Larry Wall Fitzpatrick
The man I knew well.
Life in rural Ireland today differs in many respects from that of the period mid-present century and the years preceding it. Certainly improvements have come with the application of modern science and technology in the home, but with them serious impediments have befallen the grand old social structure that was enjoyed by families and their neighbours young and old. With the day’s work over the ragairne or cuardaiocht visits to one another at night were looked forward to. Talks about farming business, the game of cards, the music of the flute, fiddle or concertina with those from eight to eighty dancing, brought the joys of life to reality, A special welcome always awaited somebody, not directly resident in the local community calling in.
The Tipperary – Kilkenny border area was a typical example where ‘welcome to our house’ was the keynote of its people. One who brought forth that rich warmth of welcome wherever he visited was Larry Wall and it is true to say that he in return appreciated his acceptance at the fireside.
When I became aquainted with Larry he was of middle age and a decade or two my senior. I remember him as a lovable and a genial character, although not academically endowed he was intelligent and capable in discourse and highly competent in the different projects he embarked on. Great is our Loss that some of todays modern technology was not available in his day. His voice in song and story nor his wit and humour is not recorded. It is a small consolation that some music of his later years has survived.
Larry was an outstanding musician, the fiddle being his major instrument and the concert flute a good second. He liked to sing a ballad now and again and would dance a few steps when, as he used to say ‘the feel of the ladder is gone off my feet’. One often knew his assessment of a musician by his facial expressions, smiling or otherwise. He was eager to discuss his music with other musicians and impart his tunes to them. He really liked one who listened twice or three times and then played it over slowly with him. His jocular remark about one particular fiddler who wanted to impress him on his musical ability and knowledge was, ‘Only we were looking at him you would think he had thimbles on him trying to play’. Larry’s counter was an ornamented rendering of the same tune with an invitation to join him, which of course did not materialise, leaving no doubt regarding the better musicianship.
Apart from the subject of music Larry made very pleasant company. His deep knowledge of local history was listened to with interest. Events of other days not openly discussed were recounted in a whisper, but, in statement of fact Larry before the honourable reputation that he never said a wrong word of any man. I was honoured to know him. I spent many pleasant hours with him and when he went his wayl looked forward to his return. I ofter wonder now did we appreciate his real talent then. I feel sure we did. It was providential that his final visit was to the house of his Creator, the parish church of Gortnahoe, Whom he chose to be his host forever.
Go ndeanfhaidh Dia tocaire ar a anam uasal.
August 1989. Mich O’LJghlin.
MEMORIES OF ThE COMMONS (SLIEVEARDAGH)
BY ANDY DOWLING.
“You’ll meet him in his cabin Rude or dancing with his fair-haired Mary,
You’d think they knew no other Mood But love and joy in Tipperary.”
So wrote Thomas Davis, the Patriotic Poet of the last Century, whose words seem ever true as the years roll on, because that social friendly attribute is even more evident to-day in all situations. Although a Laois-born inhabitant, I have a deep affection for our premier County. I suppose, being so close to the Border creates many social links which time seems to multiply and never erase. In 1950 when I married Margaret Delahunty of the Commons (I Flaitheas Dia, Guidhim Go bhfuil sris na daoine 6iIe ata imithe uainn) and moved up to the location. It was like a journey into the unknown, but I soon discovered I was amongst a friendly, musical people. Our location was Coalfield House in the village centre, which was the property of Phil Delahunty and vacant at the time. It w s the beginning of a new era for the quiet and somewhat isolated village, as well as a sideline business for ourselves. We decided to convert the existing out-buildings into a small Cinema and Entertainment Hall and the idea proved very successful. The local people were delighted to have such facilities right in their midst. During my time in the Commons (i.e. 1950 to 1960) there appeared to be a great resurgence and promotion of Irish Music in every direction. I can recall in those years a vast gathering of Traditional Musicians from near and far in our Village Hall on a particular Sunday, and of course, the subject of the booklet, Larry Wall (R.I.P.) was sure to be the No.1 Performer at that gathering. Music seemed to permeate the whole scene on many occasions. There were so many fiddle players like Nellie Cleere R.I.P., Phil Delahunty R.I.P., Malachy MuIhall (still playing great), Michael Ryan, Fennor (sadly in a Nursing Home), even accordian players were numerours too, Pat Lyons, Noonans, Killenaule and a host of others, theBodhran player from the Commons, Roundy Lawlor still going strong and regarded the best performer in Munster. So the background to Larry Wall’s fame in the traditional music field seemed to be always in that area. It probably stemmed, no doubt, from the noted Fiddler of bygone days (Pat Dunne) who lived in the locality. Apart from the Hall Music gatherings we had many nights of music and song in ‘Coalfield House’. Larry Wall, Nellie Cleere and the Delahunty’s (Siocin DeDo’s A Ainm) would fill the house with laughter, Music and song and when the Delahunty Sisters (Nuns in U.S.) came on holidays, it was likewise.
As well as a musician Larry was a natural wit, and had a fund of stories mostly from his own experiences to suit all occasions. I’ll terminate this Tribute with one of his funny tales I happen to remember:- “A local motor-cyclist who knew Larry well overtook him walking on the road to Gortnahoe, he pulled up and got Larry on as Pillion passenger. When he put up speed again to about 40 m.p.h. I said to Larry “Am I going to fast for you? “Not at All” replied Larry, “Sure I’m going as fast as you”.
May I extend to Michael Fitzpatrick, Gorey, congratulations in making the Larry Wall Day Annual event so successful and looking forward to meeting him this year. (le Coghnaimh De). Also, my thanks to the organising Committee and to Annie Heaphy, an extremely dedicated organiser of the event for her friendship and concern on every occasion I visit the Commons, a village which is now with the recent erection of the 1848 Monument becoming a unique and historic location.
The Larry Wall Fitzpatrick commeration day at the Commons, Co. Tipperary, has now become a reunion for families and friends throughout the country. If one was to evaluate the success of this prestigious event, the credit must surely rest with a group of dedicated Gael’5 from Co. Tipperary, including the local village personnel under the auspices and guidance of the County Board of C.C.E., with the assistance of Larry’s friends and relatives from many parts of the country.
The personality of Larry Wall, – his charm, quick wit, and musical ability certainly captivated many heartS throughout his Short lifSpan, as he died in 1955, aged 62 yearS. Larry was known as a great musician and a tradesman who travelled many a road in the course of his work, always taking a fiddle for the evenings entertainment. Tales of his exploits are numerous and would readily make a follow-up to this publication with numerous anecdotes for entertainment value alone.
One of a large musical family – Larry was born to Thomas Fitzpatrick and Ellen Wall of the CommonS. It was only natural that Larry Should play music as did every member of his family an previous generations. His father Thomas was a fine Fiddle player (who died aged 52 year, in 1913), and his mother Ellen Wall was noted as a competent traditional lilter who always accompanied her husband in a musical duet at the numerous house dances throughout the Sliabh-Arda country side. In this brief account it is not possible to venture into a complete family history and their musical ability, suffice is to say that Larry was the person who won everyone’s heart and most certainly traditional musician of exceptional quality and talent.
The most striking feature of Larry’s life was his way with people, to date I have yet to hear a bad word or critisism of this gentle – man. To be loved honoured and respected by a community after so many years speaks for itself. I trust that this respect for Larry’s memory will continue and that his commeration day will grow from strength to strength. Many of our best exponents of traditional music, born in other countries trace their musical origins and families to the Slieveardagh countryside.
Its significant that three National Presidents of C.C.E. honoured Larry’s memory by being present at his commeration in the Commons in 1988 former presidents Seamus McCauley and Miceal O’Loughlin and President of Comhaltas Donal De Barra including many church leaders and Dignitories were also present. We pray for the souls of all the Musicians who have passed to their eternal reward wishing all the young musicians of the area every health,happiness and success with their music in the future. That the Commons village will once again rebound to the sounds of traditional music, song and dance as it did for countless generations in times passed. To those who have always worked diligently for Larry’s commeration day and present committee I thank you all sincerely on behalf of Larry’s family,
Michael Fitzpatrick, Gorey, Co.Wexford.
Today, local people still speak in awe when referring to the late Larry Wall, symbol of the Irishness of a mountain people who knew the hardships of life often lying on their sides in water as they worked in the local collieries.
But, the love of the savage for his native Commons was always strong in the area and ex-miner Mr. Dan 0’Meara of Gortnahoe, may smile ruefully when he says he worked in the mines “ for too long”, but he has, nonetheless, immortalised for Tipp people the people of Ballingarry.
“There is a spot in old Tipperary
That’s so very dear to me,
Ballingarry is the place where I was born
I can picture its hills and valleys
From this land across the sea
As I walk the city streets this summer’s morn.
I can see the skylark soaring
At the foot of Fennelly’s Hill
And hear Grawn waters murmuring down below
I can look right down on Kickhams town
At the foot of Slievenamon
Ballingarry I have loved from long ago.
It was there I spent my childhood years
With friends I loved so well
There are some that I may never see no more
Some are buried in the graveyard
O’er their graves the grass grows green
Some are exiled on a far and distant shore.
But I can’t forget The Commons
Where memories with me stay
Ballintaggart, Crohane and Garrynoe
They brought honour to Slieveardagh Hills
On many’s the Gaelic field
Ballingarry I have loved so long ago.
But I still walk down the city streets
Across the Irish sea
To a land I do not love or do not care
But my heart lies in Tipperary
At the foot of Slievenamon
Ballingarry I have loved so long ago.
Ballingarry I have loved so long ago”.
Dan 0’Meara R.l.P.