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Date:    Wed, 29 Nov 1995 08:50:51 -0600
From:    Mark Gonnerman (markg@LELAND.STANFORD.EDU)
Subject: Re: The McPeakes

Yesterday afternoon Susan Pennypacker ventured out in search of the
McPeakes.  She returned by nightfall with the following account in hand:

"The Heart and Soul of Belfast; Irish Piper Francis McPeake Tells Kevin
Jackson about 'The Fairy Music'," THE INDEPENDENT, Saturday, 23 February
1991, p. 30.

Highlights follow (and I quote):

"Outside West Belfast , the name of Francis McPeake is not likely to
prompt many nods of recognition.  Yet 'Francie', as people here know him,
has seldom gone short of admirers in the worlds of folk and rock music.
Van Morrison has long raved on about the influence of the McPeake family;
Pete Seeger once came from America to make a film about them.  There was
even a heady moment in the late Sixties when a young pop star asked
McPeake to initiate him into the mysteries of the uilleann pipes:  his
name was John Lennon. . . .

"Despite the educational successes of Clonard [the monastery where McPeake
teaches music to children], McPeake continues to be best-known in Belfast
for his performing career in the Sixties, when he and his family enjoyed a
lively recording and touring career.  Their line-up, which included his
father Francis on pipes and sister Kathleen on bodhran, toured throughout
Ireland, the UK, the USA and as far afield as Moscow.  It was on one of
these trips that the encounter with John Lennon took place, when the
family were invited to play at a surprise party for the rock star.  'John
wanted to meet us because at that time he was into what he called "the
fairy music", he had been doing a lot of reading about pipes and he had
decided that what we were doing was "the fairy music".  So he put the
pipes on and I must say he made a good show, a very good show for a

"Their association continued, and Francie soon commissioned a set of
uilleann pipes on Lennon's behalf from the one of the few firms who still
make them, Kennedy's of Cork, and took them to America.  'But
unfortunately, by then John was into other things, he was
 ' McPeake
raises his eyes and waves his hands around airily, to signify something
like "away with the fairies".'

"An accident to his right hand in the early 1970s meant the end of
McPeake's full-time career as a performer, but he never gave up playing
altogether.  On Monday night, for example, McPeake joined a group of
recent graduates of Clonard to fill the upstairs room of a Belfast pub
with jigs and reels.  Initially, there was something mildly incongruous
about the sight of all these young people in trainers and blousons playing
tunes that first hit the charts in the seventeenth century, but the
incongruity had long since faded by the time McPeake took up his banjo to
duet with his sister on "Fair and Tender Ladies".  By the end of the
evening it was hard not to join the audience in regarding the McPeakes and
their music as 'the soul of Belfast'."

The article ends with this note:  "Francis McPeake is featured in "Rhythms
of the World", 8.10pm tonight [2/23/91] on BBC 2."

I've called around and it seems that recordings by the McPeakes are out of
print.  True?


See also the Bono Vox interview.

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