Brosna musician, Darragh Curtin was announced the winner of the Senior Fiddler of Dooney title in Sligo on Sunday. This is a very prestigious fiddle title carrying a prize of €1,000 and a specially commissioned platter.
Even more precious to the musical traditions of his native Brosna, and to the Sliabh Luachra area in general, is the fact that he is the first and only Kerry person to have won this title. Darragh is a son of Gerard and Mairéad Curtin and a brother of Suzanne (twin) and Gearóid.
It may require a read down through the list of former winners of this title to take in the magnitude of Darragh’s weekend achievements.
That list includes the likes of: Matt Cranitch in 1969; Manus McGuire in 1970; Paddy Glackin in 1970; Cathal Hayden in 1989 and MacDara O Raghallaigh in 1991. You don’t need the full list to get the picture here.
Darragh Curtin is the current holder of the Oireachtas Senior Fiddle title and, co-incidentally, a century after Patrick O’Keeffe won that title in Killarney in 1914.
After a few early lessons on the instrument at the age of ten, the now 18-year-old Darragh bowed his own fiddle a few years later and was keen, even at that young age, to develop his own style.
He admires and keenly listens to all the Sliabh Luachra greats including his grand-uncles, the colourful and musically gifted, Con Curtin and his equally talented – if less noted brother, Patie Curtin.
Paddy Cronin stands out in Darragh’s estimation for, not alone, his mastery of his own Sliabh Luachra music but also for how he adapted to the Sligo style of fiddling.
In that regard, the gifted, young Kerryman greatly admires the Sligo Leitrim style and its exponents like: the Lennons, Ben Charlie and Maurice with Tommy Peoples and Kevin Burke for their versatility.
Darragh, along with his twin sister, Suzanne, brother, Gearóid and Abbeyfeale based Banjo player, Gearóid Keating played a few sessions here in Castleisland over the Patrick O’Keeffe Traditional Music Festival.
No strangers to awards, members of the Curtin family have played with the honour laden U-18 Templeglantine Céilí Band and Darragh also won the Maurice O’Keeffe Traditional Music Festival Cup for the fiddle in 2009 – just a handful of years after taking up the instrument.
The Fiddler of Dooney competition was inagurated in 1965 and is one of the oldest and most prestigious instrumental competitions in traditional music circles. Its title is inspired by the W B Yeats poem of the same name.
The Fiddler of Dooney by W.B. Yeats.
When I play on my fiddle in Dooney,
Folk dance like a wave of the sea;
My cousin is priest in Kilvarnet,
My brother in Mocharabuiee.
I passed my brother and cousin:
They read in their books of prayer;
I read in my book of songs
I bought at the Sligo fair.
When we come at the end of time
To Peter sitting in state,
He will smile on the three old spirits,
But call me first through the gate;
For the good are always the merry,
Save by an evil chance,
And the merry love the fiddle,
And the merry love to dance:
And when the folk there spy me,
They will all come up to me,
With ‘Here is the fiddler of Dooney!’
And dance like a wave of the sea.
Here’s the full list of the Fiddler of Dooney winners and the years on which it was held.
1965: Gerry Forde; 1966: Seamus McGuire; 1967: Seamus Conolly; 1968; Kathleen Collins: 1969: Matt Cranitch; 1970: Manus McGuire;
- 1971: Paddy Glacken; 1972: Tony Smith; 1988 Brid Harper; 1989: Cathal Hayden; 1990: Brenda McCann; 1991: MacDara O Raghallaigh;
1992: Elizabeth Keane; 1993: Enda McNamara; 1995: Stephen Hayden; 1996: ?? O’Neill; 2006: Tara Breen; 2007: Laura Beegan; 2008: Bronwyn Power;
2009: Aoife NíBhrían; 2010: Rhona Lynch; 2011: Niall Murphy; 2012: Lucia McPartlin; 2013: Lydia Warnock and 2014: Darragh Curtin, Brosna.
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