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Francis McPeake - The Singing Piper

Recorded by Peter Kennedy in 1952, the Singing Pipers of Belfast, Francis the First was the senior member of a remarkable Belfast family. He talks about his life and music, singing unaccompanied and with the Irish bagpipes, known as Uillean (or elbow) pipes. On some of the tracks he is joined by his son, Francis the 2nd, who also plays some solo instrumentals on pipes, and, for one of the tracks, father and son play a duet on two chanters.

1. THE RIGHTS OF MAN - Francis #1 solo (talk bef & aft) - 4'30"

2. THE DAWNING OF THE DAY - Francis #1 & #2 with pipes - 2'39"

3. THE GRAVE OF WOLFE TONE - Francis #1 with pipes (talk bef & aft) - 4'03"

4. MONAGHAN FAIR (or THE BEGGARS) - Francis #1 solo (tune played on pipes bef) - 1'52"

5. ANNIE LAURIE - Francis #1 & #2: instrumental duet on 2 chanters - 3'15"

6. THE CONSTITUTIONAL MOVEMENT - Francis #1 solo (talk bef) - 3'19"

7. MY LAGAN LOVE - Francis #1 & #2 with pipes - 3'18"

8. SLIEVE GALLON BRAES - Francis #1 & #2 with pipes - 2'33"

9. THE JUG OF PUNCH - Francis #1 with pipes & ch (talk bef) - 2'52"

10. THE NEXT MARKET DAY - Francis #1 with pipes - 2'09"

11. THE WILD MOUNTAIN THYME - as previous (talk bef & aft) - 3'56"

12. OUR WEDDING DAY (She moved through the Fair) - Francis #2 with pipes - 3'05"

13. THE OLD PIPER - Francis #1 with pipes - 2'57"

14. THE VERDANT BRAES OF SKREEN - Francis #1 & #2 with pipes (talk aft) - 3'52"

15. THE COOLIN - Francis #1: Slow Air pipe instrumental - 2'16"

16. GENERAL MUNRO - Francis #1 solo (talk bef) - 2'47"

17. MY SINGING BIRD - Francis #2 with pipes - 2'57"

18. SEOTHIN SEO (Lullaby) - Francis #1 with pipes - 3'37"

Recorded by Peter Kennedy 7th July 1952. Edited by Peter Kennedy and first published on Folktrax Cassettes 1975.

FRANCIS McPEAKE #1, aged 67 when this recording was made at the O Boyle family home in Belfast, was one of a number of performers that Charles O Boyle had invited to meet Peter for his first evening of music collecting in Belfast. For the next two years Peter and Charles's son, Sean, were to work together recording local traditions, travelling all over the North of Ireland. Peter had just returned from Yugoslavia where he had recorded Serbian bards singing to their own accompaniment on bagpipes, so to encounter a similar tradition in Belfast was a a remarkable co-incidence and a memorable occasion.

In particular Peter was struck by the song, WILL YOU GO, LASSIE GO?, the tune of which was composed by Francie #1, recorded it in a cupboard under the stairs, and, when he returned to London, persuaded George Martin and the Educational Dept. of The Gramophone Company to issue this track on a 10" LP called FOLKSONG TODAY. It was subsequently copyrighted and published by Chappell's. The following year he invited the family to perform at the Royal Albert Hall, and they were soon winning prizes for Group Folksong at the International Eisteddfod at Llangollen in Wales.

Francis #1 was born in Belfast in 1885, but his father was born at Curran, Co. Derry and worked on a farm at Ballymacpeake. His mother too was a McPeake before and after her marriage. Francis left school at 13 and worked as a weaver in a linen mills at the top of their street. In 1915 he worked as a tram-conductor and after that as a photographer until his retirement in 1948. His piping he learned from John O Reilly, a blind piper from Galway who came to Belfast in 1907 for 6 weeks to teach him. 2 years later Francis won a pipe contest in Belfast and later represented Ireland at a Pan-Celtic Congress in Belgium. His photograph and that of John O Reilly both appeared in O'Neill's IRISH MINSTRELS AND MUSICIANS (Chicago, 1913).

FOLKTRAX 071: A studio recording of "The McPeake Trio", with Francis's two sons, Francis #2 (pipes) and James (harp), was made by Peter in London in 1961. It includes 11 songs and 8 instrumentals. We are most happy to relate that the tradition is still being carried on in the family. Francis McPeake's #3 & #4 are currently touring Britain, Ireland and the USA as "The McPeake Family".

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