Memory of Liam O’Flynn at Scoil Acla, 1997- March 2018

On August 15th 1997, the great Liam O’Flynn came to Achill to headline that year’s Scoil Acla concert in the Wavecrest Hotel, Dooagh. Kieran O Malley had arranged for Liam to visit the very excited uilleann piping class the following morning but Liam’s plans changed and meant he would have to head back East after his performance. But he very graciously offered to treat the piping students to a private recital in the back bar of the Wavecrest before the concert.

We gathered around him in awe, the perfect end to 2 weeks of piping tuition (Scoil Acla ran for 2 weeks back then) and were mesmerised by his mastery of the pipes. Then, without warning, Liam looked around the room and asked: “Does anyone want a go of these pipes?”

“These pipes” were the legendary set owned previously by the great Seamus Ennis, made by Coyne and pitched in C#.

The room was struck dumb until my great friend, and fellow piper, Paul Donnelly suddenly shoved me forward, saying: “Go on Johnny!”.

Before I knew it, my absolute piping hero was handing me perhaps the most iconic set of pipes ever made, on the occasion of my 29th birthday. It was the first time I’d ever put on a full set of uilleann pipes and it took me a second to remember where to rest the bass regulator bar, which I’m sure made Liam a little bit nervous! I still remember the 2 tunes I played: The Queen of the Rushes and Fraher’s Jig, both tunes I’d learned from Liam O’Flynn recordings.

This photo was (I think) taken on French pipemaker Didier Heuline’s camera- that’s Didier sitting in the background.

RIP Liam O’FLynn, King of the Pipers, Hero. 14th March 2018

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