Taisce Luachmhar (Valuable Treasure)

The Fiddle Album

Cairdeas na bhFidileiri CNF011

1. The Foot of the Glen, The Road to the Town and The Morning Star - reels (Denis Murphy)
2. Farewell to Whiskey, The Dark Girl Dressed in Blue and The Knocknaboul - polkas (Denis Murphy)
3. Fisher's and Shanahan's - hornpipes (Denis Murphy)
4. The Humours of Lisheen and The Lark in the Bog - double jigs (Denis Murphy)
5. Tomorrow Morning and Byrne's - hornpipes (Patrick and Sean O'Sullivan)
6. The Dawn and The Maid of Mount Kisco - reels (Patrick and Sean O'Sullivan)
7. The Rookery, Gallagher's Frolic and The Maid at the Spinning Wheel - double jigs (Aggie Whyte)
8. Ben Hill and Dunphy's - hornpipes (Aggie Whyte)
9. Tom Ward's Downfall, Corney is Coming and All Hands Around - reels (Joe Milton)
10. Dever the Dancer, The Drops of Brandy and Cahiramee - slip jigs (Joe Milton)
11. The Sligo Maid's Lament and The Maid of Mount Kisco - (John Kelly – fiddle and Felix Doran – uilleann pipes)
12. Bunch of Keys and Lord MacDonald's - reels (John Kelly)
13. Pigeon on the Gate and The Tarbolton - reels (Tommie Potts)
14. Bonnie Kate and Jenny's Chickens - reels (Tommie Potts)
15. Tom Ennis' and The Maid Behind the Bar - reels (Patrick Clarke)
16. The Lark in the Morning and The Wandering Minstrel - double jigs (Patrick Clarke)
17. The Boys at the Lough, The Kerry Reel and Reidy Johnson's - reels (Patrick Clarke )
18. The High Level and McCormack's - hornpipes (Sean Maguire)
19. The Wandering Minstrel, Fasten the Leg on Her and Coleman's Cross - double jigs (Sean McLaughlin)
20. The Three Sea Captains - Set Dance (Sean McLaughlin)
21. Rhattigan's and Miss McLeod's - reels (Sean McLaughlin)
22. The Jaunting Car, The Fair-haired Boy and Young Tim Murphy - single and double jigs (Matt Muldoon Ceili Quartet)
23. The Drunken Piper and The 79ths Farewell to Gibraltar - marches (Matt Muldoon Ceili Quartet)
24. Kerry Mills and Gan Ainm - barndances (Matt Muldoon Ceili Quartet)
25. Miss Thornton's and The Bird in the Bush - reels (Paddy Killoran)
26. The Rising Sun and The Dawn - reels (Paddy Killoran)
27. The Maid on the Green - double jig (Paddy Killoran)
28. The Hollybush, Paddy on the Turnpike and The Bag of Spuds - reels (Paddy Killoran)
29. The Old Dudeen and The Road to Lurgan - reels (Paddy Killoran)
30. The Bush on the Hill and Fr. Hanley's - double jigs (Paddy Killoran)
31. Gan Ainm and The Kesh Jig - double jigs (Paddy Killoran)
32. Captain Kelly's and My Love is Fair and Handsome - reels (Paddy Killoran)

A collection of unreleased 78rpm recordings made in Dublin between 1949 and 1952, this truly is a treasure of fiddle music from players from Kerry to Antrim.  How they came to be recorded and what happened to the original master acetates for these records makes a remarkable story. 

Born in 1921, Bill Stapleton was an electronics student who completed his City & Guilds just as World War II broke out.  He joined the army and after the war wanted to become involved in the recording business in Ireland.  As there was virtually nothing already in place, to achieve his ambition he would have to set up a recording business from scratch.  He acquired premises in Dublin and bought equipment from America.  He got work from Radio Eireann and made commercial recordings.  This collection focuses on the traditional music he recorded before he moved to London in 1952.  Stapleton hoped to release the recordings commercially and sent copies to a radio station in Philadelphia where they were played regularly.  Unfortunately some of the recordings were bootlegged and issued on the Copley label without reference to Bill or the musicians.  Stapleton felt his reputation for fair dealing was compromised and he closed down his record label.

Before he left for London, Stapleton gave the masters to Breandan Breathnach who sadly never got round to reviewing the collection.  In the 1980s Breathnach passed them to Harry Bradshaw.  Eventually, during the recent lockdown, Bradshaw listened through the recordings, recognised their quality and significance and arrangements were made to release an album of fiddle playing published by Cairdeas na bhFidileiri and a companion CD of piping published by Na Piobairi Uilleann.  The piping CD is due for release in November and is eagerly awaited.

The sound quality of the original masters is extremely high and the reproduction and engineering on the remastering is of the high standard we've come to expect from Harry Bradshaw and his team.  The whole record is a joy from start to finish.  The CD presents 32 tracks from 12 musicians, mostly playing solo and runs to just over 87 minutes.

Most of the musicians were born between 1910 and 1927, the two exceptions were born in the 19th century; many are now well known such as Denis Murphy, Tommie Potts, Aggie White and Sean Maguire.  Others, such as Matt Muldoon, Joe Milton and Pat Clarke are less well remembered these days but were obviously well regarded in the 1940s.  Pat Clarke from Cavan is remembered by Ed Reavy as his first fiddle teacher and Reavy wrote a reel in his honour.  In the notes to The Collected Compositions of Ed Reavy, Ed's son Joe says that Pat Clarke introduced Ed and his brother George into the local fife and drum band and taught Ed his first few tunes on the fiddle. 

The CD starts with 4 sides from Denis Murphy.  These tracks predate the recordings with his sister Julia and their mentor Padraig O'Keeffe made by Seamus Ennis in 1951, and they showcase the wonderful lift and rhythm of Sliabh Luachra music at its best.  Kerry is also represented by the only fiddle duet on the CD, brothers Sean and Patrick O'Sullivan; and by Joe Milton, who was born in Kerry but spent a lot of his working life in Dublin, playing music in theatres, music halls and ceilis.  He later went on to work as a band leader for RTE.

Aggie Whyte from Ballinakill has recently been remembered on a double CD.  Here she plays two selections, unaccompanied, that stand as further examples of her mastery of the East Galway style.

John Kelly, a treasure trove himself of old music and folklore, was crucial in getting the recordings of uilleann piper Johnny Doran made in 1948 and here we find him in duet with Johnny's brother Felix as well as a solo track of two old reels.

Of particular interest to many will be the two tracks from Tommie Potts.  On his 1972 LP for Claddagh records and the retrospective collection taken from the RTE archive, Tommie is heard as a very private yet fantastically creative interpreter of Irish music.  Back in 1949, those flights of fancy were in their infancy.  Using tunes recorded by Michael Coleman only 15 or 20 years previously Potts plays comparatively straightforward settings, but his variations and melodic gymnastics can already be heard and his settings offer hints of the style that he developed to present the music as much more than just tunes to dance to.  Equally interesting is the fact that he is accompanied by Stapleton's wife Eileen Lane on piano.  While he was reportedly very happy to record with the piano, Potts later avoided the outside influence that any accompanist might impose on his creative imagination as he worked through his individualistic ideas and themes within a tune.

Sean Maguire from Belfast was about 22 or 23 years old when he recorded the one track included on the CD.  Showing his extraordinary technique he plays the Michael Coleman pairing of The High Level and McCormick's hornpipes.  A contemporary of Maguire's, Sean McLaughlin from Antrim plays three fine, unaccompanied, albeit brief, selections that show his wonderful skill, technique and style that won him the All Ireland fiddle title in 1958.  He seems not to have had the recognition that these tracks suggest he deserved.

The Matt Muldoon Quartet are represented by three sides, including Scottish marches and old barndances.  The quartet consisted of two fiddles, piano and drums and at first listen the mix on these tracks is not as crisp as the more typical fiddle and piano on the rest of the tracks.  Once you get used to the number of players, each one does shine through clearly.

In what might be seen as a coup for Stapleton at that time, the CD closes with 8 sides from Paddy Killoran.  Killoran had emigrated in the early part of the 20th century and was a renowned recording artist in America alongside Coleman and Morrison in the heyday of 78rpm recording.  When Coleman and Morrison both died in the late 1940s Killoran had inherited the mantle of greatest living fiddle player.  He certainly lives up to that accolade in these sides, his playing is brisk, yet full of rhythm and fabulous technique.  Sadly the sleeve notes from Caoimhin Mac Aoidh fall down a little in naming some of the selections.  The Rising Sun on track 26 is actually a tune usually known as The Master's Return generally credited as a Killoran composition.  Only one tune name is given for the two jigs on track 27 and the Gan ainm jig on track 31 which the sleeve notes suggest is another Killoran tune sounds more like The Lark on the Strand, first recorded by Coleman in the early 1920s.  The final tune on the CD is not listed and is usually known as Stenson's these days after it was recorded by Jackie Daly under that title. 

That slip aside, the sleeve notes are excellent.  They offer short informative biographies and contemporary photographs of all the musicians as well as notes on the tunes played.  The notes recognise the influence of Michael Coleman's 78s on almost all the players and even Killoran plays some selections taken directly from Coleman.

Taken along with the forthcoming CD of piping, 70 years after they were recorded, these 78s provide a fantastic introduction to the work of Bill Stapleton in his centenary year.  Had circumstances been different who knows what could have been available on the "record label that never was" as Harry Bradshaw described it.  This CD is highly recommended and can be bought from Cairdeas na bhFidileiri at

Ken Ricketts & Marya Parker - 15.10.21

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