Clare County Library
Clare People
Home | Search Library Catalogue | Foto: Clare Photo Collection | Search this Website | Copyright Notice

Paddy Canny (1919-2008)

Born in Glendree, near Tulla, Co. Clare, Paddy came from a family steeped in traditional music. One of three boys, both Paddy and his brothers learned much of their music from their father, who also gave lessons to some of the local children. A lot of Pat Canny’s music was learnt from the blind fiddler, Pat McNamara who stayed with the Cannys during the winter months for a period of three or four years.

Paddy was a renowned fiddle player in the east Clare style and he recalls his early distraction with music. “I was around nine, I suppose, when there used to be the odd neighbour coming in to learn a few tunes on the fiddle and anyway, this girl, Cathy McNamara, she used to be learning from him. Well, I’d be doing the homework for school but I’d be listening on. I’d be more interested in what was happening on the fiddle than with the lessons. Anyway when she’d go home, I’d have the tune or whatever she was learning off.”

Paddy’s close friend, Martin Rochford, together with Martin Nugent, were also very influential in developing Paddy’s great talents. Martin Rochford, another fiddler, had a copy of O’Neill’s Book of Traditional Tunes and he taught Paddy how to read music, occasionally writing down pieces for Paddy to learn. Such was Paddy’s enthusiasm for learning new tunes that, unable to wait until he finished his day’s work, he would take his fiddle with him out into the field or garden and practice playing whenever he could.

In turn, Paddy has become a great source of inspiration among traditional musicians of all ages, his name cropping up again and again when musicians discuss the origins of certain tunes or the music of east Clare.

Alongside his good friend P.J. Hayes, Paddy was one of the founding members of the Tulla Céilí Band in 1946, winning All-Ireland titles with the band in 1957 and 1960. He also won the All-Ireland Fiddle Championship in 1953. Paddy had an easy going approach to Céili Band competitions saying “there was no point in taking them too seriously, the important thing was to enjoy them”.

In 1959, Paddy recorded an album “All Ireland Champions – Violin” with P.J. Hayes, Peadar O’Loughin and Bridie Lafferty on piano. This album is regarded as many as a benchmark LP of traditional Irish music and was re-released as a CD in 2001 by Shanachie. It wasn’t until he was in his late seventies that Paddy made his first solo album “Traditional Music from the Legendary East Clare Fiddler” (Cló Iar-Chonnachta 1997). During the 1950s Canny was in much demand for radio slots and in the 1960s he made several TV appearances. In 1965, at the height of its popularity, Paddy left the Tulla Céili Band as he felt it had become too much of a full-time job. As recently as1992 he visited Paris with his old friends Peter O’Loughlin and Paddy Murphy, where they performed to a large appreciative audience.

Michael Ryan describes listening to Paddy’s music as giving him “a sense not only of a master fiddle player with a truly individual style of playing but also of someone with the deepest love of traditional music; a love that shines through on every single track of the album. There is much joy in Paddy’s playing and, to borrow a modern term, his music has more ‘soul’ than a lot of what’s on offer from our contemporary traditional musicians”.

The Humours of Tulla: Celebrating The 50th Anniversary of Tulla Comhaltas 1957 – 2007” (Tulla Comhaltas, 2007)
Keane, Chris. “The Tulla Céili Band 1946 – 1997: A History and Tribute” (1998).
Ryan, Michael. Irish Music Magazine, Vol 3 No 5 December 1997/Jan 1998.

Other Articles:

Traditional Music from the Legendary East Clare Fiddler” (Cló Iar-Chonnachta, 1997)
All Ireland Champions – Violin” (Shamrock, 1959). Recently reissued as 'An historic recording of Irish traditional music from County Clare and east Galway'.

Music of Clare Project:
Music featuring Paddy Canny

YouTube Videos:
Paddy Canny & Brida Smith, Fleadh Cheoil in Ballina, 1997
Paddy Canny & Peadar O’Loughlin, TnaG programme
Paddy Canny & Frankie Gavin, Crosses of Annagh Pub, 2007

Other Web Links:

<< Clare People
<< Music of Clare

Paddy Canny