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Thomas Kerrigan, 1843–1898

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Thomas Kerrigan, uilleann pipes ; Dan McCarthy, dancer / Unidentified photographer. New York, ca 1879. Image courtesy Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University.

One of the most prominent traditional musicians on the 19th century American stage was Thomas F. Kerrigan, an uilleann piper originally from Granard, County Longford. He told Francis O’Neill, the great collector and chronicler of Irish music, that he “came to this country in 1863, and spent the first five years in traveling,” declaring that “my people have been pipers for more than 200 years.” He performed for years with step dancer Neil Conway, whose obituary recorded that the duo “played all the principal variety houses in the USA and Canada.” Kerrigan later teamed up with dancer/singer Dan McCarthy, with whom he published songs.   

In the early 1870s, Kerrigan ran a bar on the Lower East Side of Manhattan where the Taylor brothers, famous makers of loud, concert-pitch uilleann pipes, turned out their first American sets in a basement workshop. By 1876, he had moved uptown to 316 West 42nd Street, only a block or so from Times Square. There he managed and performed nightly in “Kerrigan’s Pleasant Hour” until shortly before his death in 1898. An obituary in the Irish World hailed the Pleasant Hour as “one of the best-known resorts in the city” where “there were to be found the most famous reel, jig and clog dancers.”  

Kerrigan's "Pleasant Hour," 42nd Street, New York City  / Unidentified photographer
Kerrigan's "Pleasant Hour," 42nd Street, New York City / Unidentified photographer
Kerrigan's "Pleasant Hour," 42nd Street, New York City. Thomas Kerrigan 1843-1898 is third from left. / Unidentified photographer. 42nd Street, New York, 1890s. Image courtesy Nick Whitmer.
 
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Kerrigan's "Pleasant Hour," 42nd Street, New York City / Unidentified photographer

Kerrigan's "Pleasant Hour," 42nd Street, New York City  / Unidentified photographer

Kerrigan's "Pleasant Hour," 42nd Street, New York City / Unidentified photographer

© Public domain

Thomas Kerrigan and Dan McCarthy / Unidentified photographer
Thomas Kerrigan and Dan McCarthy / Unidentified photographer
Thomas Kerrigan, uilleann pipes ; Dan McCarthy, dancer / Unidentified photographer. New York, ca 1879. Image courtesy Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University.
 
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Thomas Kerrigan and Dan McCarthy / Unidentified photographer

Thomas Kerrigan and Dan McCarthy / Unidentified photographer

Thomas Kerrigan and Dan McCarthy / Unidentified photographer

© Public domain