Donnelly’s Arm

By Niamh Ni Charra

Added by Jeremy .

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Re: Donnelly’s Arm

Available now on Bandcamp:

Here’s the story behind it:

"Two hundred years ago the boxing pioneer from Dublin’s docklands, Dan Donnelly died.

Discovered by piper and aristocrat Sir William Kelly, he famously beat three English prize-fighters of the time and was proclaimed Ireland’s champion. This colourful character subsequently became a proprietor of several bars in Dublin, garnered a reputation for gambling, womanising and drinking and in 1820 passed away at the young age of 31.

But like all good stories, it doesn’t end here. Shortly after his burial in Bully’s Acre his body was snatched by grave-robbers on order. Donnelly’s admirers tracked the body down to a surgeon and it was returned for burial - minus his right arm! Legend has it that Donnelly’s arms were unusually long and the surgeon successful negotiated to keep one for medical research.

Donnelly’s arm was preserved in red lead and spent several years in Edinburgh where it was studied by medical students, before it became an exhibit in a Victorian travelling circus. It eventually made it back across the Irish sea where it was displayed firstly in a pub in Belfast before finally returning to Kildare, the scene of his first successful fight. More recently it flew first class to America but that’s another story! I first heard about Donnelly and his amazing feats while drinking in Fallon’s, my local in the Liberties in Dublin, and coincidentally the only one of Donnelly’s bars still in existence.

Donnelly is one of several people and events I commemorate in this album which has been influenced not only by my time spent in Dublin, which has been my home since 2005, but also by my upbringing in the musically rich area of Sliabh Luachra in Kerry, by my travels playing music internationally, and by my work as a professional archivist.

This album has been in gestation for several years, but work commenced in earnest just as the Covid_19 pandemic took hold and lock-down was initiated. I would therefore like to thank everyone involved for their work and support under these extraordinary circumstances, and to dedicate this album to both the amazingly courageous people working the front line, and to those who sadly passed away during this time."