“Then I came to Dublin and well I linked up with the Pipers Club in Molesworth Street right away. ‘Twas a home from home there. Twas a good lot of musicians. We played and we had little outings. The music was very isolated like you couldn’t take it out into pubs like now or any place. The outings used to be arranged. Then Flag days used to be arranged and some of the players used to play on the streets. I rememeber Tom Mulligan and Tommy Reck playing in O’Connell street during a flag day, in aid of the Pipers Club.
But the chief men that I met there that time was Jim Seary of course and Sean was a young fella at that time, Sonny Brogan, Bill Harte, Tom mulligan. A number of others. Tommy Potts of course.
But Johnny Doran’s arrival in Dublin. He camped around High Street. And the first place he played was the Piper’s Club in Thomas Street. He didn’t play the street that time. He was anxious to go to work at that period and the Conroys (of Capel Street) got a job for him out in there place In ’47. He got a job as a tea-boy and other handy jobs. But he was bringin’ in a week’s wages and he was delighted. Andy Conroy was his chief patron, I suppose. They looked after him well around there that time. He was a man that didn’t drink much, he’d take a glass of wine.
He used to play in a very funny way in Thomas Street; he played most of his music standin’ up, like, when he gas in exhibition form. And I remember one night he swung the regulators over the top of the chairs and up and down like a see-saw between the chairs and never lost a bit of time or anything. But he had a little gadget in the body of the pipes to stop the valve in the chanter …
I’ve told the story of how he met with the accident. And before the accident happened I brought him up to Kevin Danaher to record the few tunes that he did. ‘Twas a touch and go thing, because he came in one night with the pipes in his hand – into the shop – and hinself and the missus struck up a great partnership. She used to make good tay and homemade bread. Johnny was mad for that kind of a thing and he’d play upstairs (over. The Horseshoe’, John’s Capel Street shop) and the fire was goin’ well. I don’t think any of our children were born that time. But he used be delighted. Oh, he’d like that’ But I’d give him a bottle of stout and he’d never finish it. He had that bit … he’d go down a little bit and there’d be … When the bottom would be there before him … he’d leave. He didn’t care about drink.
Well, one night he came in, ’twas a Monday night sometime in November, I think. Early in November. And he sez: “I’m feelin’ very bad,” he sez, “I’ve a pain under my heart, ” he sez, “and I’m (in a) bad way.”
“Leave down the pipes on the floor,” sez I, “and don’t be carryin’ the pipes, or the load.” So, he did. Sure he was very fit lookin’. He was a very fit, tough, hardy fella. You wouldn’t think held have heart disease anyway. I spoke to the missus and I said: “Something is goin’ to happen him,” sez I. “I’ve a feclin”.
And with that I went over to the ‘phone and I called Kevin Danaher … I’ve this told before on the radio, of course, but it might be handier if I told it again so you needn’t be lookin’ for the tapes. And so we went over (to the Folklore Commission) and Kevin Danaher was there. I didn’t expect him to be there, and … “Oh, by all means bring him over.”
So we went over that night and he played about, maybe, ten tunes. Andy Conroy was with me and Mick and Francis … (?) Then Kevin Danaher gave him a one pound note out of his pocket that time. And Johnny thought it was a great gift. A pound note was big money in those days, ’twas as good as ten now nearly. He said: “That’s a decent man,” he says, “and I’ll go over again and I’ll play more music for him.”
So, a Wednesday night came and we went over again, I think, the same party … I don’t know were the Conways with me the second night. But he played some, tunes and I called the tunes for him, but the time was limited. He wanted me … he wanted to know which tunes would he play. So we hit on the best tunes we could think of that would be most suitable, that he would play well. But he played everything good.
But them nights I thought, he was sunk down between two counters, like, in the place. He had no real (space in the recording booth?) I suppose the gear wasn’t as good as it is today, but the tunes came out great afterwards. I played a tune with him too, I think it was ‘The Fermoy Lassies’ or something. The fiddle didn’t come so well with it, but you’d hear it in snatches. But then we recorded ten more that night or maybe twelve and we came back. He went to his camp. He was camped in High Street there near Thomas Street. At the junction of Thomas Street. Henshaws was across the road, an old ironmongery place. On Friday morning he got up to go to work and he left his shoe up on a stool for to lace it. And there was a gusty gale of wind blowin’ and there was the top of a wall near, just above the caravan …was camped and whatever way a gust of wind came it shifted the top of the wall and came down with a bang. Some people estimated there was two tons of rubble came down. And he got it in the small of his back and it broke his back. It was a very sad thing altogether.
But he was in a terrible way for a few weeks. He improved slightlybut he had no usebut he had no use of his legs. He was paralysed from the waist down. But he … was in Meath Street Hospital for six or seven weeks or more and then he was shifted to Athy. He struggled to live about a year and a half after the thing happening but he was in dreadful pain. But the last tune he played in the flesh was in our shop – in the room over the shop in Capel Street. But I did hear him playin’ one(ce more), Willie Clancy and me went in to see him, I think it was the time Willie won the Oireachtas when we went out to see him. It was on a Sunday and he had great welcome for us. But he was very bad. He used get … vomits, oh, terrible vomits. But he bucked up courage (when he saw us) and Willie asked him would he play a tune. He said he couldn’t play but he’d like to play a tune on the chanter, Willie’s chanter. So Willie blew the bag and he stuck the chanter in to the bed to suit Johnny and he played a beautiful tune on the chanter. And that was the last tune I beard him playin’. I’m sure that was the last that he ever played.
So he went down to Athy then and he lived there for – in the hospital like, – he lived for most of a year and a half. He died and he was buried in Rathnew, County. Wicklow, among his father’s people. Felix (hwas buried there too. So that’s that.”