Saturday, March 21, 2009

Uilleann Pipes, the Mighty Quinn and the Legendary Leo Reilly

Thanks to my good blogging friends, Kat and Dive, I began to reminisce about some of the sights and sounds of Ireland. I thought I photographed an Uilleann Piper and here he is, playing his pipes on the streets of Galway. He had a fiddler friend and they made lovely music. The daughters contributed a few Euros and they played a few tunes. Here's a closer view. It fascinates me to watch these pipers piping with their "armpits"! I guess it's really the elbows they're working, but it looks extremely difficult.

But, alas, here is the mighty "Quinn", not an eskimo, but a wonderful old salt we found playing accordian along the trail coming down from Dun Aengus in Inishmore. Quinn had a lot of stories to tell. He was 71 years old. He spent years traveling the world over to play his accordian with traditional Irish bands.
So I hope everyone had a wonderful St. Patrick's "week". I took a full week to celebrate my Irish heritage. I started with Kat's wonderful Colcannon recipe. I ended it with a couple of pints of Guinness at a little pub in Gettysburg. You should all know that we haven't had alcohol (in the Williams' house) at the request of the husband. (He was trying to cut down and needed my moral support). He said he didn't mind if I had a few drinks outside of the house.
Well, this was the week to take advantage of that offer! According to my old, dearly departed, Philadelphia friend, Leo D. Reilly, we Irish have what he called "Ethnic responsibility". (in other words, we're expected to drink, so we shouldn't disappoint). Leo was a juvenile diabetic, who lost his leg and his sight, and had an uncanny ability to navigate his way around the back roads of Roxborough and Manayunk from the backseat of a car. In the end the diabetes didn't kill him, but a brain aneurism did. He died at the tender age of 39. So here's to Leo, Quinn, my Irish family and to the many Irish "characters" I've come to know. To all of my friends of all ethnicities, this was just another excuse to celebrate life. I hope you enjoyed your week in your own way. If nothing else, celebrate the fact that spring has sprung!


Peggy said...

Quinn is wearing leprechaun shoes! LOL Great photos!

Maria said...

I love the expression on the old salt's face...

neetzy said...

Hi Peggy,
It's so nice to hear from you again. I hadn't noticed his shoes until you said something. He is wearing leprechaun shoes!


Quinn was quite the character! We had a nice long chat. He and the semiconducter (father of Shazza and herself) hit it off quite famously.

butterfly woman said...

What a nice surprise to find Quinn on the trail, such a natural musician! Love the photos, you captured some great emotions, and the story you wrote fills in the blanks in a wonderful way. Perhaps you could sketch or paint these photos. I come from Irish roots where an Irish 7 course dinner is a baked potato and a six pack of beer!
Thank you for honoring your heritage here!

neetzy said...

Butterfly woman,

That seven course meal sounds about right. Irish is not my favorite cuisine to cook or to eat! We really didn't have much of it growing up. My mother's mother came from England. She "missed" the Titantic and worked as a cook over here where she met my Irish grandfather. I remember my grandmother's baking more than her cooking.

I've thought I might like to try to paint some of these guys!

Shazza said...

The Mighty Quinn was quite the character indeed! Slainte Neetzy!

Katie said...

What a great post! Love the photos (now I know what a Uilleann pipe looks like!) and the views of Ireland and her characters. I haven't been to Ireland since 1984; time to go back! If you can believe it, for St. Patrick's Day I had a green chile burrito and a glass of red wine. What kind of Irish lass am I?

dive said...

Ah, wonderful photos and wonderful tales, Neetzy.
The uilleann pipes are indeed a complete bastard to play, Neetzy; I've had many a disastrous run-in with them at our studio get-togethers and at our local Irish music pub.
Played well, however, they make the most heartbreaking sound in the world. Utterly beautiful.
Thank you for this lovely post.

neetzy said...

Quinn was quite the hoot. He and the semiconductor certainly hit it off. I bet he also can be a cantankerous old fart when he doesn't have an audience!

neetzy said...


After Dive posted that lovely Uilleann tune, I knew I had to find my pictures! I think the burrito and red wine was totally appropriate for St. Patrick's day California style.

neetzy said...


I believe that they are a bastard to play! I will just enjoy watching and listening!

Poetikat said...

Sorry it's taken me an age to get round here; I was recovering from my "ethnic responsibility" ha ha.

What great photos! I swear I stood exactly where that fella with the pipes was sitting. Was that near the bus station?

Mighty Quinn looks like he could spin a great yarn - don't you love those characters? I remember back in '77 driving down the road looking for Bunratty Castle at dusk. My da' stopped the car to ask an old man for directions and it was so convoluted and garbled up in the erse that we just smiled and nodded and went on our merry lost way. Great stuff!


P.S. Did you make the cake?

neetzy said...


The piper was in the downtown Galway shopping district. (I think Quay and High streets). I do remember it was foot traffic only.
Quinn was wonderful. Sorry, I didn't try to cake yet.