“There’s a lot of the people that was associated with the fiddle in my young days, not a lot, but they’re all dead, they’re all gone you know but eh. I suppose Junior and myself and Jimmy Ward would be the oldest men in showbusiness at the present moment.
Well twas great meeing the old timers and they had. They were nasty in a lot of ways, they wouldn’t even show you anything. I used to steal into Patsy Geary after riding a bike about 3 and a half miles in a hilly crooked road, and and I’d be… I’d park my bicycle someplace around the house. And I’d be listening at the door to find out how the situation was. But I daren’t enter at all. And I’d find him maybe sitting at the fire. He used to always keep a lovely fire and the house well painted. And 7 or 8 alarm clocks then …and many more of course, they were decoration.
His son Seán was a man of the house in those days you know. And he was very interested in the music and he’s say to the father, would you father take down the fiddle, the boys after coming a long way and ’tis a bad night. “Musha John I don’t feel like playing tonight John.” He’s go on like this. But I’d a drop in my pocket, which I hadn’t the price of at that time. He’d be playing I’ll tell you. And he couldn’t be stopped.
But it was an insult to come into his house without a drop in the pocket. Which of course I was only a young lad about 14 or 15 years of age and I didn’t know the etiquette, or what was going. Anyway we hadn’t the money. Apart from… my Mother woudl kill me. “What are you bringing drink up to Patsy Geary to hear him play music.”
Patsy came from the old school. You know like and he loved that touch because he played in the big houses. All those people they were the radio and televisions of the day you know. Of course I might as well add you see that he was a travelling man do you see at one stage and he married Mary, a woman by the name of Mary MacNamara, Máire Mac was her name. And he stole her from her husband, at the wedding. The wedding was at 4 o’clock in the evening and Patsy was there all day, and Máire was there all day. And the dance went on fine and before the groom came anyway, Patsy had eloped with the bride to be. That’s sure. I hope none of the gearys are around here now.
She was a great musician too and she used to feen and cry and pull the shawl across. She was a big woman. She used to sell carigeen and mussels and things on the strand ’twas no bother for her to go 18 miles to Kilrush to sell her wears. But eh, she loved the music.
Twas like a dream land in my day to go in a meet that man and when he played…When I got a bit better then I had studied, I heard a few tunes from the record from Michael Coleman. Lord McDonalds reel was, it was wonders when we heard it first. I was trying to teach it to the pupiles there. It was the greatest of all times when we heard Michael Coleman play it.
Now I was advancing at this stage, I supposed I’d be 20 and I used to come armed now, not the shite fella anymore that was trying to.. I came as a….
I had a bad fiddle, was made by a Blacksmith. He often gave it a dirty look when he used to see it…
And he used to get things from the states. His daughter …Maria? Geary went out to the States, he had a big big family. They used to send him the best of things. Oh his fiddle was great. He told me it was the greatest fiddle, not in Clare but there was nothing in South munster like it he said. It was an awful statement, I kind of believed him too. I don’t think that he were telling the truth probably.
….Do you know what he said to me I played it, and he shuffled and he stuck the tongs in the fire and he put a coal in the pipe and he looked around. “Ah John Kelly he said and where did you get that introduction.” Glory be to God almighty, he cut the ground from under me completely. Well I needed to be told the man I heard playing that you wouldn’t be fit to rock in the boat with he stayed in his own corner. And that’s the time I won out and that’s the time I won out. When I spoke up for myself.
So that was one of the stories of my young days learning the fiddle. But he was a beaufiul player though. He used a long bow and he had great touches and beautiful tone and oh he was, when he got the fiddle, I think that you couldn’t knock tone out out of the fiddle that you couldn’t knock any fiddle. I could never knock the tone out of it anyway.
I’ll try to play something that he…This reel now that he used to play, the Salamanca. I’ll try to play it now as he used to play it. He had some nice cuttings in it.”
John then plays The Salamanca Reel on the fiddle as Patsy used to play it.