Music to historians’ ears as rare tunes discovered in a County Limerick attic

Donal O’Regan

Reporter:

Donal O’Regan

Noel McCarthy is launching the book in Cappamore on Friday, May 23
A RARE collection of traditional Irish music tunes featuring some that were banned by the Gaelic League have been lovingly bound in a book.

A RARE collection of traditional Irish music tunes featuring some that were banned by the Gaelic League have been lovingly bound in a book.

The dance and song music sheets were collected by Cappamore man, John McCarthy, between 1876 and 1912 and now they have been restored and compiled by his grandson, Noel.

“My grandfather was a fiddle player and loved collecting things, and it was only after his death that my father, Paddy, discovered the 535 music and dance sheets in his attic 40 years ago,” said Noel.

His dad gave Noel the collection of music and the family handed over the McCarthy Manuscripts to the University of Limerick library in 2000.

When Noel was employed as a porter in UL in 2005 he decided to research the papers and to compile a book. He has painstakingly sourced pictures and details of musicians from Cappamore and the Silvermines, who feature in the collection.

The book will be launched in O’Dwyer’s in Cappamore on Friday, May 23 at 9pm by writer and UL librarian, Dr Mícheál Ó hAodha and Peig Ryan, musician and music teacher in Murroe. It will be on sale from next week in O’Mahony’s and Eason’s.

“It was a real labour of love and what I learnt was the people’s entertainment at that time was all about the dance - some of the set dances of the day were banned by the Gaelic League and replaced by their own newly approved ceili dances. Fortunately John McCarthy’s collection remained intact and it contains examples of music and songs that were not regarded as ‘appropriate’ at the time by the Gaelic League like the RIC Polka, and songs and tunes from Irish, British, European and American composers,” said Noel.

The beautifully illustrated book entitled, John McCarthy of Cappamore, Ireland: His Irish Traditional Music Manuscripts 1876-1912, Collected from the Cappamore/ Silvermines area.

Noel inherited his love of music from his grandfather and he started playing the fiddle on his grandfather’s old violin when he was 15. He has since developed a great love of traditional music and has played with groups in Castleconnell, Boher, Limerick city and Carrigkerry. He would like to thank everyone who helped him with his research. “I am especially grateful to UL and I would like to thank all my friends in Cruinniu, Garryowen Comhaltas who helped me raise funds to cover the costs of the book, Cllr Kieran O’Hanlon and Shelia Deegan for their support,” said Noel.