The World of Paddy Murphy

Public Forum, Inner Sanctum

For over twenty years, Paddy played most Sunday evenings in Willie McNamara's pub (later Garvey's) in the village of Inagh. Peadar O'Loughlin, Tom Eustace, Georgie Byrt, Michael Kelliher and Tom Rynne were among his regular cohorts at this session. Their old style music, with its lonesome lift and rhythm, attracted old style set dancers from the surrounding countryside, among them Paddy Enright, whose Hesitation Step learned from the famous dancing master Pat Barron, was a sight to behold in the middle of the fourth figure. Keenly aware of the 'fast and bad' impact of knavish pubs and profiteer publicans on traditional music, Paddy eschewed the limelight and the vulgar nexus of lounge bar entertainment that was sweeping the country in the 1970s. Clare's longest running session in Inagh was a low-key affair, where mountainy farmers met for a pint after a hard week's work, and where musicians often outnumbered dancers.

When newcomers sat in at the edge of the session, Paddy was often the first to welcome them and offer his seat on the stage to a French fiddler who said too little, or a Dublin piper who said too much. Yet, when the cap-clad elders of the mountain took to the floor to batter out the steps of the Caledonian set, Murphy was the talisman who reached back into the dim recesses of time and place to breathe new life into an age-old music. If Inagh was Murphy's public forum, however, Fiach Roe was his inner sanctum. His music was at its most comfortable in his own house in Bealcragga, or in the quaint back room of Denis Kearney's pub in Connolly - one of best-kept secret hiding places of the quintessential 'quiet session' in Clare. Reminiscent of a scene from a Carlton novel, Kearney's was more a house of cuaird than a pub in the strict sense. Presided over by Denis and his wife Bridgie whose wit and humour were legendary, Kearney's was a haven for anyone seeking an antidote to the neon and plastic of trite urban culture. It was here that the suave confidence of the 'townie' met its match in the subtle discourse of country people and the stranger who 'slipped in unknownst' saw his anonymity dwindle away quietly into the small hours.

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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Funding for the Paddy Murphy website was graciously provided
by a generous grant from the Irish Arts Council.