Liam Clarke wrote of his Grandfather - Liam Clarke - on facebook and is happy for me to start a thread on a fascinating tale from county Monaghan
From 1991:I spent a fascinating Saturday afternoon in the company of Paul Flynn (chairman of of Ballybay Heritage society) my father Rev Bill Clarke and of my dad’s childhood friend Peadar Murnane, the noted Ballybay historian and antiquarian. Not to mention draper! Peadar, now pushing 90. He and Paul were both part of a committee who put up plaques and produced a booklet about 20 notable Ballybay figures at the places they lived or worked. One of them was my grandfather, “Willie Clarke the Ballybay piper” who died in 1934. Willie Clarke combined being pipe major of an Orange Order related band in the 20s and early 30s with a significant role in the revival of Irish pipe music at that time.
I was surprised to hear that Peadar’s family were originally from Rutland Street in Belfast, he’d never mentioned it to me before. His parents were the only Catholics in the street and were put out in the 1920s. His father was a tram driver and Peadar himself as conceived in Belfast but born in Monaghan. They came there as refugees, staying in a barracks, and took a few years to establish their business.
Yet some of their best friends were in the minority Protestant, even Orange, community. There is a lesson there about moving on and sharing without necessarily forgetting where we came from.
Willie started out via Bagpipes, helping to found a pipe band, and became proficient on Uilleann pipes. The article is well worth reading - and Willie played the Uilleann pipes in a set of recordings from 1928 -
Sadly William died young from Tuberculosis in 1934.Willie Clarke's name, like that of many another musician, would probably be long forgotten if it were not for his recordings. The story of how these records came about goes back to 1928 and an imaginative record company executive in London who decided to present on record the various piping traditions existing within these islands. Ireland would contribute the Uilleann Pipes, England the Northumbrian Pipes, and Scotland, the Highland Bagpipes - the series of three records to be entitled 'The Pipes of Three Nations'.
In March 1988, 60 years after the recording of 'The Pipes of Three Nations', Na Piobairi Uilleann - the society of Uilleann Pipers - staged a concert at the Royal Hospital Kilmainhan, Dublin featuring four outstanding young pipers.Ronan Browne and Terry Tully represented Ireland's piping traditions on Uilleann pipes and bagpipes respectively; Hamish Moore from North Berwick played on the Scottish Small Pipes, and Kathryn Tickell from Newcastle-on-Tyne delighted the audience with her virtuosity on the Northumbrian pipes.
William Clarke would have been proud to know that the name chosen for this concert of outstanding young pipers was, "The Pipes of Three Nations'.