. Connie the soldier, jig / Sonny Brogan, accordion
  2. Pay the reckoning, jig / John Egan, flute
  3. The maid in the cherry tree, reel ; and other reels / Tommy Reck, uilleann pipes
  4. An buachaill caol dubh, air ; The Kilmaley reel / Feistí Ó Conluain, whistle
  5. Dr Gilbert, reel ; & other reels / Seán Keane, fiddle
  6. The dogs among the bushes, reel / Paddy Taylor, flute
  7. The Sligo maid, reel ; and other reels / Barney McKenna, banjo
  8. Cailleach an airgid, song / Seán Ó Conaire, singing in Irish
  9. Paddy Ryan’s dream, reel ; & other reels / Joe O’Dowd, fiddle
  10. Rakish Paddy, reel / Felix Doran, uilleann pipes
  11. The Dublin reel ; & other reels / Dessie O’Connor, flute
  12. The dawn, reel / Joe Cooley, accordion

Dr O’Beirne’s Recordings Collection, 1960s

During the late 1950s and early 1960s Dr Tom O’Beirne, now of Mohill, Co Leitrim, was a medical student in Dublin and an enthusiast for Irish traditional music. He had acquired a domestic reel-to-reel tape recorder and used it to record musicians in his flat in Rathgar and in the Irish music club that then operated in Church St in the city. He also recorded traditional music from Ciarán Mac Mathúna’s radio programmes on RTÉ, and from the ‘Bring Down the Lamp’ series on RTÉ Television. A selection of these recordings is presented here; Dr O’Beirne’s voice can be heard identifying some of the selections.

Irish traditional instrumental music was growing in popularity in Dublin from the early 1960s – aided by the public performances of groups such as the Castle Ceili Band and Ceoltóirí Chualann, and by radio and television programmes – although it was at the time nothing as popular as were traditional songs and ballads.

Older Dublin musicians, like the accordion player Sonny Brogan and the uilleann piper Tommy Reck, played regularly with older immigrant country musicians, like the flute player John Egan from Sligo, and celebrity players visiting the city, like flute player Paddy Taylor of Limerick & London and the accordion player Joe Cooley of Galway. A new rising generation of Dublin instrumentalists was also to be heard, among them banjo player Barney McKenna, flute and whistle player Dessie O’Connor, and fiddle player Sean Keane. Much of the music then current in the city is to be found in Breandán Breathnach’s first printed collection Ceol Rince na hÉireann (Dublin, 1963).

The technology of tape recording had been introduced commercially in the late 1940s in the United States. But it was only used in the professional domain in Ireland until the later 1950s when domestic reel-to-reel tape machines began to become widely available. Awkward to use and normally depending on mains electrical supply, these held the field until the 1970s when they were generally abandoned for the inferior but more convenient cassette tape recorder.

With thanks to Dr Tom O’Beirne for the donation of his tape recordings and for permission to publish selections from them; to Tom Mulligan of the Cobblestone bar, Smithfield, Dublin, for his good offices; and to fiddle player Jesse Smith for his work in digitising them. ITMA always welcomes the donation of such tape recordings or the opportunity to copy them.

NC & DD, 1 August 2010