The following have been contacted and promised to write a 300 word tribute piece about Paddy Tunney’s life, times, musical legacy and personal reminiscences. (a suggestion has been made to have something on Shiela his wife also) 1. Presentation artwork – Sonya Cunningham – in progress – to include the Stone Fiddle, Breesy Mountain, Paddy’s picture, gorse and other flowers and a moorcock. 2. Paddy Boyle, Monaghan, County Monaghan – Padraig O Baoighill, Ceann Dubhrann, 11 Cul Seanach, Muineachan, Eire. Telephone 003534782195. Delivered but needs rewriting in Irish. 3. Cormac Mc Connell of Clare FM Radio. email@example.com Delivered. 4. Tony Mc Cauley, BBC, N.I. Phone 90641362. Promised 5. Davy Hammond, BBC N. I. Phone 90798617. Arrived. 6. John Molden, Writer and expert on Irish song – Portrush 028 7082 5080 Email John@Ulstersongs.com Promised. 7. Neil Johnston, Belfast Telegraph. Email NJohnston@belfasttelegraph.co.uk Delivered
8. Sandy Payton, recorder of Paddy’s first album, being contacted at Mudcat.org and Folk Legacy Records, Sharon, Conn., USA. I have emailed them and set up a thread to appeal for contributions
9. John Montague, Poet. Has been written to. No reply 10. Cathal Mc Connell, Edinburgh being contacted. No reply 11. Peter Kennedy associate of Alan Lomax Address 16 Brunswick Square, Gloucester being contacted. Phone 01452 415110. Has promised to do a piece and send on by email. 12. Seamus Mac Mahuna RTE written to – a phonecall from RTE but no followup. 13 Clement Sweeney, Ballyliffen, Clonmaney, Co., Donegal being contacted – not arrived. 14. Dinny Duffy, a friend of Paddy’s from the same townland being contacted – not arrived. 15. Pat Nicholl, a singer from Paddy’s locality – not arrived. 16. Ben Kieley, writer, written to. Unable to write at present communication to say use one of his forewords) 17. John Mulhern, Derry. Promised. 18. Paddy’s granddaughter. Promised. Preliminary notice in Belfast Telegraph March 28th by Neil Johnston. Impartial Reporter to take photograph at the Fiddle stone next week c 2nd May.
Press release sent of to BBC NI, Northwest Radio, RTE, Plus Belfast Telegraph, Impartial Reporter, Fermanagh Herald, Donegal Democrat, etc
A Duine Uasail, Ladies and Gentlemen. It is a great honour for me to say a few words tonight here in Mulleek School in honour of Paddy Tunney, Fermanagh’s “Man of Song.” Tonight we begin our celebration of Paddy Tunney’s life and times in a weekend of music and song – a man who has been variously described as balladeer, writer, poet and folklorist, and who is still thankfully hale and hearty here tonight in his 81st year unlike our friend Eddie Lawn, God have mercy on him, whom we celebrated last year as part of our ongoing celebration of our Irish heritage in this area.
Paddy was born near here, one of eight children of Patrick and Brigid Tunney and had the great good fortune to come into this world into one of the richest veins of traditional music and song to be found anywhere in Ireland. His mother Brigid was a notable singer and one of his earliest memories was of being dangled on the knee of Michael Gallagher, his maternal grandfather, while this big, tall, white-bearded man sang to him the first verse of “The Lark in the Morning” interspersed with phrases in Irish for Michael was a native speaker of the language. His maternal great grandmother had been a teacher and Michael had learned from her and the singers and storytellers of her time and in turn passed it on to his children and grandchildren and nobody absorbed this great tradition more than Paddy here. Thousands of others through the centuries absorbed this same tradition but Paddy, unlike the majority of others took the whole process to a different plane – he wrote it down or he recorded it. This is the vital difference between Paddy and so many others. What he had learned, absorbed and inherited will not die with him. The Mulleek tradition of song, music, lilting and storytelling will live on and be shared with millions across the world as part of the great sharing of Irish music and culture which has taken place in the recent past.
This local tradition here in this part of Ireland was part of the great oral tradition of Ireland where people listened and learned from their elders and carried on the occupation of cultivating ones memory to store vast amounts of songs, stories, legends, history and music. This was the Irish tradition which goes back to the learned people of over 2000 years ago when the bards and poets and historians served a lengthy apprenticeship committing vast amounts of information to memory and writing nothing down. Fortunately we are today in a world where it has never been easier to record our thoughts or our traditions. We have tape and video and books to pass on our knowledge – inanimate objects that record great musicians, singers and story tellers but without them we are unable to preserve them from the great scythe of Father Time who in due course, either early or late, will take us and our knowledge away from this world. Through his books, recordings, performances and films Paddy has magnificently preserved the music and traditions of this area going back for hundreds of years.
This is the new way of passing on the oral tradition for we live in a new world. Before now the tradition was carried on amidst family entertainment, around the fireside as the ceiliers trekked across the fields on snowy nights or swung the leg off sensible bicycles and parking them against the wall entered the warm kitchen with its hissing Tilley lamp and flickering turf fire. Like, travelled to like, and musical people came to ceili in musical houses and the process of learning, repetition and composing went on often into the wee hours of the morning with strong tea and homemade bread and sometimes a drop of something stronger – although in the case of Paddy it was always done with a mug of tea in the hand. The process was fun and enjoyment but sadly most of that era and lifestyle is gone today. We are in a new world where the country house dance is a thing of the past, lilting voices under the cosy thatch and splanks struck from the smooth flag floor.
Paddy’s first great book was “The Stone Fiddle” with its title taken from the memorial stone to Denis Mc Cabe the fiddler who drowned from the St. Patrick Barge on Lough Erne, a barge owned by Sir James Caldwell. That poor man died on the 15th of August, 1770 and he was part of the ancient musical culture cultivated by the Irish chieftains and carried on in this area by the Caldwells. Patrick Haly the famous piper of Ballyshannon who died in 1813 entertained and was entertained at Castle Caldwell. According to a song of the time Haly,
“Sat in high decorum,
With his pipes and song and chanter long,
As he pushed about the jorum.” Another who entertained at the Castle was Authur O’Neill the famous Tyrone harper 1728-1816 who wrote, “I came to the county of Fermanagh and spent a few nights with Sir James Caldwell very happily.” Indeed O’Neill’s harp ended up in the Castle Caldwell museum of Sir John Caldwell where alongside it was the skull of one of the greatest Irish musicians, harpers and composers, Torlagh O’Carolan. With such a tradition and respect for Irish music in this area it is no wonder that a mighty tradition prevailed in this locality. When the history of the 20th century will come to be written in Ireland two things will become evident to our descendants firstly the iniquitous effects of the Dance Halls Act passed by De Valera in the 1930s and the coming of the Television. Both in their own way contributed to the decline of our oral culture.
The Dance Halls Act was designed to halt country house and cross roads dances on dancing boards where the clergy of the time imagined dens of iniquity flourished. They were viewed as places and occasions where poiteen was drunk to excess and boys and girls went to an fro without supervision and who in the darkness of summer nights might get up to all kinds of sin. (God be with them days) Parochial dancehalls were now to take their place where the priest would guard the door, nobody with drink on board would be allowed in, nor no drink brought in, and the men and women, boys and girls, would dance at a decent distance from each other preferably as far away as possible. Men would stay on one side of the building and women on the other side and each dance would begin with a cavalry charge across the floor that would have done credit to the Light Brigade or to General Custer. Unless you made secret eye contact with a girl or she hid at the back until you fought your way close to her you would more than likely end up with someone you did not want to dance with. Never mind dancing making you fit you had to be fit to go dancing. Despite all this boy still managed to meet girl and drink was freely available from the half bottle of whiskey carried in the inside pocket and shared with a friend under the stars. And things rested so until the coming of the singing lounges where small bands played and people could have a drink if they wished to have one and could dance as close as they liked without being tapped on the shoulder by the Parish Priest.
Many here will recall Fr. Brennan who supervised St. Mary’s Hall in Pettigo with a rope around his arm to control the opening or closing of the door, deciding who to let in or who to keep out. There was no toilet in the hall and if some fellows went out to water the grass no girls would be allowed out until the fellows came in and I remember in the late 1950s the first band in Ederney Hall to play “Rock around the Clock” was Johnny Hynes and his band of Enniskillen who were summarily ordered off the stage by Fr. Clancy who then ordered us all out of the hall and I lost my half a crown entrance money and got no dance. My mother, God rest her, used to buy the Irish Catholic Paper and week after week there were diatribes published about Elvis Presley and the suggestive way he moved his hips and the naughty lyrics of his songs all written by learned and pious people with no sense. Elvis survived them all but where was the great tragedy of the Dance Hall Act you might ask? When people sang by the fireside at country house dances anyone could join in. Granny and granddad were appreciated for their song, recitation or dance or story telling but none would face the dancehall to do the same. A huge gulf opened up between the young and the old and a great deal of the tradition which had been preserved by the country house dance vanished as the old people vacated their corners near the fire to join their ancestors in the local graveyard. A near mortal blow had been struck at Irish tradition. Television in its turn has almost killed the ceiling tradition. People phone up if they want a chat or pass on gossip but few want to sing a song down the line (apart from Paddy here who has occasionally given me a few impromptu verses over the wires) and Big Brother, East Enders and Coronation Street own the house and the corner where tradition and song were once passed on.
On the other hand radio and television have done something to preserve what it initially destroyed. Ceili House on the radio was a standard for decades. It represented Saturday night almost as much as Sunday meant Mass or going to Church. This was a live show. If something went wrong the world of Ireland knew it but people listened to appreciate the music and to memorise new tunes and styles of playing. Paddy has had two films made about him by the BBC which are now a snapshot in time of himself and others like Eddie Lawn and of the Mulleek area in the 1960s. I suppose modern technology does not so much destroy as give us a hugely greater choice of entertainment than was once available and perhaps as yet we have not managed to sift the wheat from the chaff.
But Paddy here is one of those who has been the conduit through which much has been preserved and that is the reason why we are here tonight to present him with a book of tributes to his life and music and the many other facets of his long career. He has toured extensively in Britain, Canada and the United States giving lectures and folk-song recitals. He has recorded with the Topic, Folk Legacy, Tradition, Sruthan and Green Linnet labels and has as I mentioned, had two BBC films made on his life and traditional heritage. His first book, the much acclaimed, "The Stone Fiddle" was published in 1979 and has appeared in five editions since. Paddy’s literary career began about the age of fourteen when he began writing little bits of poetry and when he was eighteen he won half a guinea in a poetry competition in the Weekly Independent. Apart from his job Paddy’s other vocation became writing, storytelling, lilting and singing passing on his musical and literary heritage. His first, and I think his favourite LP was called “Paddy Tunney – The Man of Song” in 1962 recorded by Diane Hamilton and this was the start of a series of six ending with “Where the linnets sing.” which featured three generations of the Tunney family and their songs. Paddy passed an audition to sing for the BBC on radio in an extended 15 minute slot and was also one of the first traditional singers to appear on television. He won a traditional singing competition organised by Players Cigarettes and collected £100 first prize.
I have had the pleasure of collecting this anthology of tribute pieces to Paddy from Ireland, England and America. Virtually everyone who was asked responded apart from those who weren’t able due to illness or incapacity. Benedict Kiely, the writer is unable to write at the moment but asked us to use one of the prefaces he wrote for one of Paddy’s books. Paddy spent a little time in his career in Kerry, 77 days to be exact I believe, and there met up with the playwright Brian Mc Mahon, the actor Eamon Kelly and the famous John B. Keane who passed away recently. John B. was in the last stages of his illness, unbeknown to us, and indeed to himself and I have a letter from his wife saying that he was too ill to attend or write at that moment.
Paddy Boyle has written a fine piece in Irish in tribute to Paddy and described him “as Bearla,” as "A walking anthology of folk-song. He comes from the land around Lower Lough Erne where Fermanagh borders on Donegal, and in his home, on a hill above the Lough, any lover of Irish manners and traditions could be entertained royally for weeks on end." The writer, Benedict Kiely has described him as a friend of over 40 years with a repertoire of over 600 songs. Ewan MacColl says simply, "The greatest lyrical folk-singer in the English language." Irish society is often described in terms which include the word “begrudger.” We are a nation of begrudgers some say but tonight we gather as a community to pay honour to one of our own who has made his mark on Irish music and tradition not only in Ireland but across the globe. The great world of Irish music, song and literature pay tribute to you tonight Paddy as in the words of Tommy Makem who says, “The style of singing that Paddy Tunney produced became a hallmark of what the voice of Ireland should be. Just like the smell of peat smoke is considered the odour of Ireland, the singing of Paddy Tunney, for me anyway, and doubtlessly for a vast majority of other people, is the voice of Ireland. Paddy Tunney is a national treasure. I’m privileged to know him.”
David Hammond writes,” Paddy Tunney all his lifetime has been proud of Fermanagh, and it is now fitting that Fermanagh, that place of great riches, is now expressing its pride in Paddy. The occasion in June will be centred in Belleek and Mulleek but it will reverberate in the hearts of many in far-off lands.
But I suspect that high among Paddy’s memories will be this night and weekend of recognition, of praise for things well done, of recognition and affection for what he has contributed in his life. Paddy, a cara, it is my pleasure and privilege to present you with this book of tributes from friends near and far, great poets and writers like John Montague and Benedict Kiely, broadcasters like David Hammond and Tony Mc Cauley, newspapermen and musicians like Neil Johnston and Martin Mc Ginley and many others but Paddy would probably settle for the words of his granddaughter, Maria, who writes, “There will never be another Paddy Tunney, no-one could ever even come close.” With those words I hereby present to Paddy Tunney this book of tributes on behalf of this community and the organisers of this festival.
John Cunningham 14-6-2002
Tommy Makem. To whom it may concern.
I have known of Paddy Tunney since 1952. It was the American folksong collector Diane Hamilton who first told me of this wonderful traditional singer. Shortly afterwards she let me hear some of his songs that she had recorded and I was completely mesmerised by the intricate and exceptional artistry of this phenomenal singer. Sean O’Boyle, the eminent scholar and musicologist, sang his praises to me on many occasions.
As the years passed I was to hear countless singers all over Ireland and indeed further afield, trying to sing like Paddy Tunney. Some of them succeeded fairly well, some not so well, but whatever their accomplishments there ws none to equal the singing genius of this man. His influence on singers from the early fifties down to the present day was, and is, colossal. There is no other word for it. His sweet effortless singing and the delicate vocal decorations were like the finest lace, undoubtedly each song a work of audible art. His influence has been passed on to generations of musicians. As a matter of fact I heard his son playing the fiddle and his playing was exactly like his father’s playing.
The style of singing that Paddy Tunney produced became a hallmark of what the voice of Ireland should be. Just like the smell of peatsmoke is considered the odour of Ireland, the singing of Paddy Tunney, for me anyway, and doubtlessly for a vast majority of other people, is the voice of Ireland. Paddy Tunney is a national treasure. I’m privileged to know him.
With respect and admiration.
Tommy Makem. Wednesday April 17th, 2002.
David Hammond. It is of profound significance that the remarkable gifts of Paddy Tunney are now being honoured in his native county, and in particular, by the people close to his heart in the town of Belleek.
No man in Ireland merits such celebration and endowment more than Paddy himself – a fount of energy, both physical and spiritual, passionate about the culture of the place where was born, eager to offer it to the world at large.
Paddy is a man whose presence lights up the room, his individual view of the world offering rare insights into out history, our ways of life, the things we value. His ready humour, his rich imagination, his mastery of words and music, make him more than an entertainer, more of a bard drawing on centuries of tradition, in deep kinship with a past that he constantly brings to life, making it relevant to the present and to the future.
Paddy Tunney, the singer, is an accumulation of generations as he draws on his bounty of songs, a broadcaster whose language is at once both precise and full of colour, a storyteller whose sense of drama and whose love of character casts a spell on the audience.
Paddy has always remained faithful to his ideals, his vision of the world. His published work, books like “The Stone Fiddle” and “Where songs do thunder,” is a rich tapestry of folklore and history, of the speech and the songs he has loved so well. There are many songs that Paddy has made his own, endowing them with his own personality, reshaping and remoulding and re-phrasing with consummate ease and understanding, his belief in the mythical total, his sharp eye and sharp ear for rural ways and characteristics always brightening the scene.
His treasury of songs spans several centuries, handed down from generation to generation and includes lovely versions of The mountain streams where the moorcocks crow, The rollicking boys around Tandragee, The greenwood laddie, When a man’s in love he feels no cold, Easter snow. As a singer of songs Paddy has always been inspired and inspiring. The people of this island owe him a great debt and many a young singer and musician will testify to the inspiration that Paddy has always so generously bestowed.
Paddy Tunney all his lifetime has been proud of Fermanagh, and it is now fitting that Fermanagh, that place of great riches, is now expressing its pride in Paddy. The occasion in June will be cantered in Belleek but it will reverberate in the hearts of many in far-off lands.
David Hammond, April 8th, 2002.
Roisin White. I have been influenced greatly by Paddy Tunney. He has travelled all over Ireland to sessions, and has given his time to many of us. He is ready to give details on songs and where he got them etc. He has a gift for telling a story too, can remember lots of the characters from his youth. The singing of his mother will live on, due to Paddy's enthusiasm for the art of traditional singing. I have had many a lively conversation with Paddy in Irish. Thanks Paddy for all your songs, among my favourites are Craigie Hill, Tandragee, When a man's in love etc.
Roisin White. 14-2-2002
Sandy Paton. Actually, I didn't record Paddy, I merely bought the tapes Diane Hamilton had made of his singing. In fact, I've never met the gentleman, although I've admired his singing for forty years and deplore the fact that
unaccompanied singing in the old style has found so little interest in the United States. Paddy Tunney is a great artist and deserves much wider recognition in this country.
Sandy Paton (father of Dave Paton who played concertina on your "Fair Warning" recording. 4th April, 2002.
John Moulden. I first saw and heard Paddy Tunney, in the flesh in about 1966. A group of us in Belfast had formed a club to sing and listen to traditional singing and Paddy was among the first of our guests. He came with Frank Kelly, the fiddler and the Omagh singer, Arthur Kearney, and they gave us a night to remember – I can hear it yet on a four inch reel-to-reel tape I made at the time – The Rollicking Boys around Tandragee, Sheila Ní Eyre, Out of the Window, Johnny lovely Johnny, The Mountain Streams, The Lowlands of Holland, One morning in June, The Enniskillen Dragoon, Mary by the Banks of the Lee, Lough Erne Shore, The Lark in the Morning, Maggie Pickins; songs and stories to go with them; the man was full of them!
He must then have been under fifty - but a legend. We’d heard him on records – the American Folk Legacy “The man of songs” and Caedmon “Folksongs of Britain” series. His singing astonished us. True and full, wonderfully flexible – and such songs! We soon learned, courtesy of more records and Ewan MacColl’s “Song Carriers” series on radio that behind Paddy was a great heritage, most recently possessed by Paddy’s mother Bridget and her brother, Michael Gallagher. Paddy, a giant himself, for all his lack of inches, was also able to stand upon the shoulders of these giants. He recognized this, for whenever I’ve heard him since, and especially in his superb books, The Stone Fiddle and Where Songs do Thunder, he makes generous reference to his mentors.
Since that first time, it’s been my privilege to have often been in his company and that of his family; to be one of his friends. I fancy, I’m almost one of the family for when he wants anyone to sing Uncle Michael’s delightfully disgraceful “Ride in the Creel” he picks on me.
I’m sorry not to be able to attend the celebration but I wish Paddy and Sheila and everyone involved, peace and love and time to enjoy them.
Paddy Tunney has always been special.He told me once a lovely story about performing at a huge concert in London in,I think,the Fifties and striking up an instant friendship with the great American singer Paul Robson,
another performer on the night. Backstage the two began to sing for each other. The great voice of Paul sailed down Old Man River and after that Paddy's lovely light voice brought the American star to the banks of the Mountain Stream where the Moorcock Crows! When I think of Paddy I also think of one of his least-known gifts. He has the capacity to "invisibly mend" an old song which, on its oral journey down the decades has lost not just many of its verses but important lines and phrases. With his great skill Paddy can provide new words for those missing ones, new apt verses where necessary. And, out of his gifted throat, many old songs have been breathed to life again! A special man. A national treasure. That's Paddy Tunney.
Cormac Mac Connell March 8th, 2002.
Neil Johnston. One of the defining moments in my life as a music lover came many years ago when on some long forgotten radio programme I first heard Paddy Tunney singing The Mountain Streams Where The Moorcocks Crow. It was in every sense a revelation. Here was I, a devout follower of what is described these days as the vernacular music of America - the blues, bluegrass and jazz - suddenly being woken up to the fact that there was an equally vibrant
and much older musical tradition in my own country of which, up to then, I had been shamefully ignorant.
I managed to get a tape recording of The Mountain Streams and would listen to it endlessly, marvelling at Paddy's consummate ornamentation and phrasing, shaping the lyrics beautifully to his purpose in what is not an easy song to sing. It truly is a four minute work of art.
Since then I have been privileged to get to know Paddy, which is not so good for him since every time I meet him I insist that he sings the song for me again, live in concert, as it were. Gentleman that he is, he has always obliged. The occasions included a 2 am rendition in the middle of the street in Clonmel during an All-Ireland Fleadh
Cheoil - there was an enraptured crowd round him before he was halfway through the first verse - and then there was the day in Ballyshannon when I captured him sitting in his car during a rainstorm. So there was no escape for him, and I got the poor man to sing it twice for me that day. If it hadn't stopped raining, we'd be there yet!
I salute his artistry, and welcome the fact that this weekend he is being honoured by his ain folk in his own part of the country.
Neil Johnston. March 29th, 2002.
Pádraig Ó Tonnaigh ( Paddy Tunney)
- Pádraig Ó Baoighill
Ba i Midhbholg gar do Bhéal Leice i gcontae Fhear Manach a rugadh Pádraig Ó Tonnaigh, amhránaí cliúteach, ceoltóir, damhsóir, moltóir ceoil, scríbhneoir, fear bríomhar lán spóirt agus greann. Is maith mo chuimhne ar é féin agus Áine Bean Uí Laoi ag canadh dtoigh Hiudaí Bhig i nGaoth Dobhair roinnt blianta ó shin, darna achan amhrán de fhior scoth an tsean nóis agus spiorad iontach san áit. Ba óna chroí a tháinig an ceol, é i gconaí bródúil as áit a dhúchais i Fear Manach.
Anois agus é thar cheithre scór tá sé ag scríobh leis agus é comh gníomhach i gcúrsaí CCE agus a bhí riamh. Nuair a bhí mé ag caint leis ar na moillibh i Leitir Ceanainn bhí sé ag ullmhú do Scoil Earraigh Aodh Mac Shamhrainn (Hugh Mc Govern) 20ú, 21ú Aibreán. Ba é seo fear eile as Contae Fhear Manach, a chuaigh a shlí na firinne anuraidh agus a chaith a shaol ag cothú agus ag cur chun cinn an cheoil agus an chultúir ghaelaigh. Ba eisean a bhí ina chéad chathaoirleach ar chraobh CCE a bunaíodh i 1957. Ba é Pádraig Ó Tonnaigh an chéad Rúnaí. Bíonn a gcuid seisiún acu achan oíche Mháirt in Óstán an Holiday Inn i Leitir Ceanainn cuidiú mór do chúrsa turasóireachta sa tSamhradh. Ag seisiún ar na moillibh bhí trí ghlún de Mhuintir Uí Thonnaigh ag glacadh páirt, Paddy é féin, a mhac Paddy atá ag teagasc i gColáiste Adhamhnáin ar an fhidil agus a mhac sin Cathal, macléinn ealaíona as Béal Feirste ar an fhidil chomh maith.
An t-am deireannach a bhí mé i Leitir Ceanainn bhí teangbháil agam le mac eile de chuid Phádraig - Mícheal agus a bheanchéile i Lios Mongáin, Leitir Ceanainn. Tá a iníon Máire ina banaltra i Leitir Ceanainn, Bríd ina bean rialta in Ard Loreta i Cill Chainnigh, Seán ina léachtóir i nGaillimh agus Cathal i bhfad i gcéin in Alberte, Ceanada.
Cé gur i Fear Manach a rugadh Pádraig bhí ceangal láidir ag a mhuintir le Tír Chonaill. Ba as Mala Bhriain ar theorainn Thír Chonaill in aice Paite Gabha a athair agus ba as an Roisín i bPaite Gabha a mháthair Bríd Ní Ghallchóir a dtáinig a muintir as an Gaeltacht Thamhnach a Mhullaigh taobh amuigh de Bhaile Dhún na nGall. Ba uaithe se a fuair sé cuid mhaith dá chuid amhrán ach bhailigh sé go leor ceoil é féin i mórán áiteacha ar fud na tíre.
Chuaigh sé go Scoil Náisiúnta Doire Colbha agus go dtí An Cheardscoil i mBéal Atha Seanaigh. Bhí sé ag obair seal sa bhaile agus ar an fhoraoiseacht. Ba seo in sna daichidí agus bhí Constáblacht Ríoga Uladh ag coinneáilt súil ghéar ar aonduine a raibh dearcadh náisiúnta acu. Thógsiad Pádraig agus daoine eile agus chaith sé ceithre bliana i mbraighdeanas in Ollscoil Bhóthar Cruimghlinne 1943-1947. Ba sin an áit ar fhoghlaim sé an teanga Ghaeilge, a dtearn sé go leor staidéar eile ar bhunaigh sé féin agus Aodh Mac a tSoir as Doire Cumann Liteartha agus Díospóireachta.
Ar na múinteoirí a bhí aige bhí Seán Ó Gallchóir as Doire nach maireann agus Art Ó Cearnaigh as an Omaigh. Ar na fir eile a bhí ina gcimí ag an am. Bhí athair Ghearóid Mac Adhaimh an lae inniú agus Sean Graham, Protastúnach a raibh an suim aige in sna ranganna Gaeilge. Bhí na scríbhneoirí Tarlach Ó hUid agus Liam Mac Reachtáin faoi ghlas ag an am chomh maith.
I ndiadh leathbhliain nó mar sin ag obair sa bhaile i Midhbholg thug Pádraig a aghaidh ar Bhaile Átha Cliath. Ansin d'fhreastail sé ar chúrsa do chigirí sláinte a bhí ar bun in Ollscoil na hÉireann in Ardán Phort an Iarla, Baile Átha Cliath agus Leitir Ceanainn. Ba i gCiarraí a fuair sé a chéad phost seasmhach mar chigire sláinte i 1950 ach ní raibh sé ansin ach 70 lá go dtáinig ar ais go Tír Chonaill an áit a raibh sé go 1975. Ba go Gaillimh a bhí a thriall ansin mar Ard Chigire Sláinte an áit a raibh sé go dtáinig sé ar ais go Tir Chonaill i 1982. D'éirigh sé as a phost i 1986 nuair a tháinig sé go haois pinsin. Le linn dó a bheith i mBaile Átha Cliath fuair sé scolaireacht go Coláiste Uladh i gCloch Cheann Fhaolaidh agus bhain sé an taitneamh as an tréimhse sin. D'aineoinn gur éirigh se as a phost níor stad sé den obair. Bhí sé ag moltóireacht do Chomórtaisí Amhráin agus Ceoil CCE ó cheann ceann na tíre. Bhí sé ag scríobh agus is mór an tábhacht atá leis na trí leabhar atá scríofa aige ar an cheol dúchais - The Stone Fiddle, Where Songs do Thunder agus an ceann is deireannaí Sing Another Story. Scríobh sé chomh maith leabhar dánta Dúchas & Other Poems, leabhair gearrscéalta i mBéarla agus tuigim go bhfuil sé ag cur críoch ar úrscéal Béarla - In Heart & Conscience Free.
Tá Pádraig ina chónaí anois lena bheanchéile Síle gurbh as Mainéar i Chuinneagáin í i Cill Toighe (Kiltoy) ar bhóthar Reath Mealtáin, Leitir Ceanainn. In san suíomh álainn seo gar do Óstán an Silver Tassie agus ag amharc amach ar Loch Súilí na staire, tá súil agam go leanfaidh sé den tsár obair atá déanta aige den cheol dúchais. Guímid gach rath agus séan ar féin, ar Shíle agus ar a theaghlach go léir!
PADDY TUNNEY - AS HE IS TO ME
BY MARIA TUNNEY
He is one of Ireland’s best-known traditional singers, one of Ireland’s best-known storytellers, he is a writer, a poet and a legend in himself. Paddy Tunney is all these things and so much more. More to me, to my brother, my sister and all my cousins – he is our beloved grandfather.
There is an old photograph, taken some thirteen or more odd years ago. It is of my Grandfather, my brother, Cathal and I. He has his two hands placed on each of our tiny shoulders , his arms surrounding us, protecting us. Today, things haven’t changed much, well, Granda’s hair may be a little more vertical now but I still wear that huffy pout and Granda is still here, embracing us with all his warmth.
I always knew there was something special about Paddy Tunney. Every Sunday, when Granny and Granda came for dinner, be it when the ground was carpeted with auburn leaves or when tiny delicate snowflakes danced in the wind – every Sunday there was always a new story, a new riddle, a new poem. As little children, we loved nothing more than when Granda’s low voice would roll out story upon story. We used to ponder for so long over those riddles, because then, they seemed so complicated. My favourite one went something like this: ‘There was a farmer. Now this farmer had a dog, and he was rounding up the sheep. There were forty sheep. How many feet were there altogether?’ I remember sitting at the kitchen table trying to multiply forty one by four on each little fat finger, and then squealing out loud when I was informed that sheep and dogs don’t have feet! The next day in school, all my classmates were similarly baffled and equally annoyed when they couldn’t get the answer. As they were when I told them other riddles; ‘What has a thousand eyes and no nose?’, ‘What has two fat cheeks and no nose?’
Whether it was over pulling crackers over the table at Christmas, slurping down desserts at Easter or just when he was sat on the sofa, Granda always had some story. A tale about a place he’d once been and about a person he’s once met. It never ceases to amaze me, Granda’s memory. I would often sit in awe as he would recite long epic poems and sing songs, eight, nine, ten verses long. And when Granda sings, everyone listens to him. Because every song has a story and if you don’t listen, you miss out on a piece of the story. I remember the time when I really started appreciating traditional singing. It was on this long journey home, from Dublin perhaps, and the whole family was in the car. Rather than the usual scuffle for the radio, my Father put in a tape of traditional songs. Most of the songs were sung by Paddy Tunney and the whole way home the car was silent as the tape played, two or three times round. We just lay back as the car sped past the blurry country side and listened. The first time I probably really listened, to the words and to the stories. And I loved it.
You can clearly see that when Granda is singing, there is nothing else he’s rather be doing. He’s never happier than when he is singing or story telling or typing on his computer (except when he is hitting the computer). And what touches me so, is the respect that my Grandfather has, from all his contemporaries. From his family, his friends and everyone who knows him. When he sings or talks, the attentive nods, the glassy eyes, each foot gently tapping. It makes me so proud of my family, so proud of our traditions and so proud to be a Tunney. To be the person I am and to be so blessed to have such a knowledgeable, respected and great man as my Grandfather. There will never be another Paddy Tunney, no-one could ever even come close.
Tony Mc Cauley.
Throughout my years in radio and television I've had the pleasure of working with writers, singers, actors, people of talent and ability here in Ireland, in England, Scotland,- out in Canada and America as well. Paddy
Tunney, man of songs and man of much accomplishment is among the most memorable and endearing. On numerous occasions I've benefited from his wonderful store of song, anecdote, and recollection: enjoyed his company in the making of programmes, where his knowledge of folklore and local custom proved invaluable, and where his very presence lent weight and substance to the work in hand. He is one of those rare people who not only can be relied on for information, but also to share his knowledge generously and with joy. Moreover if Paddy doesn't have the answer, he can be relied on to find it, somehow, somewhere......
My memories of him are many and varied ... Paddy sharing fireside songs with cherished friends and kindred spirits; recounting wonder tales and local legends; cutting neat slabs of peat from a Donegal bog; talking at length to the film camera (no easy feat) about the lives of the early Irish monks on Devenish Island, and on the steep slopes of Slieve League about the culture of the early Celts; revisiting the empty classroom in Muleek Primary school; remembering the exploits of the "great" Muleek football teams who performed prodigious feats; and of course recounting his marvellous version of "The Magic Spade." No man tells that story better.
Whatever Paddy agrees to undertake, he approaches with diligence, care, and a glad heart especially
when it concerns the culture so close to his heart, to which he has given so much. When we were working together on a film that I remember with pride, about Paddy's childhood years in the countryside around his home in Muleek and the neighbouring townlands of Garvery, Rusheen, Larkhill and Mollybreen, he ended with three short words that were delivered with conviction and not a little pride. They were spoken on a Summers day high up among the mountain streams and the moorlands of his native county...."Fermanagh made me!".
Fermanagh, Donegal, and indeed all of Ulster should be proud of Paddy Tunney.
Paddy Tunney, who has been a treasured friend of mine for more than forty years, is a man of many ploys and several places. My introduction to him was through my brother, Gerald Kiely, and my friend Seamus de Faoite, the great Killarney storyteller: and through Paddy’s own poems for he had a sheaf of them in his possession when we first met. I had already known of him as a famed man of music and folk-singer and one of a family noted for music and song. About that time, too, he proved himself in a house in Clontarf, singing, you might say, until the dawn camedawn came. And on cups of tea. He sang for the sheer love of singing. No guitars nor banjos nor Aran sweaters, just the lonely voice and the melody and the meaning of the words:
With my dog and gun through the blooming heather
To seek for pastime I took my way.
A man what night said that Paddy had a repertoire of some six hundred songs but I don’t know if he, or any body else, ever did an exact count.
In the lulls between the songs that night there was great talk about many matters. About, to begin with, the Stone Fiddle of Castle Caldwell, the strange monument that, on the Erne shore, remembers Denis McCabe, the fiddler, one of a family who were hereditary musicians to the notable Caldwells of that place. Denis was, you might say, grotesquely drowned in Lough Erne. It has long seemed to me that that strange monument was a symbol standing up proudly in a living colony or community of musicians. Of course the music and the song were there before the Stone Fiddle but when Paddy wrote down his memories of his native lakeside country and how he literally grew there into music and song, he called the book The Stone Fiddle. It was published ten years ago and I still number it among my favourite books.
Anthony Trollope once told William Allingham that he, Trollope, had been in every parish in Ireland. He may have been comically exaggerating, although, as an ex-postal official he may also have been telling the truth. He certainly lived in the parish of Donnybrook in which I am writing these words. Paddy Tunney also knows the parishes, one by one. He has walked and cycled in so many of them and has even resided for a while in Belfast. No man that I know, or know of, has a clearer understanding of what Patrick Kavanagh called, “the undying difference in the corners of the field’. But first and foremost he belongs to the Erne shore and, here and there, these poems resoundingly tell us so. There around the Stone Fiddle he finds as much of the world as, in happiness, most of us would wish to encounter.
There he first heard that golden-beaked blackbird unlock all its longing, and the farmer-boy throat-lilting an old, rousing mountain reel. He is an expert and devoted woodsman, too, as The Battle of Rossagoale well proves, and the trees, back to back, endure and withstand the wind from the Erne. He can cut and carve and season a stick as well as he can make a poem or sing a song. One of my most prized possessions is a blackthorn he gave me. It is commented on and admired wherever I go. When he presented it to me he said: “I saw it growing in a gully in Saint Colmcille’s Gartan and I knew it was your stick”.
He is a fisherman, one of the real experts and I should know: I was reared among them.
ducks in a nook of the Erne sail like a flotilla of destroyers. But his eye is sharp for the conning fin of the submarine perch. The old hawthorns in the Spring stand out in their christening shawls, but the wide waters are beckoning for the idle oar. Some day he may compose a haiku to the Stewart tackle or a sonnet to the otter-board. Although, all things considered, we are not supposed to mention such things.
And there are the living people of the loughshore, and elsewhere. The rafters ring with the riot of that mountain reel and he broods and remembers the great piper, Seamus Ennis. Or Big Mick who might “tip a cricket running up a crook”. Or, by way of extreme contrast and a sort of tract for the times, the Roman figure of the quiet man who would not stoop, before an unjust judge, even to plead for his own son.
But what about Herod and Salome? Well, by wide, islanded waters a man may have many rare visions.
Nor is he afraid to ponder with Thomas Mac Donagh, on Cathal Buidhe’s Yellow bittern. Nor to go on the branches with Flann and Seamus and Sweeney himself.
Martin Mc Ginley.
To a Donegal man reared with traditional music and song, Paddy Tunney has always been around, like Muckish.
My mother remembers him from the late fifties when she was Kathleen Duggan working in the health section of Donegal County Council, and Paddy was a health inspector. Mad for music herself, she joked with him one evening about lilting a tune. Paddy duly settled himself against a filing cabinet and entertained one and all - she thinks it was a reel.
Paddy, who must be able to place almost everyone in Donegal at this stage, also knows the other side of our family, the McGinleys from Feymore, Creeslough.
The time he called into my grandmother Maggie for tea was just one of the tales he regaled me with when we made our way to Dunlewey to a concert last summer. There was no danger of me falling asleep driving on the way back. As someone once commented, Paddy would tell yarns to a band playing.
Quite aside from his standing in the world of music and song, Paddy is always an interesting man to talk to because he has a genuine interest in people and places, and he's also blessed with a great memory (one of the strengths of a 'Pioneer', I always say).
When I ran into him today in Letterkenny, we happened to chat about Patrick Kavanagh. Paddy met him once: "Seamus de Faoite introduced me to him, and told him that I was also a poet. 'God help him,' Kavanagh replied."
Paddy writes about Kavanagh in his forthcoming book, 'Sing Another Story', and that seems right because the two men have a lot in common.
Patrick Kavanagh had no time for the provincial, the idea of needing approval and direction from a centre like London or Dublin. He emphasised the local. In the poem 'Epic', he delivers the famous lines - "I inclined/ to lose my faith in Ballyrush and Gortin/ Till Homer's ghost came whispering to my mind/ He said: I made the Iliad from such/ a local row."
In the opening lines of Paddy Tunney's first book, 'The Stone Fiddle', the Stoics and the Spartans find themselves part of life "in the moorlands of Minchyfinn and Meenatully."
At a time when our music and song is under serious pressure from commercialism and homogenisation, it takes someone like Paddy Tunney to remind us that all tradition, like politics, is local.
Yes, I know Paddy Tunney, that sweet singer. I think I first heard of him from my Irish teacher, Sean O Boyle, author of a book on the songs of Ulster. Interestingly, he admired Paddy as another scholar of the Ulster tradition, not the hills of South Armagh but that lost corner of the North, the Fermanagh-Donegal border. I also heard of Paddy from Ben Kiely, a singer himself; they could probably do a marvellous duet of 'The Flower of Sweet Strabane.'
And then I met Paddy at one Fleadh or another, compelling silence by the authority of his tone. I was particularly interested in his singing of the original version of 'She Moved Through The Fair,' which is usually attributed to Padraic Colum, but he only cleaned up the ballad, and added a few lines, fine ones, admittedly. Another early version of a tune from Herbert Hughes' Irish Country Songs is 'The Banks of Dunnmore,' a Planter-Gael love story which was bound to appeal to me.
Eyes closed, head thrown back, Paddy Tunney sings ballads from that border country between the Irish language and the English, 'The Colleen Rue' and 'Castlehyde.' Both come originally from County Cork where I am now living, the assonantal patterns of Irish transposed to English. I have never heard Paddy lilt, or dance, both of which he does well, but I have heard him silence a pub of hard men with 'the sweet, wild twist of his song.'