Ennis All-Ireland Fleadh - 1977

Ennis All-Ireland Fleadh - 1977

The "All-Ireland" has returned to Ennis, Co. Clare, some 39 years since it was last there in 1977, and I was there - my second trip to Ireland. I hope everyone who’s there this year has as good a time as I did all those years ago, and here are a few random memories from that weekend.

At least 3 members of this site that I know of were there too - "Ptarmigan", "cos" and the much-missed "bodhranbliss" [ RIP ], whom I never met. Now this is really strange - "Ptarmigan’s" last comment here was 8 months ago, and "cos’s" 5 years ago, yet they have both posted here in the last 24 hours !
I hope they see this, and add their reminiscences too, but here are some of mine :

1 - the Senior Flute competition. Won by Patsy Moloney , a play-off for second place between Michael Flatley and Mick Gavin.
2 - Billy McComiskey and Brendan Mulvihill from New York winning the Senior duos.
3 - 16-18 trios, a young uilleann piper pumping away like hell with her right arm, and producing no sound because she hadn’t connected the bag to the bellows ! I think her trio did win, so fair play to the judge for not holding that against her.
4 - Olcan Masterson from Dundalk playing his own composition in the senior whistle. He was 3rd but I thought he should have won. He played it again later in a session in a public toilet [ all the pubs were full ], John Skelton from London learned it, and it thus became known as "The Convenience Reel" when John recorded it with the London/Irish band "Shegui" the following year.
5 - an almighty session which went on until about 5 in the morning, featuring 4 prize winners who soon after went on to form "Stockton’s Wing". Maurice Lennon - who had won the Senior fiddle earlier that day - played a solo, which is still my favourite piece of Irish fiddle music ever, and I’ve heard a lot in the last 39 years.
I did take a few photos that weekend - I’ll try to post a couple on the website homepage.
If anyone here was there in 1977, what do you remember of it ?
If you’re there this weekend, how’s it going ?

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Re: Ennis All-Ireland Fleadh - 1977

Was in Ireland for all of 1977, but didn’t make it to the Fleadh. : ( Was listening to my Seán Ó Riada, Leo Rowsome, Séamus Ennis, Éamon De Buitléar, and Planxty records all year though.

Re: Ennis All-Ireland Fleadh - 1977

"an almighty session which went on until about 5 in the morning, featuring 4 prize winners who soon after went on to form "Stockton’s Wing"."

Yesterday a friend and I talked about the band, and I told him that another friend has always said that they forming members were prize winners, but I had no idea which year that was until I read your post…

Back then, I had just turned four years old and wasn’t playing music…

Re: Ennis All-Ireland Fleadh - 1977

I watched most of the Tg4 coverage from Ennis on telly this year. They did a good job but I still find it hard to get used to the speed at which the tunes are being played nowadays. There were the exceptions of course but even top players like Cathal Hayden and Martin O’Connor tore into it. It looks like I’m in minority on this one……

Re: Ennis All-Ireland Fleadh - 1977

Yes Kenny, I vividly remember a brilliant session starting up between Maurice Lennon & Kieran Hanrahan in front of the Old Ground Hotel, I think they were beside some kind of statue. Anyway, I say "between" deliberately, because the two lads were really pumped up after just winning their All Ireland Medals & it was like they were almost competing again. Yes Free Reed, they were flying, but I do remember the general session speeds being a little slower, back then. … I still have some of that session on cassette somewhere … must hunt it out. 🙂

My most vivid memory though, comes from earlier in the day. Having just taken up ye olde Banjo, my main reason for going to the Fleadh that year, was to hear/see the senior competition. Imagine my horror then, when I arrived at the large outbuilding where it was taking place, to be turned away at the door because the hall was full! Almost in tears I started walking around the building, hoping to perhaps find a window to at least be able to hear some of it. Coming round the gable end, the ground rose up & smack bang in the middle was a large window which was wide open, as it was a warm day, so I sat down, only feet from the judges & looked in on the whole competition. In fact, apart from the judges, I ended up having the best seat that day, because of course I was actually facing all the competitors, while everyone else inside the hall could only see their backs. Talk about clouds & silver linings! 😀 … I have lots of that on an old cassette somewhere, too. 😉

Hard to believe that was just 39 years ago … feels like about 59! 😀

I wonder, was that the year Harry Lawson went to Ireland, travelling light, with just a Fiddle case under his arm.
Inside the case was a Toothbrush, spare Shirt & Underpants & a Tin Whistle, but … No Fiddle! 😀

Re: Ennis All-Ireland Fleadh - 1977

I was in a packed bar on, I think, the Sunday night. The session was centred around Bobby Casey. I was by the door when the minder responded to a knock - through the crack I could see that it was Maurice Lennon outside. "We’re full."
"But I’m the All-Ireland Fiddle Champion."
"I don’t care if you’re the effin’ Pope - we’re full."

He didn’t get in.

Re: Ennis All-Ireland Fleadh - 1977

Kenny, Ptarmigan, Jerry, these stories from the ‘77 Fleadh are absolute gold dust!

Keep ‘em coming, please!

Re: Ennis All-Ireland Fleadh - 1977

I found 1 session photo, taken in the grounds of "The Old Ground Hotel", and have added it to the front home-page. I’m fairly certain the left-handed flute player was Seamus MacMahon who in later years played with "Fisherstreet".
There are a few more things nagging away at the back of my memory, as well.
I do remember hearing 2 absolutely superb young players - Micky Morgan, who played uilleann pipes, and Brian Masterton / Masterson ? who played fiddle. I never came across them again, and wonder if anyone here knew them, and what became of them.

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Re: Ennis All-Ireland Fleadh - 1977

and fiddle - Brian Montague?

Re: Ennis All-Ireland Fleadh - 1977

Feargal - I think you’re dead on there. See the tricks the memory can play over 39 years ? Are the guys still around and playing ?

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Re: Ennis All-Ireland Fleadh - 1977

OK, Jeremy. Random musical memories from the weekend:

Bobby Casey playing wonderfully lyrical slower reels (including The Tempest, The Porthole in the Kelp, and a version of Gerry Commane’s different from those on this site and which I haven’t heard from any other player since), and taking to the floor to parody The Drunken Gauger whilst playing it
Bobby Casey and Micho Russell duetting
Senior Fiddle Competition:
- Brendan Mulvihill’s soulful playing of The Hangman’s Noose, with all those F naturals
- Maura O’Keeffe’s playing of The Frisco with lovely ambiguous on- and off-beats
- Gary Cronin playing The Belfast Traveller in C
- feeling slightly scandalised when Bobby Martin played a medley of two jigs instead of just one. The second was The Orphan, though, so I sort of forgave him
Late at night in the street, finding Denis Ryan playing electrifying reels at dizzying speed all on his own, with only a couple of listeners. Just because he could.
A street session with several musicians all from Clarecastle playing memorable and distinctive local versions of both well-known and less well-known tunes. Still amongst my favourites.
Playing in a lunchtime session on the Thursday or Friday, a man at the next table reading The Irish Times. Breaking down laughing on noticing that the four headline photos on the Fleadh Special Pull-Out Section included Liam O’Flynn, Donal Lunny and…. myself, taken (unknown to me) at a session in Buncrana the previous year.

Re: Ennis All-Ireland Fleadh - 1977

Kieran Hanrahan: Tenor Banjo ~ All Ireland Fleadh 1977!

Here’s that live recording I made, with just a cheap Cassette Recorder ( remember those clunky brutes 😉 ) of Kieran Hanrahan playing his 4 tunes & winning, at the Over 18 Tenor Banjo competition, at the All Ireland Fleadh in Ennis in 1977.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRn6ebyRq8Y


Cheers,
Dick

Re: Ennis All-Ireland Fleadh - 1977

Thanks for sharing!

Re: Ennis All-Ireland Fleadh - 1977

http://www.shmu.org.uk/fm/shows/wednesday-session

I devoted most of yesterday’s programme to the 1977 Ennis Fleadh, if you want to give it a listen.

Started off with a couple of "Stockton’s Wing" tracks - as the band were "born" that weekend.
Around 13. mins - I "digitised" the recording of Maurice Lennon mentioned in "5" above from the Sunday night session, but my memory is that it was next door to "Cruises", not at "The Old Ground" Hotel. Despite the recording being 39 years old, and considering the equipment used, and the circumstances, it’s really not that bad a recording.
Around 19 mins. - Followed by 2 tracks from subsequent recordings made by the winner and runner-up in the Senior Flute competition, referred to in "1".
Around 41 mins - CD track by Blackie O’Connell & Cyril O’Donoghue. Nothing to do with the Fleadh, but I heard them in Ennis recently, and was given the CD about 2 weeks ago.
Around 47 mins - 2 reels composed and played by a certain "session.org" contributer, who was with me at that weekend in 1977. 🙂
Around 50 mins - this was the weekend when "The Convenience Reel" got it’s name - see "4" above. If you want to hear it played by its’ composer, listen in from then on.

A few more recollections have occurred to me, but I need to check some tapes first.

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Re: Ennis All-Ireland Fleadh - 1977

I really enjoyed listening to the radio programme, Kenny—thanks for that.

Re: Ennis All-Ireland Fleadh - 1977

Yeah, great programme Kenny, good man.

Regarding the 2016 fleadh, the ‘400,000’ hyped by the fleadh committee were noticeable by their absence. I doubt it was 80,000 but what do I know? I was only there. But it doesn’t matter - the competitions and the scoil eigse are what it’s all about.

Any crowd is a bonus for the town and for the fleadh, really. But the hype meant over-preparation (such as far too many street vendors: Ennis is oversupplied with eateries as it is) and scaring the local population into staying away, possibly thinking there was a lock-down. Day-trippers were in short supply because of the atrocious weather.

Town centre pubs did well mainly because of that rain, which was heavy and consistent from Wednesday to Sunday. Typically, the Monday and Tuesday following the fleadh had gorgeous weather.

All-in-all, I enjoyed the fleadh - there were plenty of places to play, plenty of music on the street when it wasn’t raining, loads of places to eat and a really easy-going, happy atmosphere.

Pray for good weather next year and that Ennis gets the fleadh in 2018 too.