Darby’s Farewell

By Josie McDermott

Eighteen comments

Josie McDermott ~ an all time favourite

I can’ t believe that there hasn’t been a comment made on this most wonderful of wind players and singers and characters. And then, as I swell up with admiration for this man and his music, I can understand being lost for words. It is a shame there is not more of Josie and his humour and heart to keep the music grounded. There is not one slip of his music making or any recording I’ve ever heard of this man that I do not love and value. If I was hard pressed to being confined to a desert island, with solar cells and some means of listening, this would be one of my first grabs. Ages back someone likened my playing to his ~ I am not worthy…but can think of few greater aspirations music-wise…

Here are some comments by others that have put some order on words to honour this grand man…

http://www.mustrad.org.uk/reviews/mcdermot.htm ~

"Josie McDermott plays the flute with a fine wild wind alongside of him. It is vibrant, full of life and heart and soul. It is not a style that will appeal to lovers of James Galway, or for that matter possibly even some of the Irish Traditional Music aficionados of recent years. Josie won his musical trophies in the late sixties and early seventies, competing against and judged by his peers in the flute-playing centre of the West of Ireland. To be exact, he took the title in 1964 for tin whistle, in 1967 for lilting and in 1972 for flute, all of which underwrites the quality of this disc.

For the last thirty years competitions of traditional music have been held under the tutelage of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann (the Society of the Musicians of Ireland). An All-Ireland title is hotly contested, is won on quality of musicianship and brings recognition and musical opportunity to the winner. However, I am inclined to the view that this has also had the effect of creating an ‘officially approved’ style to the playing of traditional music, and channelling young players into that style (as a pre-requisite of winning the competition), at the expense of personal and local variations of approach and technique, prejudged as contrary to ‘accepted practice’.

The upshot is that if Josie was able to compete today there is every chance that he wouldn’t get a place. His style would not conform to what is considered now to be the correct standard. His choice of melody would not include the latest fashionable pieces, composed to show off fancy ‘approved’ technique. As for his practice of ‘tonguing’ the whistle for triplets, like the pippety-pop of a tight piper, instead of rolling and cutting - well, that would probably be picked on by the adjudicator as a serious fault.

Maybe that’s why I enjoyed this CD so much - it reminded me of my early days in Irish music. You can sit back and listen to this CD and enjoy the clear, uncluttered melodies on flute and whistle, expertly played and as fresh and healthy as the Sligo air that produces them. Plenty of old Connacht favourites - and one or two composed by Josie himself. Savour the airs and the words that go with them. This is a delightfully balanced performance from a man who is as comfortably relaxed as if he was roasting his shins by his own fireside and perfectly at home within the heritage of his music.

Not to say that Josie confined himself to the traditional stuff. In his younger days he played and toured with show bands and jazz combos, delivering the business on trumpet and saxophone (upon which he also once took an All-Ireland title in the ‘miscellaneous instruments’ category). In his later years he was the author of several ‘Musical Plays’ mirroring local Sligo characters and life, which were performed locally and in many Irish communities abroad.

Incidentally, Robin Morton’s original sleeve notes have been replicated here, and very informative they are too. They help significantly with the listener’s understanding of Josie McDermott’s style and approach. It is a pity that the producers of this CD could not see fit to add that Josie McDermott, born in Coolmeen Co Sligo in 1925, died in 1992, having become blind thirty years previously."

~ Tom Walsh - 25.7.00

There’s also a fine set of notes to accompany this CD, courtesy of Robin Morton.

“If you put a good ceili band, a good traditional jazz band, a good country and western band and a small orchestra, in four halls, I’d find it very hard to know which of them I’d go to hear. I’d want to hear the four of them!”

~ Josie McDermott

Like so many of the fine ‘traditional’ musicians of old I’ve had the pleasure of being inspired by ~ their appreciation of music was not limited by the island or tradition…

Josie McDermott

Hi, there’s a great fiddler from Co.Tyrone, John Weir, and myself trying to get hold of a copy of this great recording. John has tried many channels and contacts to no avail as of vyet. Can anyone help? We’d be very grateful…John Wynne

Will be in touch later, John.

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“Josie McDermott: Darby’s Farewell” ~ The Living Tradition review


“ ~ if you want a good example of material firmly connected to the roots of Irish folk music this is a must.”

~ Colin McAllister

I suspect you got your recording John, Kenny would have seen to it… It is still in circulation and last time I checked there were a half dozen places with it in stock… It is one of my all time favourites…

LP on eBay tomorrow

Doesn’t come up very often - there’s a copy up for auction on eBay tomorrow, if anyone sees this. [ It’s not mine ].

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Good news.. re-issue…

According to Fintan Vallely a couple of weeks back at Hammy’s “Flute Gathering” in Ballyvourney, this recording is to be released in CD format sometime this summer.

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Josie Mc Dermott and Fr. OGrady

Fr. OGrady was my Uncle, my Dads brother. He was on a trip back home to Bockagh, some time in the mid 1960s or 1970s when he( himself a fluye player) gave a nice flute to Josie and he did tell josie, would he create a tune in memory of him. Fr. Peter OGrady returned to the Jesuits out in Mont. and washington state.

Following up on Kenny’s comment from three years ago -- I don’t know about CD copies, but this album is currently available for purchase on MP3 at Amazon and presumably other stores as well. Highly recommended.

Re: Darby’s Farewell

Tune #10 above, “Murphy’s Polka” should be linked to thesession.org/tunes/357 where it’s called “Dennis Murphy’s”.

Best wishes.


Re: Darby’s Farewell

For another attempt to link another title on this album with the correct version of the tune on this website + how the Shan Van Vocht was re-named “the Bush hornpipe” by Josie in a hotel in 1976 go to;

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Gosh I love listening to Josie play. Like Ceolachan said in his original comments 16 years ago, it’s a style that wouldn’t win the All-Ireland, but is fantastic to listen to (and I’d prefer it to what did win). He is passing on the old tunes, writing new ones, and playing with a joy of playing that we miss at our peril. Gwan Josie!

On a very tangential pigskin-related note, can anyone tell me who plays the bodhran on the reels Micko Russell’s and the Trip to Birmingham. It’s a very old sounding style, which I heard when I was young in the early 70s. No damping of the skin with the hand, and no damping of the skin with a bit of water to lower the tone. Also, it sounds soft, like it’s played with the hand rather than a stick, but it’s also including triplets on the reels, so either this person has very fast wrists (which some did) or they are putting in the triplets with the thumb. Anyone know? (although unless you were there at the recording I’m not sure how you could)

Re: Darby’s Farewell

Robin Morton, I think.

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Bodhran on the recording was played by the late Robin Morton [RIP], of “Boys Of The Lough” fame, and long time musical associate of Cathal McConnell, who made the recordings of Josie and produced the LP.
Never ever saw him play bodhran with hand only, always with a stick.
I know this because I met him when he produced the first “Ceolbeg” LP, and saw him play many times with “Boys Of The Lough”. I still have a CD copy of the recording, released by the Cork-based “Ossian” label, which reproduced the LP record sleeve notes in full.
The sleeve notes say Josie did win the All-Ireland Senior flute title in 1974.

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Re: Darby’s Farewell

… and he also won in the tin whistle category in 1964 and 1966, lilting in 1967, and the miscellaneous instruments category on alto sax in 1964.

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