There wasn’t an aspect of the late Paddy Cronin’s life that didn’t come to life under Nicky McAuliffe’s fine, tooth-combing in Scartaglin last night.
It was the highly respected music historian’s second stint in the chair in the course of the eight, monthly series of the Handed Down programme. Last night’s episode was the final in the series which had run in the village heritage centre since last September.
Anyone who ever stroked a bow across a fiddle or bruised a button or filled a bellows in the general Sliabh Luachra area were mentioned in its course.
There was, of course a lot more made out of those who had made it big – whatever that would mean in the context of musicians living in the highly cultured and now sprawling Sliabh Luachra district.
It has also provided a platform for the new wave of brilliant, young musicians who are wandering among the music, stories and legacies of the lives of those gone before them.
Paudie O’Connor is young enough to be counted among this wave of flag-bearers. Beside him, and strictly on merit, you’ll see the likes of : Bryan O’Leary, Darragh Curtin, Niamh McSweeney, Micheál Ó Sé and more. Of course, Dónal Cullinane and his aunt, Emma O’Leary belong there. In a wave or two behind them you’ll find a young lad from Kilcummin with a Russian sounding christian name: Kirill Healy is a brilliant and very young whistle player – at least. It wouldn’t surprise me if he plays a few more instruments. This is a list of purity itself as brilliance alone will get you there.
Borrowing a line from Isaac Newton, Nicky said that Paddy Cronin stood on the shoulders of giants and, therefore, became a giant himself.
If Paddy Cronin happened to be in the audience in Scart last night, Nicky’s presentation would have been punctuated by loud peals of hearty laughter from the Gneeveguilla born fiddler. His first anniversary fell on March 15th
Handed Down co-founder, PJ Teahan introduced the full house to the concept as there are new faces appearing all the time.
Dutch couple Caroline Vermeulen and Martin Van Hensbergen arrived for the night as part of their latest voyage of immersion in the cultural and musical life of the area.
Instrument maker and musician, Tomás Mac Uileagóid and his daughters, Niamh and Saidhbh sat down first and played on his creations.
Eileen de Paor, Connie O’Connell and Darragh Curtin entertained then and were joined by Niamh Nic Uileagóid on the Harp.
Christór Ó Cróinín then sang solo and gave us one about the man being honoured on the night.
Con Moynihan and his nephew, Aidan Connelly and Denis O’Connor followed.
Host, PJ Teahan and musician and broadcaster Danny O’Mahony then took the audience on a trip of music and story and right up to the Nicky McAuliffe half of the night.
And, to borrow the remark attributed to the late great Patrick O’Keeffe: “They were all very good.”
This he allegedly uttered one fine day during a fleadh in Ballyheigue. After a late night playing and the rest, he dozed off during the competition in the heat of the afternoon – and that was his response on being asked for his verdict.
At the end of the night, Paddy Cronin’s niece, Theresa Horan was invited into the spotlight to recite a poem she had written to her famous uncle on his passing.
There was a surprise then for PJ Teahan and Mick Culloty – in fact, it was more of a land. Bean a ‘tí in Scart, Bridie Garvey landed in with a cake and candle to say thanks and to mark the end of the Handed Down run.
PJ had praised Bridie earlier for her huge contribution to the smooth running of the series and for providing her trademark trays of barn brack and tea for all who attended. In wrapping up, PJ appealed to the audience to mark World Fiddle Day on May 16th in their diaries, on their bedroom and cow-house walls and palms of hands.
“This” he enthused “is going to be a day of pure Sliabh Luachra music and culture and it will start at 1-30pm on that Saturday and it will finish where ever it will finish.” And that was it.