The Master

The Master

In New York and Dublin in the 1960s, Tony MacMahon lived with, played with and learned from uilleann piper Séamus Ennis. In this extract from a memoir-in-progress, he recalls some of the rituals and skills of the artist that made him unique.

The poet Michael Davitt once remarked, having served Séamus Ennis with a cup of tea in bed one morning, that he had never seen toes as long as those of the great piper, song-collector, folklorist and singer. His fingers, however, were of a length beyond anything I have ever seen, dominated by large, protruding knuckles, reddened where the bones poked. The nail on the fourth finger of his right hand had a deep score, as if from over-cleaning and the right index finger was stained nicotine brown. He wore a gold Claddagh ring and a slim gold watch under white sleeve-cuffs.

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Published on 1 February 2010

Tony MacMahon is a traditional musician and former television producer in RTÉ, where he produced The Pure Drop, The Green Linnet, Aisling Gheal, The Long Note, The Blackbird and the Bell and many other series. He has made two solo recordings, Tony MacMahon (1972) and MacMahon from Clare (2000), and recorded I gCnoc na Graí (1985) with Noel Hill and Aislingí Ceoil (1994) with Noel Hill and Iarla Ó Lionáird.

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