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"The Humours of Ennistymon"

by Qualey The Piper, late 18th century


Source: Clare Journal
Date: 15 February 1877
Transcription: Local Studies Centre, Clare County Library

Our correspondent at Ennistymon writes as follows:-

“I find that the above tune, as far as I know at present, has never been inserted in any published collection, notwithstanding the fact that not alone is it a favourite of every piper and violinist in the country, but by many gentle performers on the pianoforte also. It was composed by a piper named Qualey about 80 years ago; there was a ball given by Major O’Brien (the owner of Ennistymon House at the time), the nobility and gentry of the surrounding country having been invited. The house blazed forth with innumerable tapers, while flowers and evergreens hung in festoons from the roof.

“The hall resounded with mirth, as it often did before, and as the guests sat waiting for the merry sound of the pipe and fiddle to enliven the occasion, they were somewhat disappointed to learn that the famous old piper was not forthcoming. Qualey was regularly employed by the O’Brien family to be present on all occasions, he being considered an adept in his vocation. His absence now caused a good deal of anxiety.

“It appears however that Qualey did put in an appearance subsequently, but this time it was deemed prudent not to admit him, simply because he was under the influence of drink.

“Compelled to retrace his steps, he wandered up and down through the groves of brushwood which then surrounded Ennistymon House till at length gaining the advantage of an eminence overlooking the house, here he was compelled to take up his abode for the night, and in view of the festive hall, where the recollection of those joyous hours sunk deep in his heart, and taking up his old favourite chanter, he gave vent to his feelings by composing a theme of considerable beauty, with a peculiar fire and abundance of luxurious ideas, called “The Humours of Ennistymon”, the first part of which opens with a passage in D Minor and which is very effective and singular, for while the air bears the monotonous, the bass does not at all make the melody resemble a pipe tune, but throws a dreary pensiveness over the music suited to the subject of the song, the latter part of which is so full of vivacity that the Greek Pyrrhic dance in armour could not have equalled it. The time being marked 9.8, and at each repetition is so increasing that it could have been played at a Pagan midsummer night feast whilst the mad Priests and Votaries of Baal danced to it, whirling around their bonfires.”