Kevin's great grandfather. Born in Ballintore, Wexford. He later moved
to Dublin where he set up a pipemaking workshop in Harold's Cross.
William and his wife, Bridget Murphy from Boolavogue, Wexford had
eight children, seven sons and one daughter : Samuel, May, Willie, Leo, Harry, Brendan, John and Thomas.
Link to a Photo of William from ITMA website
following extract is taken from
Minstrels and Musicians" by Captain Francis
During a brief visit to Dublin in the summer of 1906, the present
writer made the acquaintance of the subject of this sketch at his residence, No. 18
Armstrong Street, Harold's Cross. Being favourably impressed by his manner and music, the
visit was repeated in the company of Rev. James K. Fielding, of Chicago, next day. Of
course, Mr. Rowsome "put on the pipes" and played his favourite tunes at a
lively clip-a trifle too lively for a dancer, we thought. That, however, is a mere matter
of opinion. But the spirit of the music was in the performer, unmistakably, for while he
touched the keys of the regulators airily and in good rhythm, his eyes sparkled with
animation and his whole anatomy seemed to vibrate with a buoyancy which found suitable
expression in the clear tones of his chanter. The instrument on which he played and that
used by Prof. Denis O'Leary, winner of the first prize at the Munster Feis a few days
before, were Mr. Rowsome's own make. In finish and tone there was no cause for criticism,
unless possibly a greater volume of tone might be more desirable in a large hall.
Irish Times 1911
Old-tirne instruments in all stages of dilapidation were strewn
about the shop awaiting repairs, the most remarkable being an immense set made on an
original design, and which had lain unused in a Clare cabin for many years. Always an
impulsive enthusiast, my reverend countryman, Father Fielding, was bound to take a shot at
it with his ever-ready Kodak. Yours truly was persuaded-very reluctantly, though-to hold
up the framework of the wonderful pipes to the proper level, it being understood that I
was to constitute no part of the target. Standing sideways and leaning backward as far
as-equilibrium would permit, my outstretched arms presented the derelict instrument in
front of the camera.
Three months later the morning mail brought me a souvenir from
the reverend photographer in which my distorted likeness was more prominent in the picture
than the pipes I had been holding!
Commendably circumspect in his language and reference to others
in his profession and trade, during our few hours' stay, Mr. Rowsome has been almost as
fortunate as "Billy" Taylor, of Philadelphia, in winning and retaining the good
will of his patrons and associates. The artistic temperament, however, may be accountable
for many little misunderstandings which sensitive natures magnify into grievances.
Cover of Capt. Francis O'Neill's book
Irish Independent Feb 1940
Never was there a greater surprise sprung on "the old folks
at home" and the promiscuous array of pipers, fiddlers and fluters at Ballintore and
vicinity than the discovery that "Willie" Rowsome had become an accomplished
performer on the Union pipes. Having moved to Dublin and married there in early manhood,
lie was remembered by the people at home in Wexford only as a fine free-hand fiddler who
could also do a little at the pipes.
Click HERE or on the image above to link to the original 1901 Census webpage.
Click HERE or on the image above to link to the original 1911 Census webpage.
Blood will tell, and so heredity asserted itself in his case.
When he paid a visit to the old homestead in the summer of 1911, his general execution and
command of the regulators was a revelation to his family and friends. Replying to a
question as to the relative merits of William and Thomas Rowsome, John, the senior
brother, said: "That is largely a matter of opinion; some would rather
'Willie's'playing, others would prefer 'Tom's.' I believe 'Willie' is just as good as
'Tom,' and his style is more staccato."
In the language of an admirer who is himself a versatile
musician, "his staccato style is a marvel of dexterity, as it entails an expenditure
of muscular energy beyond ordinary manual effort. His tipping and tripling are admirable,
and his manipulation of the regulators may well, in these degenerate days of piping, be
regarded as an innovation in the art. In playing dance music, which he prefers, his
chords, save at the end of the strain, are never sustained beyond the duration of a
crochet, so that the bars of his accompaniment in reels and hornpipes are regularly filled
with four crochets each, and not infrequently varying to the same number of quavers with
equivalent rest intervals alternating.
Much more from the pen of a friendly biographer might be added,
but believing it would be injudicious to cater unduly to personalities, especially in the
case of a musician still in the land of the living, we must forego the pleasure it would
afford us to be more generous with space under different circumstances.
Other references to William Rowsome
Minstrels and Musicians" by Captain Francis
The Moloney Brothers
discovery that the magnificent set of Union pipes of peculiar design
picked up by Prof. Denis O’Leary in Clare in 1906 was manufactured by
the Moloney brothers - Thomas and Andrew - at Kilrush, in that county,
presumably solves a puzzling problem.
trombone slide, which is a conspicuous feature of the instrument, was also
a prominent characteristic of the splendid Irish pipes seen in the
pictures of Captain Kelly and William Murphy in this volume. As neither of
the noted pipemakers - Kenna, Coyne, Harrington, or Egan - turned out
instruments of that type, there is nothing inconsistent in attributing
their manufacture to the Moloneys.
was while acting as Gaelic League organizer in 1906 that Professor
O’Leary became acquainted with a Mr. Nolan, of Knockerra, near Kilrush,
a good amateur piper and an enthusiast on the instrument, though then well
advanced in years.
early life he knew intimately Thomas and Andrew Moloney of the same
townland, who made on the order of Mr. Vandaleur, a local landlord, what
is claimed to be the most elaborate set of bagpipes in existence. Thomas
was a blacksmith and Andrew was a carpenter, but both were great
performers on the Union pipes.
to Mr. Nolan’s story, they did not manufacture many sets of pipes, but
they were always most obliging towards the piping fraternity in repairing
their instruments. It
may be objected that mechanics of their class would be incapable of
turning out such fine technical work, but in view of the fact that Egan,
the famous harpmaker of Dublin, was originally a blacksmith, and that the
elder Kenna was by trade a wheelwright, there appear to be no just grounds
to question the authenticity of the Moloney claims.
seen by the present writer at Mr. Rowsome’s shop, 18 Armstrong Street,
Harold’s Cross, Dublin, in 1906, Professor O’Leary’s treasure was
disjointed and apparently long out of use, but it seems Mr. Rowsome
experienced no difficulty in putting it in order. It was a massive ebony
instrument, the chanter being eighteen inches in length, and, according to
its present owner, “of exquisite sweetness and fullness, much superior
to an Egan or Harrington chanter.” It has five regulators, with
twenty-four keys, and the tones of both basses resemble those of an organ.
There are two splendid drones. The tubing and keys are of pure silver and
artistically turned out, and the various pipes are tipped with ivory. Experts
estimate the original cost at one hundred pounds, or five hundred dollars. The
date of their manufacture is not known, except that it was early in the
nineteenth century, when the makers were in good circumstances. As the
young man for whom the instrument was intended met with an injury, it
remained on their hands, unsalable because of its expensiveness.
disastrous famine years ruined the Moloneys and they were obliged to part
with their masterpiece for a trifling sum. The purchaser, Mr. O’Carroll,
of Freagh, near Miltown-Malbay, was a farmer of independent means, and an
excellent performer on the Union pipes. People used to come from far and
near to hear him play and to examine the wonderful instrument. He died
about the year 1890, and as none of his family could manipulate this
“hive of honeyed sounds,” it remained silent as a mummy until Mr. Rowsome restored its voice as before stated.
A description of the
circumstances attending this patriarchal minstrel’s presence at the
Mansion House Reception at Dublin in 1906, where the writer made his
acquaintance, may be found on page 228, Irish Folk Music, A Fascinating
Hobby, and therefore need not be repeated here.
Through the courtesy of
Mr. William Rowsome of Dublin we have been favoured with an excellent
sketch of his life and that of his talented son from the able pen of Mr.
Patrick Whelan of Scarawalsh, Ballycarney, County Wexford, a versatile
Piper" has been for over fifty years to all lovers of traditional
melody as well as those who affected the display of the "light
fantastic to" in Wexford and adjoining counties, a popular and
familiar phrase, and although as an honoured title, it is now derelict,
there is no indication that it will pass into oblivion for many a day to
The name was borne in
common by two contemporary pipers, with the distinctive qualifying terms
"Old" or "Young," for they were father and son –
John and James respectively.
John Cash, who was a
native of County Wexford, was born in the year 1832, the historic landmark
of his birth being March, after the tithe massacre of Bunclody, commonly
called the battle of Newtownbarry, which occurred in 1831. He learned the
art of playing the Union pipes from his uncle, James Hanrahan, an Irish
piper of repute, a Tipperary man whose wife was an excellent violinist
Bred in an atmosphere of
music, and as his various callings tended to bring him generally within a
musical environment, and being endowed with much talent, it is little
wonder he attained the distinction of being one of the most famous pipers
of the latter half of the nineteenth century.
He married early in life,
his wife, "Polly" Connors, being a tidy and industrious woman
who could foot a dance against any who ever "took the floor." To
his trade of tinsmith he combined that of horse dealer, and his enterprise
soon made him comparatively wealthy.
Fortified with capital,
Cash could import as many as six or seven score of Connemara ponies and
young horses in one season into the southern counties of Leinster.
To all interested in the
dance and music of the niotherland he was known as "Cash the
Piper," but from Waterford City to the Curragh of Kildare and from
Enniscorthy to far-oft Ballinasloe, among those more interested in
horseflesh than in music, he was simply "Johnny Cash." Although
always having an established home occupied by some members of his family,
he kept abroad himself pretty much at certain seasons of the year in the
pursuit of his avoeations, and we may well believe that he was `a welcome
guest at the wealthiest farmers' houses, and enjoyed to the fullest the
best accommodations wherever he went. for he was never without his
melodious pipes on his horse-trading expeditions.
John Cash was a man of
line personal appearance, well above medium height, with
proportionatemuscular development, amiable of disposition and with good
conversational powers. Unlike the typical piper and hddler, he was not
loquacious; neither was he an egotist. Although conversant with all the
dance music common to the south of Ireland, he never set himself up as an
infallible authority in such matters, but would play anything called for
without comment or delay; yet, like the majority of his class, he was
quick of wit and keen of repartee.
His advent to the barony
of Scarawalsh on the occasion of his periodical visits to the fair of
Enniscorthy was always regarded by young and old with pleasurable
anticipation. He invariably stayed overnight at the snug home of Mr.
Lawrence Piper, who was Doyle the dancing master's best pupil, and was
also one of the best nonprofessional dancers of his day or any other day.
As the saying goes, "Larry was as tlne a dancer as ever stepped in
shoe leather," and, as an admirer once said of him, "kicked
dance around the house and in all directions away from him," and
could beat one, two, three, consecutively against a wall as easily as kiss
his hand, and besides he was as iniposingly handsome a figure as
imagination could conceive. Talk about the poetry of motion, of which he
was a superb exponent. There is a poetry of just proportion in the
symmetry of muscular development in the human form which you realized the
nioment he stood on the floor. This Adonis scorned vest and cravat as
accessories of his holiday attire, and as for braces, why, he never
indulged in such superfluities. For fancy, flashy shirts he had a strong
weakness, while a broadcloth coat and a shining silk beaver hat completed
his wardrobe and his happiness. With the two latter articles of apparel
laid aside, he was ready "to take the floor."
The young people always
expected a rare treat when "Cash the Piper" was around, and it
is but the simple truth to say they were never disappointed, although
their patience was sorely tried occasionally by the piper's protracted
delay in getting started. Oftentimes Mr. Cash, with the pipes thrown
carelessly across his knees, would suspend operations to talk to
"Larry" of "the days of old lang syne" when they met
at the fairs and the races at which they were by no means inconspicuous
Invariably they had to be
recalled from their reminiscent reverie by the importunities of an
expectant audience, but after the music and dancing had commenced in
earnest the scene can be better imagined than described.
had all the distinguishing qualities of the great Irish dancer. As an
athlete he had no rival worthy of the name, except John Nolan, "The
Fairy Man," whose almost superhuman feats ot strength and muscular
dexterity became proverbial during his life time. Without any of the
swaying body-movement or ridiculous and grotesque arm motion that
characterizes the mediocre, his performance proved a psychic treat.
With arms drawn closely
to his sides, and rather backward to the elbow, from which joint they were
relaxed with a forward inclination, his body otherwise motionless, he
carried in a vertical line wherever he changed his position. The precision
and rapidity of his footwork and evolutions, while appreciated by the eye,
defy the pen to describe.
On such occasions Cash
invariably played the "Londonderry Clog" in five parts almost
identical with the setting in O'Neill's Music of Ireland, in his
inimitable style, it being one of his favorites, and locally known as
"Cash's Hornpipe" on that account. Even those who were wont to
advocate the claim of James Byrne of Bagnalstown, County Carlow, to the
premiership of Leinster, were forced to admit that the acme of good
pipering was here to be enjoyed.
In common with all
musicians of his class, Cash disliked playing for "sets" or
quadrilles, yet he never failed to meet the expectations of his host or
audience, though jigs, reels, and hornpipes, were his cherished favorites.
and "Kitty" Carton were always in evidence as the
sturdyrepresentatives of oldtime customs and manners, and would take the
floor and "welt it for further orders," and could calculate on
the hearty support of Mrs. Piper and "Polly" Cash.
"Larry" Pipers health had been declining for a long time, but a
month prior to his death, when John Cash called around, he mounted the
kitchen table and grasping a pole that crossed the house within above his
head, made the board "tell" in response to every note emitted by
the chanter. We can scarcely conceive the mutual feeling of admiration or
rather veneration which existed between these two worthies-piper and
Although Cash's visits
were only of periodical recurrence, and of brief duration, yet they did
much to inlluenee the popular musical taste along traditional lines, and
to still direct it in the channel through which it flowed for centuries.
The same may be said of him wherever he went. He had a long and honorable
career as an Irish piper. Otherwise he was an industrious man who led a
useful and, it must in truth be stated, a blameless life. He died in 1909
at his residence in Wicklow town, where he lived for many years, surviving
his beloved "Polly" only a brief twelve months.
The old minstrel's
picture was obtained from John Rowsome, who on handing it to Patrick
Whelan remarked: "There it is, and it is more like the poor old
fellow than he was himself!" Sir Boyle Roehe couldn't do better.
A song popular in the
counties of Wicklow and Wexford, in which our hero is the leading
character, may not be out of place in concluding the biography of this
name is "Cash the Piper,"
I'm seen at race and fair;
known to all the jolly souls
Wicklow to Kildare;
played at dance and wedding
Bray to Clonegal,
the cream of entertainment
at "Mick the Dalty's" ball.
received a special order
attend at eight o'clock ;
took the train to Rathdrum,
walked to Glendalough.
boys around the neighborhood
one and all,
"You're welcome, `Cash the Piper,'
`Mick the Dalty's' "ball."
when I entered I beheld
table brimming o'er
beef and bread and bacon,
stout and punch galore ;
all sat down and ate our fill,
cattle in a stall,
"eat and drink"-it was the word
"Mick the Dalty's" ball.
feast being o'er, the cloth removed,
played a dashing reel,
one young lady on the floor
a toe and heel,
"Will the Dalty," "Will the gaum,"
such I must him call;
slapped his flat foot on the floor
"Mick the Dalty's" ball.
family names were "Jim" and "Will,"
"Andy" and old "Mick";
guests were "Tom,' and "Paddy," too,
Martin, Hugh, and "Dick",
was Mary, Kate, and Nancy,
one they did not call--
danced before me on the floor,
"Mick the Dalty's" ball.
when the dance was over,
dancers all sat down;
tumblers, tins and teacups,
punch went steaming round,
rough and ready Hugh struck up,
sang the "Ould Plaid Shawl,"
brought three cheers with laughter loud
"Mick the Dalty's" ball.
longest night must have its dawn,
sweetest pleasures end,
jolliest crowd must part at last,
home their footsteps bend,
when loud upon our revels rang
cock's loud morning call,
all shook hand? and took our leave
"Mick the Dalty's" ball.
James, commonly known as
"Young Cash," in contradistinction to the elder - his father -
is believed to have been one of the most brilliant lights of the
profession which his native province of Leinster has produced, as far as
we have any definite knowledge. Inheriting the musical faculty and
nurtured under condition which gave every facility to the unfolding of
latent talent, he graduated as a sterling Irish piper whilst yet but a
boy. Possessing marvellous execution on the chanter in the rendering of
reels, doubles, and hornpipes, and dance music generally, he was no less
an adept in playing waltzes, marches, airs, and miscellaneous
His acumen and dexterity
in the manipulation of the regulators in producing harmonic accompaniments
was such as to win the approbation of the wealthy and refined, and commend
him to the patronage of the nobility of the land.
Unlike his father, James
Cash never learned or followed any other trade or calling, his sole
ambition being directed towards becoming a piper of fame in his day, and
his eilorts were singularly successful in that respect, so far as giving
practical manifestation of phenomenal ability. But, alas, "fell
death's untimely frost" nipped him in the flower of his manhood and
To be duly appreciated he
should have been born three generations earlier, when great musicians
attracted distinguished patrons and the blight of famine and proscription
had not done their deadly work. He came unfortunately at a time when the
greatest apathy prevailed in all that pertains to the noblest Celtic
tradition in music, and when the country, with a greater degree of justice
than ever, might be described as a "corpse upon the dissenting
An incident of his early
life, as told by his mother, shows the bias of his early inclinations.
At the early age of nine
years, while the family lived in the town of Wexford, he occasioned great
distress by his protracted absence from home one day. As evening waned and
night came on, anxiety became intensified to alarm, when his father and
mother went forth in search of the truant. Attracted by a noisy crowd of
juveniles which they saw assembled in the main street, to their great
relief they found in the centre of the throng the youthful James, who,
with a miniature set of bagpipes, had been making a circuit of the town,
with more small silver and copper coins upon' his person than he could
For the purpose of
improving and giving a polish to his education, this prodigy early decided
on making a prolonged tour of Munster and Connacht. Some of his earlier
experiences in this enterprise were by no means reassuring or encouraging,
according to his own statement.
It had been the zest of
his ambition to invade the County and City of rebel Cork, and when he was
well across the frontier, while travelling one day, he entered a house by
the wayside. The only occupant at the time was a precocious boy of rather
diminutive stature who, regarding him with evident interest, soliloquised,
"Oh! is this another new piper we've got ?" Young Cash admitted
the implied accusation. "Will you let us hear you play ?" asked
the self-possessed one.
James played one of his
best and most earthy tunes in confident style, expecting to astonish the
listener, but it seems he didn't, for the latter only remarked: "Not
a bad player at all if you had a good instrument."
The invading piper, who
had not only prided himself on having a good set of pipes but in being a
competent judge as well, was taken somewhat aback, laid them down on the
seat beside him to await the outcome of what had become to him a very
interesting turn of affairs. The boy advanced, took hold of the chanter
and looked it over critically with the eye of an expert. "This ought
to be a good chanter if there were a good reed in it," he announced.
Cash, perceiving he was
about to draw the chanter from its stock, interposed with the observation:
"Be careful of what you do, my boy; those reeds are delicate and are
very easily injured."
The boy, without taking
apparent notice of the remonstrance, took out the chanter, withdrew the
reed, put the stem to his lips, drew the air in through it so as to
produce the "crow," and said reassuringly to the perturbed
owner, "I make reeds for the pipers who circulate around here and
they consider me not a bad hand at the business."
Reaching up to a hole in
the "scraw," he drew from under the thatch a small box full of
miscellaneous articles, saying as he did so, "I may have a reed to
suit this chanter." After searching through the contents of the box
he selected one, tried its "crow" in the manner described,
adjusted it in proper position, put on the pipes and played a tune. to
Cash's astonishment, in such a manner as left little doubt in his mind
that his own best efforts were but poor in comparison. [This is a very
nice story, but what has become of the phenomenal young piper and
James Cash rapidly rose
to distinction in his chosen profession and titled appointments in the
Metropolitan Theatre and music halls, and, being a young man of handsome
appearance, he enjoyed, or perhaps suffered from, that peculiar popularity
or adulation accorded only those displaying conspicuous artistic talents.
To some the fascination proves irresistible.
Like many another of
brilliant genius, he was beset by adversity, lost his emoluments, and
yielding to the pressure of circumstances travelled about as a wandering
All of the family - boys
and girls - were born at Kilmore, County Wexford, the date of his birth
being October, 1853. After a short but eventful life, this gifted musician
died at Rathdrum in 1890, ere he had attained his thirty-eighth year. Too
much conviviality, an evil almost inseparable from his profession, led to
certain infirmities from which neither age nor youth may hope to escape.
"My estimate of the
younger Cash, based on acquaintance and general experience, is,"
writes Mr. Wm. Rowsome, the versatile piper and pipemaker of Dublin,
"that he was the star piper of the whole globe. I had the opportunity
of hearing the best pipers of Ireland. Among them were many marvellous
performers who could play an Irish tune to suit the most critical, but
James Cash could play a tune in ten different styles before he would
finish, and, what was still more astonishing, he could converse on any
subject while doing so. Many a conversation I had With him in my old home
at Ballintore when he was playing a difficult hornpipe for a noted dancer
named Lawrence Murray, now living at Avoca Mills, County Wicklow."
During the whole period
of his meteoric career he was a frequent visitor at the picturesque and
commodious farmstead of Mr. Samuel Rowsome of Ballintore, Ferns, County
Wexford, himself a fine performer on the Irish pipes. By this hospitable
family his memory and that of his father as well are religiously
cherished, and his technique of pipe-playing adopted by the younger
generation of that famous family of pipers.
Imitation being the
sincerest form of flattery, no tribute could excel that of the Rowsomes
who are carving niches in the Temple of Fame; but let it not be forgotten
that whosoever aspires to the musical mantle of the lamented James Cash
must aim high indeed.
Irish Folk Music – A Fascinating Hobby, Capt. Francis O'Neill,
CHAPTER XXIII FAMOUS
PIPERS - The Dublin Group
O’Reilly of Dunmore, County Galway, the dean of the assemblage, won the
highest honours jointly with James Byrne of Mooncoin, County Kilkenny. The
former is described as “a blind man of smart appearance with a jet black
goatee beard and clean shaven upper lip, which gives him the appearance of a
returned Yank.” Though seventy-three years of age, not a grey hair gives
warning of life’s decline. His playing, which was far superior to his
performance of previous years, may be attributed in some degree to his
splendid set of pipes, recently purchased from William Rowsome, the clever
pipemaker of Harold’s Cross, Dublin.
Irish Folk Music – A Fascinating Hobby, Capt. Francis O'Neill, 1910
INCIDENTS AND EXPERIENCES
NIGHT IN IRELAND.
is doubtful if anything in Dr. Douglas Hyde's experience while in America was so
thoroughly enjoyed by him as the “Night in Ireland” arranged by Father
Fielding and Chief O’Neill a few days before he left Chicago. Mr. Bernard
Delaney’s residence on Forest Avenue was chosen as the meeting place, and at
the appointed hour the “Craoibhín” arrived, accompanied by Father Fielding
and Father Fagan of Galway, Ireland. There was no formality observed at that
meeting. It was an Irish meeting, pure and simple. The priests were there, as
they used to he in olden times in Ireland, encouraging the national music, songs
and dances of their country. Pipers and fiddlers of world-wide renown were
present, such as Delaney, Early, Tobin and McCormick, Cronin, McFadden,
O’Neill and Clancy, men whose names are familiar at the very cross roads in
Ireland today. The Irish step dancing of Dan Ryan, the Hennessy brothers, and
Richard Sullivan were pronounced by Dr. Douglas Hyde to be the best he had ever
witnessed. He heard the songs of his native land sung in Irish and English, by
Mrs. P. F. Holden and Father Scanlan. Father Green, Father Fagan and Chief
O’Neill chatted with him at intervals in Irish. Father Small, who was
toastmaster on the occasion, was particularly happy in his remarks on the Irish
Irishman, the English Irishman and the American Irishman. Father Fielding played
that beautiful descriptive tune called the Madhereen Rua (or Fox Chase), which
Dr. Hyde said an Englishman couldn’t even whistle if the Almighty promised to
endow him with a sense of humour.
the midst of this unconventional Irish hospitality, the “Craoibhin
Aoibhinn” sat for hours listening to those men of Erin pouring forth an
inexhaustible flood of music, songs and melodies of the motherland. On
several occasions he was visibly affected. He was moved to ecstasy at
the thrill of his own music heard in a foreign land. No wonder, for a
night with those men above named would put a soul under the ribs of
death. The “Craoibhin” was astonished at the wonderful proficiency of
the players and the inexhaustible extent of their repertoire.
is nothing in art so grand, so thrilling as the irresistible vigour and
mighty onrush of some of the reels they played, filled with the hurry
of flight, the majesty of battle strife, the languishment of retreat,
the sweep of a rallying charge with a laugh at fate, though yet the
whole was over still accompanied by the complaining magic of of a minor
tone like the whisper of a far away sorrow. Dr. Douglas Hyde enjoyed
that “Night in Ireland” and expressed himself as delighted with what he
had seen and heard. He thanked all present, particularly Father
Fielding, for arranging such a pleasant meeting, and also Chief
0’Neill, whom he complimented on his great efforts in keeping alive in
a foreign land the jewels of our fathers which were inherited from them
beyond the dawn of history and are still entwined with our very heart
visit to the county of Clare, in 1906, increased materially our store
of unpublished tunes, but in order to reach Clashmore House, our
destination near Feakle, I was obliged to engage a jaunting ear at
Killaloe, but made a brief stop at Scariff on the way to see an old
acquaintance. Hospitality being
at all times the order of the day in Ireland, I ventured to drink a
glass of porter. Had I any suspicion of its acridity, the most fiery
beverage would have been taken in preference.
driver, who had enjoyed his bottle of stout, noticing my distress,
explained the causes which led up to it. “You see, sir, the holy
fathers gave a mission in Scariff last Week, and, begor, they paralysed
the town. No doubt in the world, sir, what you just drank is the first
that came out of that bag in a week !”
vitalizing effect of the Gaelic League agitation in recent years has
been felt throughout Ireland from the centre to the sea, and of course
Feakle, an old but small town in East Clare, was no exception.
Mack and “Tommy’, Hinchy, fiddlers, great in their day, had long since
joined the Heavenly choir, and so had the pipers “Mickey” Gill and
“Mickey” Burke, better known as “Mehauleen euis na thinne.” An amateur
band was organized and in due time acquired enough proficiency to
parade on St. Patrick’s Day, marching and countermarching on the one
main street of the town, cheered on by tumultuous applause.
one was more conspicuous in the band and prouder of it than Johnny
Doyle, who pounded the bass drum, except his father. When the band
countermarched, the old man, Michael Doyle, returned to the public
house to have another drink in honour of the day and the event, but he
never failed to reappear on the street when the rising flood of music
announced the band’s return.
a few repetitions of that performance the father seemed to think his
son was not putting enough soul into his work, and he determined to
remind him of it at the first opportunity.
the band came within hailing distance on its next approach, the old
man, aroused by the inspiration of the beverage he had imbibed and his
son’s fancied neglect, stepped out in front menacingly and giving vent
to his indignation, fairly shouted at the drummer, “Thanaím an dhiall a
vosthard; hit it, why don't you? Is it afraid of it, you are? Bate it
in airnest, you caoláin, you !”
The result was electrical, but as the parade came to an end then and there, Johnny didn’t have a chance to redeem himself.
story in which Michael Doyle was the leading character, although in no
way connected with music or song, may be found not less interesting to
the general reader on that account.
Doyle was much given to speculation and frequently indulged in the
excitement of cattle jobbing in a small way. He was by no means an
aggressive dealer, but walked about unobtrusively at the fairs on the
lookout for a bargain in heifers and calves. Emulating the example of
the intrepid explorers of old who ventured into distant lands, Doyle
decided to attend a cattle fair at Killamey in the County of Kerry, a
two days' journey each way, on foot.
his destination became known all of his friends from the country around
were on the tiptoe of expectation, to hear from him on his return all
about Killarney - that wonderful place of world-wide renown - that
miracle of picturesque grandeur which defied the power of pen to
describe. Now how was Michael
Doyle, their neighbour, trafficker and traveller, actually feasting his
eyes on the sublime scenery. What a treat it would be to hear his
story, and how they would enjoy the description of nature’s
magnificence by one who saw and could tell them all about it.
how are you, Michael? And you’re looking well after your long journey.”
“I suppose you must be tired.” “How did you make out ?” Such were the
greetings which assailed him on every side. Hardly waiting for replies
to those formal questions, his callers continued: “Killarney must be a
wonderful place entirely, Michael, by all the accounts we heard of it.
I suppose you travelled it all; the lakes and the castles and the
abbeys and everything. Tell us what you think of it.”
then,” replied the traveller, ruefully, “they can all say what they
like about it, but there's wan thing I can tell yet Killarnvy is a dom
bad place to buy a chape calf!”
wonderful skill and proficiency of the classes of youthful dancers, who
competed for prizes at the Munster Feis in the City of Cork, which I
attended in the summer of 1906, was a delight and a revelation. It had
never been my good fortune to witness anything oven approaching the
grace, rhythm, precision, and uniformity of their performance on either
side of the Atlantic, they were a credit to their instructors as well
as to themselves.
very true they were not worried by the introduction of any unfamiliar
tunes, for “Tatter Jack Walsh,” “Miss McLeod,” and “The Rights of Man”,
jig, reel, and hornpipe respectively, with monotonous repetition,
served for all occasions.
the dancers came upon the stage, the piper, a handsome fellow, who I
understood was the forceful and moving spirit in the music revival,
occupied the centre of the stage, and ostentatiously tuned his
instrument in full view of the wondering audience. The round, full,
organ tones of the regulators, which the man of music industriously
fingered, had roused the awed assemblage to the highest pitch of
curiosity and expectation, when out from the wings tripped the blushing
boys and rosy colleens to take their places.
course they nearly filled the stage, so the piper, in an apparent
spirit of accommodation, swung around to one side behind the drapery so
adroitly that only his legs and knees, with the wonderful Irish pipes
resting thereon, were visible to the audience. With commendable
promptness the dancers and the expectant onlookers, many of whom had
travelled far to enjoy and encourage the revival of traditional Irish
music, were treated to a “tune on the pipes,” No, sad to relate, but on
a French celluloid flageolet which the piper deftly extracted from an
mute but conspicuous Irish or Union pipes placidly reposing on the
piper's knees, Mr. Wayland told me, were an old set of the Egan make,
that were a full tone below concert pitch. As they could scarcely be
heard distinctly above the drumming of the dancers on the platform, he
prudently adopted the expedient described.
Irish were always noted for their drollery and humour, and this
incident but serves to show they have not deteriorated in that respect,
even when apparently unconscious of their mirth-provoking absurdities.
While visiting Mr. Rowsome,
an excellent Irish piper and pipe maker in Dublin a week later, in
strolled John Cash, the aged piper from Wicklow County, who had come
all the way to play at the Mansion House reception in connection with
the annual Leinster Feis.
well-built and corpulent man he was, deliberate in speech and movement,
and well past the scriptural limit in years. After fortifying himself
with a generous stimulant he “put on the pipes,” a set as wheezy and
antiquated as their owner, but his weary and uncertain manipulation of
them in the effort to play “Nora Chreena” with concords on the
regulators, showed all too plainly that age and affliction had unstrung
the nerves and broken the spirit of the old bard. In his dignity and
helplessness, John Cash was a truly pathetic figure.
the midst of the stream of gay humanity which entered the Mansion House
next evening came John Cash, carrying his instrument in the traditional
green bag under his arm. At the
ball which succeeded the reception by the Lord Mayor and Douglas Hyde,
the orchestra, which consisted of three fiddlers and an amateur Irish
piper, and John Cash, were stationed on a platform which commanded a
good view of the ball room.
numbers were danced without the intervention of the Wicklow piper,
although he had always tuned up and appeared anxious to co-operate. The
manager, a bright young fellow, it was noticed, always found some
pretext for keeping him out of it, although he was per- mitted to
occupy a place among the musicians as a con- cession to his age and
profession. Impatient and ill
at ease, poor Cash repeatedly essayed to play, but the resourceful
manager as often found means to restrain him, the result being that he
never got an opportunity to identify himself with the programme while I
attitude and movements of Mr. Andrews, the young piper, were all that
could be desired, but not a note from his instrument could be heard
from any position which the writer could reach, including the balcony
immediately above him. The combined tones of the three violins had
drowned out the weak voice of the chanter.
the dancers a few men wore the ancient saffron-coloured kilts. One of
them, a lithe young fellow, carried a set of war pipes lately come into
fashion again, but there was no indication that their use in a musical
way was contemplated.
were two Union pipers in the orchestra and one war piper among the
dancers; yet the only music to be heard was furnished by three
fiddlers. This condition of affairs could hardly have been intended as
a joke; still, the situation was not altogether wanting in certain
elements of Irish humour and pleasantry.
could not help becoming reminiscent, taking into consideration the
importance of the occasion and other circumstances. And this was in the
very heart of the one-time “Land of Music and Song”- the country
renowned above all others for the excellence of its music and musicians.
we come to think of it as the Glorious Green Erin which produced the
celebrated bards, Rory Dall O’Cahan, O’Conellon and O’Carolan, and such
famous harpers as Gerald O’Daly, Cornelius Lyons, Cruise, Miles
O’Reilly, John and Henry Scott, Heffernan, Murphy, Hempson, O’Nei1l,
Fanning, Higgins, Quin, Carr, and Rose Mooney, we are amazed at the
musical degeneracy of our day.
the harpers, there were in those times great Union pipers, whose
celebrity extended beyond the confines of their native land such as
Jackson, “Parson” Stirling, Talbot, Gaynor. Ferguson, Crump, Coneely,
Gandsey, and a host of others. We
may derive some qualified pleasure in contemplating the prominence of
Irishmen by birth or blood who have achieved fame in the world of music
in more recent times.
scaled the heights of distinction, but their compositions are
cosmopolitan and not national. Neither do their productions give
promise of a revival of those characteristic Irish strains typical of
Gaelic temperament which most strongly appeal to the sentiments and
aspirations of a regenerated Ireland.
"Hail, Music, goddess of the golden strain!
Thy voice can spread new blessings o'er the plain;
Thou the sad heart can cheat of all its cares,
And waft soft soothings on thy melting airs;
Bend the rude soul to wish the gentle deed
At pity 's touching tale to bleed;
Thy magic can the noblest aims inspire,
And bid pale terror feel the hero 's fire."
following extract was taken from
Minstrels and Musicians" by Captain Francis
"For power of extracting a strong, voluble
tone from the chanter, and imparting a beautiful expression to the music he has few peers
and certainly no superior" Such is the language of an enthusiastic admirer in
describing, the accomplishments of John Rowsome, the eldest son of Samuel Rowsome of
Ballintore Ferns, County Wexford, who resides on the old homestead and is consequently
unknown to fame. As '.Mr. Whelan is a very interesting though somewhat partial writer we
will let him continue: "There are surely none more conversant with the law of
modulation in music. To hear him play a great Irish reel is like listening to the warring
elements of nature. The music from his chanter comes with the impetuosity of the wind,
which gathers force in its gambols down the mountain side to accelerate its wild career
over the plain. And anon it lingers or seems to linger, and goes on again with increased
velocity. It comes in undulating waves of sound, and breaks upon the ear as the swells of
the ocean break upon the beach and disperse around the feet of the spectator.
Who that has listened to the roar of the distant cataract in the
stillness of the night would fail to be impressed with a sense - that a greater volume of
water overleaps the rock, and plunges into the chasm below with correspondingly increasing
fury at certain intervals than an others?.Any or all of the above similes might be taken
as illustrations of his music, yet they are but poorly or indifferently put, for still the
music swells, breaks, leaps, curves, sighs, murmurs, ripples, laughs, rolls, thunders, on
the ear of the enraptured listener.
"The noise emitted through the chanter and from the strings
of many of the swelled heads, is mere musical chatter in comparison to his playing, nor is
it to be wondered at, since the musical faculty with him was inborn, and lames Cash,
that'prince of pipers,' was through all his early years his most intimate associate,
friend, and tutor."But coming back to earth from Patrick Whelan's aerial flights, we
hasten to inform the reader that John Rowsome, as well as his brothers Thomas and William,
studied music under Herr Jacob Blowitz, a German professor, who resided in Ferns from 1878
to 1885, arid became efficient performers on various orchestral instruments. John was
famous on the cornet, on which he could play jigs as fluently as William could on the
violin. Strange to say, heredity overcame their training under Professor Blowitz, and all
three owe their present fame to their skill as performers on the Union bagpipes.
Since succeeding his father in the management of the farm, John has not played in public,
nor has he continued his practice of music except in a desultory way in private. Just as
he would be warming up to his work and when his audience would be anticipating a musical
treat, he would strike a few chords on the regulators and put away. the instrument
heedless of protest or entreaty.
Nearing the half century. milestone in age, he is unostentatious
in the extreme, though active in all that pertains to the revival of interest in Irish
music, and the art of giving it traditional expression on Ireland's national
has furbished, repaired, renovated, and reeded more foundered sets of bagpipes, for the
unskilful, than any, other man in the south of Ireland. Neither is this splendid type of
the whole-souled Irishman inclined to "hide his light under a bushel" like so
many excellent pipers whom we could name.
John Rowsome sees no glory, in taking his art or his tunes to the
grave with him, like so many small-bore musicians afflicted with atrophied consciences. On
the contrary, to his great credit, he is teaching his art, as his generous-hearted father
did before him to all who cared to learn. Among his present pupils are his young
neighbours, David and Bernard Bolger, of the manufacturing, firm of "David Bolger and
Sons" and their maternal uncle, Joseph Sinnott, draper at Enniscorty., who is active
and enthusiastic in Gaelic circles.Wealth is, popular, arid patriotic, three members of
the Bolger family represented constituencies in the first election assembly which
supplanted the Grand Jury, system in Wexford, arid it is quite within the bounds of
probability, that in the near future two "gentlemen pipers" of the name will
succeed their honoured relatives in the same capacity.
following extract was taken from
Of this member of the Rowsome family of pipers we call say nothing from personal
knowledge, but we are reliably, informed that Thomas Rowsome is not inferior to his
brother William as a performer on the Union pipes.
In fact, some are inclined to believe that, in rendering Irish
airs with the manipulation of the regulators, Thomas has the advantage. At any rate it
speaks well for the latter's ability that he was awarded first prize at the Dublin Feis
Ceoil competition among pipers in 1899. Winning third prize even, in 1897, when "Bob'
Thompson of Cork and Turlogh Mc Sweeney, "the Donegal piper," were awarded first
and second prizes respectively, was no small honour indeed.
From a discriminating pen we learn that "Tom" Rowsome
is a fine, steady player, and at times even a brilliant one. At single jigs it would be
hard to beat him, though in general execution his style may be considered too open and
However, that is a matter of individual taste. As regards time,
he stands pre-eminent ; his last bar of a jig or reel, in fact of any tune, is played in
precisely the same time as the first, and no dancer can him to accelerate his pace or
Mr. O'Mealy, the well-known piper and pipemaker of Belfast, who
played in concert with him on various occasions, speaks very highly of his social
qualities. Nothing else could have been expected from his father and mother's son, anyway.
Differing from his brother, John and William, at least in one
respect, he stuck to his first love-the Union pipes-and, notwithstanding his musical
education acquired under Herr Blowitz of Ferns, his taste for traditional Irish music
remained uncorrupted and undiminished. All three became skilful pipers under the
instruction of their father, Samuel Rowsome, the famous farmer-piper of Ballintore, Ferns,
County Wexford, and all three have won distinction in that line of musical art.
The "Harvest Home" was an established institution at
Ballyrankin, Clobernin, Farmley, Morrison's, St. Aidan's Palace, and many other
residential seats of the wealthy in north Wexford.. The attendance of the three brothers
was ever in requisition at those annual celebrations, "Willie's" reputation as a
violinist being less than that of his elder brothers as pipers, only in the degree that
the fiddle is deemed an instrument inferior to the Union pipes in giving to traditional
Irish music its characteristic tonality. The "Harvest Home," be it understood,
was essentially the same as the "Flax Mehil" in other parts of Ireland-all
private festivals-the assembly consisting of the family , friends, employees, and guests.
During this period Thomas Rowsome became closely associated with
the late James Cash in his periodical visits to the Rowsome homestead. Together
"Young Cash" and the youthful enthusiast would proceed to a secluded nook in the
garden, or,the weather being unfavourable, to a private roomin the house, and indulge in
long-sustained spells of practice, for everything new in music which the wanderer had
picked up on his rambles through Munster and Connacht he would impart to his beloved
protege. More than once old Mr. Rowsome would come upon them in the act of playing one
instrument together, each with one hand fingering the chanter.
Tom, you will become a great piper yet," Cash would say, as
a presentiment of his own impending death would cloud his brow. "The music of your
chanter will thrill audiences when the name of James Cash will be but a reminiscence or
merely the subject of unsympathetic gossip." The forecast was prophetic, for he died
in his thirty-eighth year, while his friend Thomas Rowsome, now a municipal employee of
the city of Dublin has made a name for himself in the world of music. , His engagements
are many, not alone in his native land, but on the stage and in the halls of London,
Glasgow, and other cities and towns across the Channel, where the mellifluent tones of the
"Irish organ" in the hands of a capable performer never fail to arouse the most
About forty-six years of age, over six feet in height, handsome
and of impressive appearance, "Tom" Rowsome may not owe all his popularity to
his musical gifts. He is also accused of being both genial and kindly, yet apparently
insensible to female charms Whoever the "King of the Pipers" may be, an ardent
admirer insists "he is one of the Princes and Heir Presumptive. "Still there are
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