Extract from “Irish Minstrels and Musicians” by Captain Francis O’Neill
“For power of extracting a strong, voluble tone from the chanter, and imparting a beautiful expression to the music, he has few peers and certainly no superior.” Such is the language of an enthusiastic admirer in describing the accomplishments of John Rowsome, the eldest Son of Samuel Rowsome of Ballintore Ferns, County Wexford, who resides on the old homestead and is consequently unknown to fame. As Mr. Whelan is a very interesting though somewhat partial writer we will let him continue: “There are surely none more conversant with the law of modulation in music. To hear him play a great Irish reel is like listening to the warring elements of nature. The music from his chanter comes with the impetuosity of the wind, which gathers force in its gambols down the mountain side to accelerate its wild career over the plain. And anon it lingers or seems to linger, and goes on again with increased velocity. It comes in undulating waves of sound, and breaks upon the ear as the swells of the ocean break upon the beach and disperse around the feet of the spectator.
“Who that has listened to the roar of the distant cataract in the stillness of the night would fail to be impressed with a sense that a greater volume of water overleaps the rock, and plunges into the chasm below with correspondingly increasing fury at certain intervals than at others?
“Any or all of the above similes might he taken as illustrations of his music, yet they are but poorly or indifferently put, for still the music swells, breaks, leaps, curvets, sighs, murmurs, ripples, laughs, rolls, thunders, on the ear of the enraptured listener.
“The noise emitted through the chanter and from the strings of many of the swelled heads, is mere musical chatter in comparison to his playing, nor is it to be wondered at, since the musical faculty with him was inborn, and James Cash, that ‘prince of pipers,’ was through all his early years his most intimate associate, friend, and tutor.”
But coming back to earth from Patrick Whelan’s aerial flights, we hasten to inform the reader that John Rowsome, as well as his brothers Thomas and William, studied music under Herr Jacob Blowitz, a German professor, who resided in Ferns from 1878 to 1885, and became efficient performers on various orchestral instruments. John was famous on the cornet, on which he could play jigs as fluently as William could on the violin. Strange to say, heredity overcame their training under Professor Blowitz, and all three owe their present fame to their skill as performers on the Union bagpipes.
Since succeeding his father in the management of the farm, John has not played in public, nor has he continued his practice of music except in a desultory way in private. Just as he would be warming up to his work and when his audience would be anticipating a musical treat, he would strike a few chords on the regulators and put away the instrument heedless of protest or entreaty.
Nearing the half century milestone in age, he is unostentatious in the extreme, though active in all that pertains to the revival of interest in Irish music, and the art of giving it traditional expression on Ireland’s national instrument. He has furbished, repaired, renovated, and reeded more foundered sets of bagpipes, for the unskilful, than any other man in the south of Ireland.
Neither is this splendid type of the whole-souled Irishman inclined to “hide his light under a bushel,” like so many excellent pipers whom we could name.
John Rowsome sees no glory in taking his art or his tunes to the grave with him. Like so many small-bore musicians afflicted with atrophied consciences. On the contrary, to his great credit, he is teaching his art, as his generous-hearted father did before him, to all who cared to learn. Among his present pupils are his young neighbors, David and Bernard Bolger, of the manufacturing firm of “David Bolger and Sons,” and their maternal uncle, Joseph Sinnott, draper at Enniscorthy. Who is active and enthusiastic in Gaelic circles.
Wealthy, popular, and patriotic, three members of the Bolger family represented constituencies in the first election assembly which supplanted the Grand Jury system in Wexford, and it is quite within the bounds of probability that in the near future two “gentlemen pipers” of the name will succeed their honored relatives in the same capacity.
Extract from “Irish Minstrels and Musicians” by Captain Francis O’Neill
Another notable instance of heredity of musical talent is to be observed in the Rowsome family. Mr. Samuel Rowsome, a “strong” farmer of Ballintore Ferns, County Wexford, was a fine performer on the Irish pipes, by all accounts.
His sons, William and Thomas, of Dublin, need no introduction to the lovers of pipe music in this generation. Perpetuating the name and fame of the family, young Samuel Rowsome, son of William, has already achieved distinction as a piper.
During a brief visit to Dublin in the summer of 1906, the present writer made the acquaintance of the subject of this sketch at his residence, No. 18 Armstrong Street, Harold’s Cross. Being favorably impressed by his manner and music, the visit was repeated in the company of Rev. James K. Fielding, of Chicago, next day. Of course, Mr. Rowsome “put on the pipes” and played his favorite tunes at a lively clip – a trifle too lively for a dancer, we thought. That, however, is a mere matter of opinion. But the spirit of the music was in the performer, unmistakably, for while he touched the keys of the regulators airily and in good rhythm, his eyes sparkled with animation and his whole anatomy seemed to vibrate with a buoyancy which found suitable expression in the clear tones of his chanter. The instrument on which he played and that used by Prof. Denis O’Leary, winner of the first prize at the Munster Feis a few days before, were Mr. Rowsome’s own make. In finish and tone there was no cause for criticism, unless possibly a greater volume of tone might be more desirable in a large hall.
Old-time instruments in all stages of dilapidation were strewn about the shop awaiting repairs, the most remarkable being an immense set made on an original design, and which had lain unused in a Clare cabin for many years.
Always an impulsive enthusiast, my reverend countryman, Father Fielding, was bound to take a shot at it with his ever-ready kodak. Yours truly was persuaded – very reluctantly, though – to hold up the framework of the wonderful pipes to the proper level, it being understood that I was to constitute no part of the target. Standing sideways and leaning backward as far as equilibrium would permit, my outstretched arms presented the derelict instrument in front of the camera. Three months later the morning rnail brought me a souvenir from the reverend photographer in which my distorted likeness was more prominent in the picture than the pipes I had been holding!
Commendably circumspect in his language and reference to others in his profession and trade, during our few hours’ stay, Mr. Rowsome has been almost as fortunate as “Billy” Taylor, of Philadelphia, in winning and retaining the good will of his patrons and associates. The artistic temperament, however, may be accountable for many little misunderstandings which sensitive natures magnify into grievances.
Never was there a greater surprise sprung on “the old folks at home” and the promiscuous array of pipers, fiddlers and fluters at Ballintore and vicinity than the discovery that “Willie” Rowsome had become an accomplished performer on the Union pipes. Having moved to Dublin and married there in early manhood, he was remembered by the people at home in Wexford only as a fine freehand fiddler who could also do a little at the pipes.
Blood will tell, and so heredity asserted itself nd his case. When he paid a visit to the old homestead in the summer of 1911, his general execution and command of the regulators was a revelation to his family and friends. Replying to a question as to the relative merits of William and Thomas Rowsome, John, the senior brother, said: “That is largely a matter of opinion; sorne would rather `Willie’s’ playing, others would prefer `Tom’s.’ I believe `Willie’ is just as good as `Tom,’ and his style is more staccato.”
In the language of an admirer who is himself a versatile musician, “his staccato style is a marvel of dexterity, as it entails an expenditure of muscular energy beyond ordinary manual effort. His tipping and tripling are admirable, and his manipulation of the regulators may well, in these degenerate days of piping, be regarded as an innovation in the art. In playing dance music, which he prefers, his chords, save at the end of the strain, are never sustained beyond the duration of a crochet, so that the bars of his accompaniment in reels and hornpipes are regularly filled with four crochets each, and not infrequently varying to the same number of quavers with equivalent rest intervals alternating.” Much more from the pen of a friendly biographer might be added, but believing it would be injudieions to eater unduly to personalities, especially in the case of a musician still in the land of the living, we must forego the pleasure it would afford us to be more generous with space under different circumstances.
Other references to William Rowsome in “Irish Minstrels and Musicians” by Captain Francis O’Neill.
The Moloney Brothers
The discovery that the magnificent set of Union pipes of peculiar design picked up by Prof. Denis O’Leary in Clare in 1906 was manufactured by the Moloney brothers – Thomas and Andrew – at Kilrush, in that county, presumably solves a puzzling problem.
The trombone slide, which is a conspicuous feature of the instrument, was also a prominent characteristic of the splendid Irish pipes seen in the pictures of Captain Kelly and William Murphy in this volume. As neither of the noted pipemakers – Kenna, Coyne, Harrington, or Egan – turned out instruments of that type, there is nothing inconsistent in attributing their manufacture to the Moloneys.
It was while acting as Gaelic League organizer in 1906 that Professor O’Leary became acquainted with a Mr. Nolan, of Knockerra, near Kilrush, a good amateur piper and an enthusiast on the instrument, though then well advanced in years.
In early life he knew intimately Thomas and Andrew Moloney of the same townland, who made on the order of Mr. Vandaleur, a local landlord, what is claimed to be the most elaborate set of bagpipes in existence. Thomas was a blacksmith and Andrew was a carpenter, but both were great performers on the Union pipes.
According to Mr. Nolan’s story, they did not manufacture many sets of pipes, but they were always most obliging towards the piping fraternity in repairing their instruments.
It may be objected that mechanics of their class would be incapable of turning out such fine technical work, but in view of the fact that Egan, the famous harpmaker of Dublin, was originally a blacksmith, and that the elder Kenna was by trade a wheelwright, there appear to be no just grounds to question the authenticity of the Moloney claims.
When seen by the present writer at Mr. Rowsome’s shop, 18 Armstrong Street, Harold’s Cross, Dublin, in 1906, Professor O’Leary’s treasure was disjointed and apparently long out of use, but it seems Mr. Rowsome experienced no difficulty in putting it in order. It was a massive ebony instrument, the chanter being eighteen inches in length, and, according to its present owner, “of exquisite sweetness and fullness, much superior to an Egan or Harrington chanter.” It has five regulators, with twenty-four keys, and the tones of both basses resemble those of an organ. There are two splendid drones. The tubing and keys are of pure silver and artistically turned out, and the various pipes are tipped with ivory.
Experts estimate the original cost at one hundred pounds, or five hundred dollars.
The date of their manufacture is not known, except that it was early in the nineteenth century, when the makers were in good circumstances. As the young man for whom the instrument was intended met with an injury, it remained on their hands, unsalable because of its expensiveness.
The disastrous famine years ruined the Moloneys and they were obliged to part with their masterpiece for a trifling sum. The purchaser, Mr. O’Carroll, of Freagh, near Miltown-Malbay, was a farmer of independent means, and an excellent performer on the Union pipes. People used to come from far and near to hear him play and to examine the wonderful instrument. He died about the year 1890, and as none of his family could manipulate this “hive of honeyed sounds,” it remained silent as a mummy until Mr. Rowsome restored its voice as before stated.
Prof. Denis O’Leary
Nothing could excel the tactfulness of the curly-headed, smiling, spectacled Denis O’Leary, who acted in the capacity of chairman or stage manager of the Munster Feis in the year 1906 at the City of Cork. His direction of the proceedings in the Irish language exclusively had the charm of novelty, at least to one returning to his native shores after an absence of forty-one years.
Feeling quite secure in our incognito we were not prepared to be approached in the audience and saluted by Mr. O’Leary, and notified of our selection as one of the adjudicators in the musical competitions.
Imagine our surprise next day when the gracious chairman himself competed for the honors as a performer on the Union pipes, and won first prize. In his playing there was none of the free and easy abandon of the seasoned piper about him. He realized his limitations and did not attempt any fancy flourishes, but with his instrument in perfect tune he played airs, and dance tunes, with admirable rhythm and precision.
The tones of his fine set of Union pipes were a trifle keener than those of the Kenna, Coyne, or Egan type, but they were much less sonorous than the con- cert pitch instrument manufactured by the late William Taylor of Philadelphia, and to out notion much more pleasing to the ear.
By a fortunate coincidence we met again a week or so later at William Rowsome’s place, No. 18 Armstrong Street, Harold’s Cross, Dublin, where the pipes which had excited our admiration were turned out. Mr. O’Leary had brought with him a most remarkable set of pipes which he had purchased for twelve pounds from an old woman in the County Clare, who had treasured them in an old chest for many long years. Had she been at home when an American called the day before for the same purpose, doubtless she would have received a much better price; but such is luck. The instrument, it is said, was specially made for a scion of the Vandaleurs, but the young man having met with an accident, it was left on the maker’s hands.
The subject of this sketch was born January 21, 1877, at Dirrinculling, Ballyvourney, barony of West Muskerry, County Cork; a district bordering on Kerry, in which tradition, song and story, language and native customs, yet survive and thrive to a degree unsurpassed in any part of Ireland. Master of English and Irish and a graduate of the local national school, in which Irish history was ignored, he was doomed to follow the plow until the Gaelic League movement vitalized the national consciousness.
Ardently cooperating in its aims, young O’Leary took advantage of every spare moment in conferring with shanachies, and carefully committing to writing every fragment of song and story recited by these venerable old men, thus preserving much valuable material for future Irish literature. He was a constant contributor of Irish articles to the Weekly Examiner and Fainne an Lae during the editorship of the lamented Denis Fleming, and also to the Gaelic Journal.
In the early days of the Gaelic League, he competed regularly at Feis and Oireachtas and won many distinctions, including the Bunting gold medal for original poetry at the Oireachtas of 1900. It was at one of those gatherings, by the way, that he met Mr. Wayland, founder of the Cork Pipers’ Club, and influenced by the latter’s enthusiasm became imbued with a love for the music of the Irish or Union pipes, an instrument which had become extinct even in such a conservative territory as his native barony. However, many of an older generation remembered Mikil Piobaire (O’Hallisy), Conor O’Hallisy, Cronin, who was a Kerryman, and “Cauhneen” O’Connell and some others of less note.
Yielding to the persuasions of his friend Mr. Wayland, the embryo professor migrated from Ballyvourney to the City of Cork, in 1900, and took up the study of the Union pipes under his friend’s tuition. In 1901 we find him in the town of Roscommon, having the honor of being the first extern teacher of Irish appointed by the Gaelic League to give instruction in the national schools. His success led to his selection two years later, from a large number of candidates, as organizer in Cork, where his urbanity and genial manner proved the wisdom of the choice. Equally successful in County Clare, to which he had been transferred in 1905, he won the affections of the Dalcassians and in evidence thereof at the time of his resignation in 1906, the Gaels of Corca Baiscin presented him publicly with testimonials and illuminated addresses.
It was while on this mission he became acquainted with Mr. Nolan of Knockerra, near Kilrush, a good amateur piper, and an enthusiast on the instrument. In his younger days he had known intimately the Moloney brothers—Thomas and Andrew—pipemakers who had manufactured the splendid instrument we had seen at Mr. Rowsome’s shop at Harold’s Cross. Its description and history will be found in Chapter XV in connection with the sketch of its makers.
Being of studious habits and deeply interested in the teaching profession, Mr. O’Leary conceived the idea of going on the continent to study foreign languages; so early in 1907 he went to Belgium and entered the Catholic university of Louvain, where he remained two years. During his holidays he also studied at the University of Dijon in Burgundy, and he traveled also in Germany, perfecting himself in his linguistic acquirements.
Wherever he went he was always sure to keep up his practice on his beloved pipes, which, in their soft yet powerful tones, contrasted very favorably with the French cornameuse, or the German dudel-sac.
After his return to Ireland in the autumn of 1908, Mr. O’Leary was appointed professor of Irish and French at Mount Melleray Seminary, Waterford. During his stay he maintained his interest in pipe music, and had no less than five youths under instruction. When Desmond College, Ring, County Waterford, was opened in 1909, Prof. O’Leary was assigned to teach classics and modern languages, and as this college is situated in the midst of an Irish population, no institution affords better opportunities for acquiring a knowledge of the national language.
The professor is quite proud of his proficiency on the pipes—the national instrument—and in spite of his manifold duties finds time for a daily practice. A pleasing feature of his performance is to see a curly-headed baby boy sitting beside him pounding away at the regulators, probably the most youthful performer on the pipes in existence.
A description of the circumstances attending this patriarehal minstrelys presence at the Mansion House Reception at Dublin in 1906, where the writer made his acquaintance, may be found on page 228, Irish Folk Music, A Fascinating Hobby, and therefore need not be repeated here.
Through the courtesy of Mr. William Rowsome of Dublin we have been favored with an excellent sketch of his life and that of his talented son from the able pen of Mr. Patrick Whelan of Scarawalsh, Ballycarney, County Wexford, a versatile musician himself.
“Cash the Piper” has been for over fifty years to all lovers of traditional melody as well as those who affected the display of the “light fantastic toe” in Wexford and adjoining counties, a popular and familiar phrase, and although as an honored title, it is now derelict, there is no indication that it will pass into oblivion for many a day to come.
The name was borne in common by two contemporary pipers, with the distinetive qualifying terms “Old” or “Young,” for they were father and son – John and James respectively.
John Cash, who was a native of County Wexford, was born in the year 1832, the historic landmark of his birth being March, after the tithe massacre of Bunclody, commonly called the battle of Newtownbarry, which occurred in 1831. He learned the art of playing the Union pipes from his uncle, James Hanrahan, an Irish piper of repute, a Tipperary man whose wife was an excellent violinist also.
Bred in an atmosphere of music, and as his various callings tended to bring him generally within a musical environment, and being endowed with much talent, it is little wonder he attained the distinction of being one of the most famous pipers of the latter half of the nineteenth century.
He married early in life, his wife, “Polly” Connors, being a tidy and industrious woman who could foot a dance against any who ever “took the floor.” To his trade of tinsmith he combined that of horse dealer, and his enterprise soon made him comparatively wealthy.
Fortified with capital, Cash could import as many as six or seven score of Connemara ponies and young horses in one season into the southern counties of Leinster.
To all interested in the dance and music of the niotherland he was known as “Cash the Piper,” but from Waterford City to the Curragh of Kildare and from Enniscorthy to far-oft Ballinasloe, among those more interested in horseflesh than in music, he was simply “Johnny Cash.” Although always having an established home occupied by some members of his family, he kept abroad himself pretty much at certain seasons of the year in the pursuit of his avoeations, and we may well believe that he was `a welcome guest at the wealthiest farmers’ houses, and enjoyed to the fullest the best accommodations wherever he went. for he was never without his melodious pipes on his horse-trading expeditions.
John Cash was a man of line personal appearance, well above medium height, with proportionatemuscular development, amiable of disposition and with good conversational powers. Unlike the typical piper and hddler, he was not loquacious; neither was he an egotist. Although conversant with all the dance music common to the south of Ireland, he never set himself up as an infallible authority in such matters, but would play anything called for without comment or delay; yet, like the majority of his class, he was quick of wit and keen of repartee.
His advent to the barony of Scarawalsh on the occasion of his periodical visits to the fair of Enniscorthy was always regarded by young and old with pleasurable anticipation. He invariably stayed overnight at the snug home of Mr. Lawrence Piper, who was Doyle the dancing master’s best pupil, and was also one of the best nonprofessional dancers of his day or any other day. As the saying goes, “Larry was as tlne a dancer as ever stepped in shoe leather,” and, as an admirer once said of him, “kicked dance around the house and in all directions away from him,” and could beat one, two, three, consecutively against a wall as easily as kiss his hand, and besides he was as iniposingly handsome a figure as imagination could conceive. Talk about the poetry of motion, of which he was a superb exponent. There is a poetry of just proportion in the symmetry of muscular development in the human form which you realized the nioment he stood on the floor. This Adonis scorned vest and cravat as accessories of his holiday attire, and as for braces, why, he never indulged in such superfluities. For fancy, flashy shirts he had a strong weakness, while a broadcloth coat and a shining silk beaver hat completed his wardrobe and his happiness. With the two latter articles of apparel laid aside, he was ready “to take the floor.”
The young people always expected a rare treat when “Cash the Piper” was around, and it is but the simple truth to say they were never disappointed, although their patience was sorely tried occasionally by the piper’s protracted delay in getting started. Oftentimes Mr. Cash, with the pipes thrown carelessly across his knees, would suspend operations to talk to “Larry” of “the days of old lang syne” when they met at the fairs and the races at which they were by no means inconspicuous figures.
Invariably they had to be recalled from their reminiscent reverie by the importunities of an expectant audience, but after the music and dancing had commenced in earnest the scene can be better imagined than described.
“Larry” Piper had all the distinguishing qualities of the great Irish dancer. As an athlete he had no rival worthy of the name, except John Nolan, “The Fairy Man,” whose almost superhuman feats ot strength and muscular dexterity became proverbial during his life time. Without any of the swaying body-movement or ridiculous and grotesque arm motion that characterizes the mediocre, his performance proved a psychic treat.
With arms drawn closely to his sides, and rather backward to the elbow, from which joint they were relaxed with a forward inclination, his body otherwise motionless, he carried in a vertical line wherever he changed his position. The precision and rapidity of his footwork and evolutions, while appreciated by the eye, defy the pen to describe.
On such occasions Cash invariably played the “Londonderry Clog” in five parts almost identical with the setting in O’Neill’s Music of Ireland, in his inimitable style, it being one of his favorites, and locally known as “Cash’s Hornpipe” on that account. Even those who were wont to advocate the claim of James Byrne of Bagnalstown, County Carlow, to the premiership of Leinster, were forced to admit that the acme of good pipering was here to be enjoyed.
In common with all musicians of his class, Cash disliked playing for “sets” or quadrilles, yet he never failed to meet the expectations of his host or audience, though jigs, reels, and hornpipes, were his cherished favorites.
“Alec.” Leary and “Kitty” Carton were always in evidence as the sturdyrepresentatives of oldtime customs and manners, and would take the floor and “welt it for further orders,” and could calculate on the hearty support of Mrs. Piper and “Polly” Cash.
The superb “Larry” Pipers health had been declining for a long time, but a month prior to his death, when John Cash called around, he mounted the kitchen table and grasping a pole that crossed the house within above his head, made the board “tell” in response to every note emitted by the chanter. We can scarcely conceive the mutual feeling of admiration or rather veneration which existed between these two worthies-piper and dancer.
Although Cash’s visits were only of periodical recurrence, and of brief duration, yet they did much to inlluenee the popular musical taste along traditional lines, and to still direct it in the channel through which it flowed for centuries. The same may be said of him wherever he went. He had a long and honorable career as an Irish piper. Otherwise he was an industrious man who led a useful and, it must in truth be stated, a blameless life. He died in 1909 at his residence in Wicklow town, where he lived for many years, surviving his beloved “Polly” only a brief twelve months.
The old minstrel’s picture was obtained from John Rowsome, who on handing it to Patrick Whelan remarked: “There it is, and it is more like the poor old fellow than he was himself!” Sir Boyle Roehe couldn’t do better.
A song popular in the counties of Wicklow and Wexford, in which our hero is the leading character, may not be out of place in concluding the biography of this exemplary man:
My name is “Cash the Piper,”
And I’m seen at race and fair;
I’m known to all the jolly souls
From Wicklow to Kildare;
I’ve played at dance and wedding
From Bray to Clonegal,
But the cream of entertainment
Was at “Mick the Dalty’s” ball.
I received a special order
To attend at eight o’clock ;
I took the train to Rathdrum,
Then walked to Glendalough.
The boys around the neighborhood
Assembled one and all,
Saying, “You’re welcome, `Cash the Piper,’
To `Mick the Dalty’s’ “ball.”
And when I entered I beheld
A table brimming o’er
With beef and bread and bacon,
And stout and punch galore ;
We all sat down and ate our fill,
Like cattle in a stall,
For “eat and drink”-it was the word
At “Mick the Dalty’s” ball.
The feast being o’er, the cloth removed,
I played a dashing reel,
When one young lady on the floor
Displayed a toe and heel,
With “Will the Dalty,” “Will the gaum,”
For such I must him call;
He slapped his flat foot on the floor
At “Mick the Dalty’s” ball.
The family names were “Jim” and “Will,”
With “Andy” and old “Mick”;
The guests were “Tom,’ and “Paddy,” too,
And Martin, Hugh, and “Dick”,
There was Mary, Kate, and Nancy,
With one they did not call–
All danced before me on the floor,
At “Mick the Dalty’s” ball.
And when the dance was over,
The dancers all sat down;
In tumblers, tins and teacups,
The punch went steaming round,
While rough and ready Hugh struck up,
And sang the “Ould Plaid Shawl,”
Which brought three cheers with laughter loud
At “Mick the Dalty’s” ball.
The longest night must have its dawn,
The sweetest pleasures end,
The jolliest crowd must part at last,
And home their footsteps bend,
So when loud upon our revels rang
The cock’s loud morning call,
Wre all shook hand? and took our leave
Of “Mick the Dalty’s” ball.
James, commonly known as “Young Cash,” in contradistinction to the elder – his father – is believed to have been one of the most brilliant lights of the profession which his native province of Leinster has produced, as far as we have any definite knowledge. Inheriting the musical faculty and nurtured under condition which gave every facility to the unfolding of latent talent, he graduated as a sterling Irish piper whilst yet but a boy. Possessing marvellous execution on the chanter in the rendering of reels, doubles, and hornpipes, and dance music generally, he was no less an adept in playing waltzes, marches, airs, and miscellaneous compositions.
His acumen and dexterity in the manipulation of the regulators in producing harmonic accompaniments was such as to win the approbation of the wealthy and refined, and commend him to the patronage of the nobility of the land.
Unlike his father, James Cash never learned or followed any other trade or calling, his sole ambition being directed towards becoming a piper of fame in his day, and his eilorts were singularly successful in that respect, so far as giving practical manifestation of phenomenal ability. But, alas, “fell death’s untimely frost” nipped him in the flower of his manhood and effervescent genius.
To be duly appreciated he should have been born three generations earlier, when great musicians attracted distinguished patrons and the blight of famine and proscription had not done their deadly work. He came unfortunately at a time when the greatest apathy prevailed in all that pertains to the noblest Celtic tradition in music, and when the country, with a greater degree of justice than ever, might be described as a “corpse upon the disseeting table.,’
An incident of his early life, as told by his mother, shows the bias of his early inelinations.
At the early age of nine years, while the family lived in the town of Wexford, he occasioned great distress by his protraeted absence from home one day. As evening waned and night came on, anxiety became intensified to alarm, when his father and mother went forth in search of the truant. Attracted by a noisy crowd of juveniles which they saw assembled in the main street, to their great relief they found in the centre of the throng the youthful James, who, with a miniature set of bagpipes, had been making a circuit of the town, with more small silver and copper coins upon’ his person than he could comfortably carry.
For the purpose of improving and giving a polish to his education, this prodigy early decided on making a prolonged tour of Munster and Connacht. Some of his earlier experiences in this enterprise were by no means reassuring or encouraging, according to his own statement.
It had been the zest of his ambition to invade the County and City of rebel Cork, and when he was well across the frontier, while traveling one day, he entered a house by the wayside. The only occupant at the time was a precocious boy of rather diminutive stature who, regarding him with evident interest, soliloquized, “Oh! is this another new piper we’ve got ?” Young Cash admitted the implied accusation. “Will you let us hear you play ?” asked the self-possessed one.
James played one of his best and most eatehy tunes in confident style, expecting to astonish the listener, but it seems he didn’t, for the latter only remarked: “Not a bad player at all if you had a good instrument.”
The invading piper, who had not only prided himself on having a good set of pipes but in being a competent judge as well, was taken somewhat aback, laid them down on the seat beside him to await the outcome of what had become to him a very interesting turn of affairs. The boy advanced, took hold of the chanter and looked it over critically with the eye of an expert. “This ought to be a good chanter if there were a good reed in it,” he announced.
Cash, perceiving he was about to draw the chanter from its stock, interposed with the observation: “Be careful of what you do, my boy; those reeds are delicate and are very easily injured.”
The boy, without taking apparent notice of the remonstrance, took out the chanter, withdrew the reed, put the stem to his lips, drew the air in through it so as to produce the “crow,” and said reassuringly to the perturbed owner, “I make reeds for the pipers who circulate around here and they consider me not a bad hand at the business.”
Reaching up to a hole in the “scraw,” he drew from under the thatch a small box full of miscellaneous articles, saying as he did so, “I may have a reed to suit this chanter.” After searching through the contents of the box he selected one, tried its “crow” in the manner described, adjusted it in proper position, put on the pipes and played a tune. to Cash’s astonishment, in such a manner as left little doubt in his mind that his own best efforts were but poor in comparison. [This is a very nice story, but what has become of the phenomenal young piper and reedmaker?]
James Cash rapidly rose to distinction in his chosen profession and titled appointments in the Metropolitan Theatre and music halls, and, being a young man of handsome appearance, he enjoyed, or perhaps suffered from, that peculiar popularity or adulation accorded only those displaying conspicuous artistic talents. To some the fascination proves irresistible.
Like many another of brilliant genius, he was beset by adversity, lost his emoluments, and yielding to the pressure of circumstances traveled about as a wandering piper.
All of the family – boys and girls – were born at Kilmore, County Wexford, the date of his birth being October, 1853. After a short but eventful life, this gifted musician died at Rathdrum in 1890, ere he had attained his thirty-eighth year. Too much conviviality, an evil almost inseparable from his profession, led to certain infirmities from which neither age nor youth may hope to escape.
“My estimate of the younger Cash, based on acquaintance and general experience, is,” writes Mr. Wm. Rowsome, the versatile piper and pipemaker of Dublin, “that he was the star piper of the whole globe. I had the opportunity of hearing the best pipers of Ireland. Among them were many marvelous pertormers who could play an Irish tune to suit the most critical, but James Cash could play a tune in ten different styles before he would finish, and, what was still more astonishing, he could converse on any subject while doing so. Many a conversation I had With him in my old home at Ballintore when he was playing a difficult hornpipe for a noted dancer named Lawrence Murray, now living at Avoca Mills, County Wicklow.”
During the whole period of his meteoric career he was a frequent visitor at the picturesque and eommodious farmstead of Mr. Samuel Rowsome of Ballintore, Ferns, County Wexford, himself a fine performer on the Irish pipes. By this hospitable family his memory and that of his father as well are religiously cherished, and his technique of pipe-playing adopted by the younger generation of that famous family of pipers.
Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, no tribute could excel that of the Rowsomes who are carving niches in the Temple of Fame; but let it not be forgotten that whosoever aspires to the musical mantle of the lamented James Cash must aim high indeed.
The Dublin Group
Great credit is due Michael O’Duibhginn, secretary of the Dublin Pipers’ Club. Who through his capacity and energy brought to the Oireachtas of 1912 no less than seventeen Union pipers—the largest number of the fraternity ever assembled at such a gathering. And then, to crown his efforts, a versatile member of the club—Seamus ua Casaide—took his pen in hand and gave to the press a gossipy sketch of the proceedings and those who took part in the event. Interesting as the picture of the group—reproduced in our pages—may be at present, we regret to foresee the day that it may be historical.
Among the pipers who contributed to the success of the Oireachtas, eight had been dealt with elsewhere in our sketches; namely, M. Flanagan, John Flannagan, James Byrne, John Kenny, Denis Delaney, Patrick Ward, Stephen Ruane, and Nicholas Markey.
John O’Reilly of Dunmore, County Galway, the dean of the assemblage, won the highest honors jointly with James Byrne of Mooncoin, County Kilkenny. The former is described as “a blind man of smart appearance with a jet black goatee beard and clean shaven upper lip, which gives him the appearance of a returned Yank.” Though seventy-three years of age, not a grey hair gives warning of life’s decline. His playing, which was far superior to his performance of previous years, may be attributed in some degree to his splendid set of pipes, recently purchased from William Rowsome, the clever pipemaker of Harold’s Cross, Dublin.
Seamus MacAonghusa—otherwise James Ennis—of the Dublin Pipers, Club, who was awarded second prize, is a new Richmond in the field of piping. He was leader of the Dublin Warpipers’ Band, which won third prize at the Carnival, while Seamus himself achieved distinction by winning hrst prize in the individual warpipes contest, and also Francis Joseph Bigger’s prize for the best all-around warpiper.
Accompanied by Mrs. Kenny—”Queen of Irish Fiddlers”—this talented young man’s playing proved how well the Union pipes and fiddle play in unison. As Union piper, Warpiper, and dancer, this native of the Parish of Naul in his round of triumph exemplified the possibilities of intelligent effort sustained by vitalized national sentiment.
Special prizes were awarded William H. Mulvey, “a pleasant-looking giant” of Mohill, County Leitrim, and Hugh Newman, a tall, thin piper hailing from Athboy, County Meath. Mr. Mulvey, it appears, won third prize at the Dublin Feis in 1905, second prize in 1906, and first prize in 1909–a very creditable record indeed.
Francis J. McPeake of Belfast and Mrs. J.J. Murphy of Limerick were awarded first and second prizes, respectively, in the learners’ class of Union pipers. The singing of the young man from the north to the accompaniment of his pipe music was a performance highly appreciated. Originally a pupil of R. L. O’Mealy of Belfast, temperamental difficulties came between them, so he placed himself under the tuition of O’Reilly, who spent some months in the Ulster metropolis.
Daniel Markey, a Union piper hailing from Castleblayney , County Monaghan, is described as an active, low-sized man, resembling a seaman more than a musician, and a witty conversationalist in Ulster Irish. At the Dublin Feis of 1900, he tied with Denis Delaney of Ballinasloe for third prize, and he also won third prize in 1909. Of Thomas Walsh, one of the group, nothing can be said except that he came from Dungarvan, County Waterford.
Extract from “Irish Minstrels and Musicians” by Captain Francis O’Neill
Of this member of the Rowsome family of pipers we can say nothing from personal knowledge, but we are reliably informed that Thomas Rowsome is not inferior to his brother William as a performer on the Union pipes. In fact, some are inclined to believe that, in rendering Irish airs with the manipulation of the regulators, Thomas has the advantage. At any rate it speaks well for the latter’s ability that he was awarded first prize at the Dublin Feis Ceoil competition among pipers in 1899. Winning third prize even, in 1897, when “Bob” Thompson of Cork and Turlogh McSweeney. “the Donegal piper,” were awarded first and second prizes respectively, was no small honor indeed.
From a discriminating pen we learn that “Tom” Rowsome is a fine, steady player. And at times even a brilliant one. At single jigs it would be hard to beat him, though in general execution his style may be considered too open and flute-like. However, that is a matter of individual taste. As regards time, he stands pre-eminent; his last bar of a jig or reel, in fact of any tune, is played in precisely the same time as the first, and no dancer can influence him to accelerate his pace or tempo.
Mr. O’Mealy, the well-known piper and pipemaker of Belfast, who played in concert with him on various occasions, speaks very highly of his social qualities. Nothing else could have been expected from his father and mother’s son, anyway.
Differing from his brother, John and William, at least in one respect, he stuck to his first love-the Union pipes-and, notwithstanding his musical education acquired under Herr Blowitz of Ferns, his taste for traditional Irish music remained uncorrupted and undiminished. All three became skilful pipers under the instruction of their father, Samuel Rowsome, the famous farmer-piper of Ballintore, Ferns, County Wexford, and all three have won distinction in that line of musical art.
The “Harvest Home” was an established institution at Ballyrankin, Clobernin, Farniley, Morrison’s, St. Aidan’s Palace, and many other residential seats of the wealthy in north Wexford. The attendance of the three brothers was ever in requisition at those annual celebrations, “Willie’s” reputation as a violinist being less than that of his elder brothers as pipers, only in the degree that the fiddle is deemed an instrument inferior to the Union pipes in giving to traditional Irish music its characteristic tonality. The “Harvest Home,” be it understood, was essentially the same as the “Flax Mehil” in other parts of Ireland-all private festivals-the assembly consisting of the family, friends, employes, and invited guests.
During this period Thomas Rowsome became closely associated with the late James Cash in his periodical visits to the Rowsome homestead. Together “Young Cash” and the youthful enthusiast would proceed to a secluded nook in the garden, or, the weather being unfavorable, to a private room in the house, and indulge in long-sustained spells of practice, for everything new in music which the wanderer had picked up on his rambles through Munster and Connacht he would impart to his beloved protégé. More than once old Mr. Rowsome Would come upon them in the act of playing one instrument together, each with one hand fingering the chanter.
“Tom, you will become a great piper yet,}’ Cash would say, as a presentiment of his own impending death would cloud his brow. “The music of your chanter will thrill audiences when the name of James Cash will be but a reminiscence or merely the subject of unsympathetic gossip.” The forecast was prophetic, for he died in his thirty-eighth year, while his friend Thomas Rowsome, now a municipal employe of the city of Dublin, has made a name for himself in the world of music. His engagements are many, not alone in his native land, but on the stage and in the halls of London, Glasgow, and other cities and towns across the Channel, where the mellifluent tones of the “Irish organ” in the hands of a capable performer never fail to arouse the most enthusiastic applause.
About forty-six years of age, over six feet in height, handsome and of impressive appearance, “Tom” Rowsome may not owe all his popularity to his musical gifts. He is also accused of being both genial and kindly, yet apparently insensible to female charms. Whoever the “King of the Pipers,” may be, an ardent admirer insists “he is one of the Princes and Heir Presumptive.” Still there are others.
Other references to Thomas Rowsome in “Irish Minstrels and Musicians” by Captain Francis O’Neill.
Instinctive talent, nurtured by individual preference, when supplemented by opportunity, seldom fails to determine our career. Such was the case with the subject of this sketch. Possessed of all his faculties, he had no motive other than choice to adopt music as a profession.
William Andrews was born in 1873, in the city of Dublin. He was instructed in the elements of music and piano playing by his aunt, Miss Eva Andrews, for many years a teacher at the Alexandra School of Music in that city. Piano music, however, not being in accord with his predilections, he studied the flute under George Ellard at the Municipal School of Music. It was while playing for dances in the mountainous districts of the county that he acquired a taste for traditional Irish music. As his knowledge grew, his love increased until he finally became afflicted with “piperitis” on hearing Tom Rowsome “wake the echoes” at a Ludwig concert at the Rotunda.
After buying a set of Union pipes at O’Reilly’s on Wellington Quay, he settled down at Clontarf, playing the flute frequently for dances at the local Gaelic League gatherings. He joined the Dublin Pipers’ Club, which then met in a cellar of McGarvey’s tobacco shop opposite Findlater’s church, and studied for ten years with Mr. Markey, the club’s instructor, who by the way was himself a pupil of the famous Taylor of Drogheda. Andrews profited not a little by his acquaintance and practice with Pat Ward of Blackbull, Drogheda, another of Mr. Taylor’s pupils.
Besides playing the Union pipes at nearly all the important Gaelic League meetings, William Andrews played at three performances of the opera “The Lily Of Killarney,” at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin, for the Amateur Operatic Society, under the conductorship of Barton McGuckin.
In 1911 he won first prize at the Oireachtas for his playing of the Union pipes for the Dublin pipers, band, and tied with Coughlan of London for first prize on the Warpipes. Daniel Gallery, then a member of the Canadian Parliament, and Dean O’Meara of Montreal, enamored of his musical abilities, offered him a position of emolument provided he undertook to teach his art in that city. Being then married, the prize winner was disinclined to sever home ties and leave his native country.
Liberality, and a disposition to aid those financially embarrassed, were by no means conducive to prosperity, so Andrews took to the stage with Sydney Kelly, the dancer—one of the famous Kelly trio. They made their first appearance with great success, in February, 1912, at the Empire Theatre, Dublin, and then went to Liverpool. After touring the principal halls of Lancashire and Yorkshire, Kelly got disabled from blood-poisoning of the hand, and their programme was thus brought to a sudden ending. Having by this time acquired both fame and experience, the versatile William Andrews accepted a permanent position on his return to Dublin, which is said to be remunerative as well as agreeable