The blue mountains of Kerry of Munster on his left shoulder, the young Con MacCrimmon, prince of the House, faced off north to strike a circle that was not to come full (and this not entirely) until our century. At Gweedore in Donegal of Ulster he was to set up a school of music that would become ‘magic’ and ‘legendary’ to those eager to admire, if not acquire, the past -inclined, too, to give it a touch perhaps more than its due.
It was later from Gweedore Patrick the Blind MacCrimmon traveled to Scotland, and with the school there preserved and developed what the Kilkenny proscriptions and the later barbaric Penal laws were to silence in Ireland. So goes the tradition.
Now the circle is nigh full. A cultural patrimony has with its people come into its own. These last two generations have seen and heard the musician and music -as yet a fraction of the substance of centuries -accepted as dignifying and enhancing.
The piobmor, young Con’s instrument, is regaining ground -more music being set and written for it than ever. It is unlikely, though, to replace its grand surrogates -the uilleann pipe, fiddle and flute; they in their versatility dictate that, and few anyway would want it otherwise! But the MacCrimmon has come round again and the British Museum is being assailed for our ancient musical vellum.
The manuscripts in this collection are no way so ancient but they do have the strains of other years about them: inasmuch as we can never be wholly original, and again, because we are confined to (blessed with) the nine notes of the chanter, they carry the past perforce, or so it will sound!
That prince of men, Donald Macleod (the Donald Macleod) munificently composed a set for the American Bicentennial: it has here a bleated pride of place. The ever-genial Petersburg highlander, Donald Lindsay of Invermark also contributed.
For my own part, I have gathered some of the past heard at the great house-dances and ceilis of Cuilloneachtain, Cashel, Culduff and Killasser of the West a sort of personal return -for having known some of childhood’s deep, dark and barefoot joys in Connacht.
On a more present note: economy has inevitably shaped things –particularly format. The arrangement of repeated parts I hope will be acceptable -if only decipherable on occasion. The size of note is lamentable but entirely no matter of choice.
But before, after and behind all comes Aer Lingus, High Patron of this piping, my many thanks!
And so then …Ceol anois!
Do cun gloire De agus onora na hEireann agus na hAlba!
Thomas P. MacGloin
Cloonnaoisa, Schoharie, N.Y.