page 11

page 12

The rugby may not have been particularly inspiring, but Hamish Moore’s visit to Dublin’s Landsdowne Road - and the subsequent musical conviviality - prompted this suggestion that we should organise exchange visits with the Irish pipers’ society

IT WAS the rugby weekend in Dublin in February, when Scotland took on Ireland and a bunch of us headed down to Prestwick on the train to catch the Dublin flight. I had been in touch with my good friend Fintan Vallely (flautist, piper and founder member of the Armagh Piper’s Club), asking where the best musical crack would be in Dublin on a Friday evening.

Hughes’ Bar was the answer and after several attempts to find it, a Dubliner gave us a few rough directions (90 per cent of the folk in Dublin seemed to be from Eastern Europe and had never heard of Hughes’). Eventually after a roundabout walk to the Four Courts via the wrong side of the Liffey, we were treated to a wonderful evening of traditional music and a few pints of the stout. There were two sessions going on simultaneously, a piping one in the snug, while in the main part of the bar there were delightful tunes on concertina and flute with Harry Bradley on guitar. Fintan, after he arrived, added another flute and us seven Scots thought we had died and gone to heaven.

The Guinness was sublime and the tunes just swung along at a beautiful pace and rhythm. No rushing and no speed - there was no need for it as no- one was going anywhere. We were in for a great evening. A couple of us joined the musicians for a few tunes and I got chatting to Harry, who is an active member of Na Piobairi Uilleann - the Irish pipers’ soci- ety - and suddenly inspiration struck. The image of an exchange weekend with the LBPS appeared before of my very eyes. The whole thing looked something like this.....

There would be an annual exchange weekend, with alternating visits of NPU to Scotland and LBPS to Ireland. The formula would be simple: so far as Scotland is concerned, a good- going Friday night session; and on the Saturday, workshops and talks relating to common piping culture such as reeds and/or cane, pastoral pipes, their relationship with Scotland and their evolution into union pipes, common repertoire (but different names), playing styles, archive material, the histories of the piping revivals of both countries, “mini performances”


of playing and dancing ... and a big dinner.

There would also be an evening concert featuring pipers   from   both   Scottish    and    Irish traditions. On the Sunday there could be a visit to some site of historic importance - in Scotland, for instance - Rosslyn Chapel, then lunch followed by a farewell session.

Since returning home, I have been back in touch with Harry, who put the proposal to Na Piobairi Uilleann, who are mightily interested and were due to discuss it at their next meeting. I have been in touch with Rona MacDonald about both these ideas and she has been very positive in her reaction, and I'll keep the LBPS posted on developments as they unfurl.


And the rugby? Well, it was pretty dour, not a great game at all, and Scotland lost, although that didn’t seem to matter too much after our recent successes. It was a privilege, however, to be standing on the Lansdowne Road terracing for the last time ever be- fore the stadium is taken down, to be replaced with a larger stadium in west Dublin.

It didn’t stop raining the whole game and we got a flipping soaking, but it mattered not a weasel as we had another wonderful session to look forward to in Hughes’.


Harry put the idea to to Na Piobairi Uilleann, who were mightily interested and due to discuss it at their next meeting.


(Note from the Ed: I have to declare a family interest here. Hughes’ is owned by in-laws of mine and is indeed a great place for traditional Irish music. It's at 19 Chancery Street, on the north side of the Liffey, just behind the Four Courts. Good crack guaranteed)