The World of Paddy Murphy

Travelling with Reid

In the conservative post-colonial milieu of the 1930s and 1940s, the status afforded to traditional music by the state and the media in Ireland was at best peripheral. As the new Free State struggled to come to terms with political and economic uncertainty, cultural planning played second fiddle to the harsh realities of the job market and its bitter alter ego, the emigrant ship. In cities and provincial towns, bourgeois Ireland enjoyed occasional theatre, light opera and church-based choral societies. While church and state tried in vain to curb the flow of jazz into the country, they were powerless to stop the march of Hollywood, which found patrons in all sectors of Irish society. Traditional music, on the other hand, was all too often the preserve of rural communities and the families of rural migrants living in towns and cities. In Ennis, where class boundaries and high culture were set in stone during the 1930s, traditional music was very much 'below the salt.' An intrepid exception to these cultural norms was northern fiddler Seán Reid who came to Clare in 1937 to work as Assistant County Engineer. A native of Castlederg, Co. Tyrone on the Derry border, Reid had played a key part in the Dublin Pipers Club and was known throughout the country as a dynamic organiser. One of the chief architects of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, the Tulla Céilí Band, Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy and Na Piobairí Uilleann, Reid was a natural diplomat. During the 1940s and 1950s, he drove musicians all over Clare and beyond, and created lasting friendships wherever he went. For many musicians, whose radars seldom extended beyond walking or cycling distance, Reid was their ticket to the outside world.

Paddy Murphy recalled fondly the impression that Reid made on the musicians of Fiach Roe. 'Reid was a very ordinary man outside of his profession. He was just like one of the ordinary fellows. He has great value for the labourer in the County Council cottage, especially if he was able to play a tune. He thought as much of him as he did of the County Surveyor or the County Manager. He was a fierce enthusiast for the music and he spared no energy for it. He traveled the county up and down to anywhere there was a musician and, of course, he encouraged and helped in every way to keep the music going and the morale of the musicians high. And, at the back of it all, he was a perfect gentleman. He used to come to Connolly in the late 1930s and he was a mighty man for bringing lads together. He would round up a crowd here and bring them back to Miltown, or he might bring a crowd of us over to east Clare for a session. His car was great to last the loading it used to get. It was the only car that most of us ever travelled in in those days. Mickey Hanrahan used to travel a lot with Reid and he used to tell a great yarn about some fierce cold night he was traveling with him. He had some old banger of a car and there was a hole in the floor. Mickey was describing it afterwards and when he came to this hole in the floor he said: Well, the breeze was coming in through the floor, it was going up the leg of my trousers and it kept going until it came out above at my stud.'

The People:

Paddy Murphy

Peadar O'Loughlin

Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin

Tom Eustace

The Place:

Maps of Clare

Map of the Parish

The Music:

The World of Paddy Murphy

The Irish Concertina

Music News of the Time



Other Sites of Interest:

Celtic Crossings

Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin

The World of Paddy Murphy

An essay by:

Dr. Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin, MBA, Ph.D.
Smurfit Stone Professor of Irish Studies & Professor of Music
Center for International Studies, University of Missouri-St. Louis

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