Bringing home the craft: uilleann pipe-making course begins


THE HAUNTING tune of the uilleann pipes permeates the workshop before the players finish to a burst of applause.

Two young musicians bow and make their way off stage, as the crowd disperses among the craftspeople and their machinery.

They were celebrating along with Na Píobairí Uilleann, whose uilleann pipe workshop and training facility was opened yesterday by Minister for Arts and Heritage Jimmy Deenihan.

A first for Ireland, PipeCraft, situated in Clonshaugh, north Dublin, is running a three-year full-time course in pipe-making for 10 people.

Chief executive Gay McKeon said this was designed to meet increasing worldwide demand for the instruments.

“Uilleann pipes are an Irish brand and something we need to protect.

“One uilleann pipe-maker can produce four to five sets a year and players can wait up to seven years for a set.

“The majority of uilleann pipes are made outside of Ireland, so we want to bring them back here and have the skills embedded in Ireland,” he said.

In the 1970s there were fewer than 100 pipers worldwide. The renowned pipe-maker Leo Rowsome, who died in 1970, was the only full-time uilleann pipe- maker in the world at that time.

Today there are more than 60 makers and 6,000 uilleann pipe-players worldwide.

Mr Deenihan said Na Píobairí Uilleann was “one of the most successful organisations in the country” and praised its revival of a diminishing art. “It is the first time a course like this was created in any part of the world, which makes it a real centre of excellence for pipe making.”

The centre also runs short courses, which have provided skills to 80 people.

Italian Daniela Ferretti, who completed a short course, now has a company with her partner selling hand-made bags and bellows online.

“I came to Ireland over eight years ago after hearing Liam O’Flynn play in Italy. From that moment on I was interested in everything Irish.”

O’Flynn played at the launch of the centre, giving a rousing rendition of The Fox Chase. Ferretti was thrilled to meet her idol. “I feel like a teenager,” she said.