Champion fiddle player whose style was critically acclaimed


Paddy CannyPADDY CANNY, who has died, was an all-Ireland champion fiddle player and founder member of the Tulla Céilí Band. A highly influential and stylish musician, he played with the band throughout Ireland and in Britain and the US, as well as making a solo appearance at Carnegie Hall.

From a family steeped in music, he was an uncle of the acclaimed fiddler Martin Hayes.

He is remembered as usually taking "the quiet corner" when sitting down to play, but his music would then take over, his heart and soul in every note.

He commanded full attention and silence from those fortunate to hear him in person.

His rendition of Trim the Velvet was the signature tune of the long-running RTÉ radio series A Job of Journeywork, presented by Ciarán MacMathúna.

Born in 1919 in Glendree in the parish of Tulla, Co Clare, he was the youngest of three boys born to Pat Canny from Glendree and Catherine MacNamara from Feakle.

It is argued that the distinct east Clare style of fiddle playing originated in and spread from the Canny home. A blind fiddler Paddy McNamara boarded with the family every winter and gave music lessons to many local children. He also taught Pat, who in turn taught his sons.

Paddy was also influenced by local fiddlers Martin Nugent and Martin Rochford; the latter taught him to read music.

He practised diligently, and from the age of 10 was to be heard regularly at house parties, crossroad dances, weddings and céilís.

In 1946 he was present at Minogue's Bar in Tulla when the Tulla Céilí Band was founded. The founder members also included PJ Hayes (father of Martin), Teresa Tubridy, Aggie Whyte, Bert McNulty, Jim and Paddy Donoghue and Joe Cooley. Seán Reid replaced Teresa Tubridy the following year.

Having won a Feis Luimní trophy the band made its first radio broadcast in 1948. In the mid-1950s HMV issued a series of 78 rpm records, and the band won the all-Ireland title for the first time in 1957.

Its first LP was released the following year, made for the Dublin Record Company of New York. When the band members departed for the first of six US tours, 1,000 people gathered at Shannon airport to see them off.

Explaining the band's success, Paddy Canny said: "Well, I suppose, we had good musicians; we had the pick of the place if you like - the pick of east Clare and we had the Cooleys from Galway . . . Joe Cooley was in it from the start and Séamus came in later."

The band proved to be very popular, regularly performing in parish halls in Clare and venues such as the Astor Ballroom in Scarriff.

A Sunday night residency at the Astaire Ballroom in Galway ensued, and the band attracted a big following of Clare exiles in Birmingham and London.

Post-war emigration was at its height in the late 1950s. "The way it was in the finish," Canny said, "we knew more of our neighbours in London than we knew at home."

A farmer by occupation, in 1965 he left the band, believing it had become too much of a full-time job. In addition, he was not always "in the humour" to play in public, and was selective about where and with whom he played.

While he made many broadcasts on RTÉ radio and television, he made few recordings. He is featured on the highly-regarded 1959 recording All-Ireland Champions: Violin with P.J. Hayes and Peadar O'Loughlin, accompanied by Bridie Lafferty. Broadcaster PJ Curtis has written that the album "captured the pure essence of Irish traditional music at its very best".

After a long absence from recording he returned in the early 1990s on concertina player Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin's album Traditional Music from East Clare and Beyond. Later he recorded his one and only solo album Paddy Canny: Traditional Music from the Legendary East Clare Fiddler.

Critically acclaimed, it was described by one reviewer as "one of the all-time classics of Irish traditional music", while The Irish Times chose it as the top traditional album of 1997.

He was predeceased by his wife Philomena and is survived by his daughters Mary and Rita.

Paddy Canny: born 1919; died June 28th, 2008