Peter Browne and the Handed Down Milestone in Scart

At the Handed Down tribute to Peter Browne in Scartaglin on Saturday night were: founder member, PJ Teahan (left) with Noeleen O’Donnell, Roisín O’Connor, Peter Browne and Ciarán Browne. Back row: Aoife Ní Chaoimh, Paudie O’Connor, Joe Creedon and Paddy Jones.  ©Photograph: John Reidy

The long and fruitful association between RTÉ Radio and the musicians and custodians of the culture associated with the Sliabh Luachra area marked and stood another important milestone in Scartaglin on Saturday night.

Appreciation from Sliabh Luachra

The start of the fifth Handed Down Traditional Music Lecture and Concert series was billed as ‘Peter Browne – An Appreciation from Sliabh Luachra’ and, along with contributions from guest musicians, Paudie O’Connor was the nominated MC or fear a ‘tí.

Mr. Browne recently retired from his role as presenter / producer with RTÉ Radio and Saturday night’s event in Scart provided an opportunity for the musicians and the mere mortals of the region to honour his contribution to the cultural wellbeing of the region.

Examples of Musicianship

The event opened with some superb examples of musicianship from: Paddy Jones and Roisín O’Connor, solo fiddles and a piping solo from Ciarán Browne, a piping duet with the Brownes father and son, songs from Joe Creedon and a group session with Noeleen O’Donnell, Aoife Ní Chaoimh and the same Paudie O’Connor.

Paudie then took Peter aside – for want of a better way of putting it – and they got on with their well planned move to the side of the stage.

Painstaking Documentary Work

The host brought Peter on a fascinating and thoroughly researched, up hill, down dale interview from his childhood to today.

This was illustrated throughout by photographs, audio clips and text on the big screen on the rear wall of the stage.

Needless to mention, but his excellent and painstaking work on the radio documentary ‘The Sliabh Luachra Fiddle Master’ took centre stage and Paudie teased every possible drop of background information from Peter on the making of the landmark programmes in the early 1990s.

CD Compilation

This work led directly to the founding of the Patrick O’Keeffe Traditional Music Festival – of which the 26th holding is in the door to us. It’s on from Friday 26th to Monday 29th inclusive. It also spawned the compilation of a CD of the music of O’Keeffe which was launched by Peter Browne and the late Ciarán MacMathúna at the first festival in October 1993.

Down-playing his Role

A saying attributed to former American President Harry Truman goes: ‘It’s amazing what you can do if you do not care who gets the credit.’

It fits Peter Browne down to the ground. He could be heard again on Saturday night down-playing his role in the growing popularity of the music of the Sliabh Luachra area in particular – while clearly not neglecting his obligations to that of the other regions – as his role demanded.

Tree Falling in the Forest

It’s a bit like the question of the big tree falling in the forest. Would we ever know what noise it made – if any – but for the fact that Peter Browne and his equals were there to capture and witness it all.

The Con Houlihan reference to chroniclers of history and tradition and his beautifully coined ‘Falling over the Cliff of Silence’ also comes to mind in connection with the collectors who went well out of their way to ensure our past has a future.

Sense of Humour

Like the Farmers’ Journal in its targeted industry, Peter Browne is fearlessly on the musicians’ side. He is first and foremost a musician – and has the sense of humour to prove it.

His interviews are peppered with bouts of knowing, but unobtrusive, laughter as his interviewees describe the vagaries of their lives, the various instruments and the bags of skills needed to play them to the standards required.

Shaving and Tying Your Laces

Wasn’t it Paddy Jones himself who told Peter, in the course of a Radio One chat, that playing the fiddle sometimes felt like trying to tie one’s shoelaces and shaving at the same time.

I was given the honour of presenting an excellent painting, of Peter and his son Ciarán in full piping battle harness, to the man of the moment.

Much Admired Painting

The much admired painting is the work of Mairéad Brosnan – a sister-in-law of Handed Down founder member, PJ Teahan.

Peter’s wife Siobhán and daughter Iseult were also in Scartaglin for the special occasion.

As a founder and a great friend of the Patrick O’Keeffe Traditional Music Festival, Peter Browne will be subjected to further bouts of honouring at this month’s festival in Castleisland. There will be more about that later.

Exciting Box Playing Prospects

Two excellent, young box players and exciting prospects, Michael Healy from Kilcummin and Kealan O’Connor from Beaufort brought the curtain down on a night when another milestone was set firmly in the Handed Down archive in Scartaglin Heritage Centre.

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