A Eulogy For My Dad, Pat Walsh R.I.P.

Pat Walsh RIP

I walked very carefully on to this altar. It has been a long time since I’ve been up here. One of the last times I was here was as an altar-boy. I wasn’t the greatest mass server. I was prone to accident. Dropping offertory baskets, opening and closing altar gates at the wrong time, bells ringing where they hadn’t before and one memorable moment when I was sent by Canon Clarke to turn off a light on the altar during mass. This resulted in the first disco transubstantiation. Part of the problem too was my lack of training. When it came time for altar-boy training, there was a clash with Irish music lessons. We had a wonderful accordion playing curate, Father Eddie Lohan, who told my parents that I could catch up with the altar-boy duties but music was too important to miss. Thus, my music career began and I was let loose on the altar of the Church of St Joseph in Reddish. My poor parents must have cringed every time I donned the cassock and cotter. Whatever occurred and despite many a fumble I was welcomed with a “well done son” from mum and dad.
Dad was born in 1935. He had three birthdays, one more birthday than the Queen, but when he finally got his birth certificate it indicated it was probably his birthday on April 28th. Happy birthday for last week dad.
He came from Roughan, just outside the small village of Carnacon in County Mayo, Ireland. He was one of two brothers born to Ann and Michael Walsh.
He first came to England seeking adventure in 1956. He left his job with the Forestry Commission and with a mate he cycled to Claremorris, took the train to Dublin and then the boat train to Dagenham. They arrived early in the morning, with the name of the road on which the sister of his friend lived, but had no number. The lads were surprised to find a road with hundreds of houses on. After much knocking on doors they found their destination and dad set to work in a car factory in Dagenham.
You will all know how much dad loved the outdoors and factory life was really not for him. He headed back to Carnacon and the following year decided to go to Manchester, where many of his peers had gone in search of work.
With just the suit on his back, no bag, and a roll of money in his pocket he set off for the address: Aunties Bar in the centre of Manchester. Aunties was the unofficial Irish Embassy in Manchester and within minutes of arriving he had met friends, Kerrigans and Lally’s, from home, had a bed to sleep in and ‘the start’, a job working on building roads. He spent the rest of his working life laying cables. Every time I pass the motorway that cuts through Stockport, I think of dad in his Vanni van and the hard work he did to make our life so comfortable.
Shortly after arriving in Manchester he met mum at the Sharrock’s Dance Hall and on December 1st, 1962 they were married at St. Kentigern’s Church in Fallowfield. His beloved Mary arrived in 1964 and I came into the world in 1967. Mum was the love of his life. Like others, they had their ups and downs, but dad was hugely loyal to her and cared for her like no other when she was ill. Mum has always been the live-wire of the two and you could see the love and pride in dad’s face when my mum was creating havoc and having the ‘craic’ at an Irish do. They balanced each other. Mum loved dad’s gentleness, that he was a very good looking man and always dressed with great style. He was ‘respectable’ as mum might say. Just before she got married, her brother, my Uncle Jack, said to her: “You’ll be alright with Welsh”, and he was right.

Dad loved Manchester. He had no real longing to go back to Ireland. Dad was a man of few words and demonstrated his affection by doing, rather than saying. When my Uncle Mick died it made me more conscious of dad’s mortality and I wanted to know how he felt about life. He said more in one conversation, in that moment, than he ever did for the rest of our time together. He told me that he was proud of where he was from and who he was. As you know his Mayo accent never changed and he always encouraged us to get involved in Irish cultural activities. He told me that Manchester gave him everything he needed, a wife and a good living and two children he loved. He wanted for nothing here and didn’t see the use in looking back.
He was a wonderful father and husband. He would do anything for us and take us where we wanted and as we started going out late at night he would happily come and get us if we were stuck. Nothing we did seemed to faze him and he was always there to support us through the challenges of life. My future brother in law David arrived at our house in his brown Cortina, furry dice swaying to the sound of Shakatak blasting out of his stereo and a magnificent blonde curly perm. Dad smiled and welcomed him, drank him under the table and started to show him a trick or two about life.

At the same time, I was working out my future path. Dad I want to be an actor (shows no surprise). I want to be a priest (puzzled look). No dad an engineer it is to be (laughing to himself). Dad, there’s something I should tell you… I’m going to be a hairdresser (a deep sigh). Every idea was backed up with solid parental unconditional love and support.

A few years ago, my good friend Emmanuel decided not to get married two weeks before his wedding. Emmanuel, the wedding champagne and fois gras moved into my folks and he was given shelter till he was ready to move on. I’d ring home from Donegal and mum, dad and my Parisian pal would be enjoying the spoils of the wedding that never was. The song we sang earlier in the service included the words, “..and the creed and the colour and the name won’t matter”. It was very appropriate for my parent’s house. No matter what your creed, colour or indeed sexuality was, you would be welcomed. They really walked the walk of their faith.

Family life was everything to him. He welcomed my brother in law David and my wife Sarah into the family and he was a quiet and reassuring presence as his grandchildren, Amy and Laura, grew up and later for his great grandson Lucas, his little helper. Amy and Laura told me he was always there for them willing to give advice and was always honest. He was their fashion police when it came to style and would always compliment them on their various looks. David appreciated dad’s advice on how on to handle marital relationships ‘Shh Say nothing!’ and his humour. At Christmas David broke a glass and dad whispered to Laura, ‘he’s having a smashing time’. My children, Celeste and Osgur, arrived in the latter end of his life. They loved Woof too. If you ask them later they might do their Woof impression for you.

You might wonder where the name ‘Woof’ came from. Although dad was a gentle soul he didn’t hold back from putting us right if he felt we needed it. When he told us off we would say ‘woo woo woof woof’, so Amy called him Woof and it stuck. He was Pat or Paddy to his neighbours and work mates and Pa in his home village.

He was Uncle Pat to our cousins. He loved his nieces and nephews and their children as his own and was hugely proud of all their achievements. One of my cousins said to me that they always felt safe when Uncle Pat was around. I thank them for travelling from Ireland and the U.S.A. to be here today.

Some might have seen dad’s gentleness as a weakness. But for me it was a strength and he showed us that there were different ways to be a man. He was honest, a great judge of character, he was a good man manager and always treated the lads who worked for him with respect. His neighbours loved him and the response from the local community has been not only heart- warming but I think testament to how much he was loved. As a family we have always been able to hold our heads up high and be proud to say we are Paddy Walsh’s family.

Dad was selfless but there were certain other things he did love. My sister Mary reminded me the other day of how dad would be filled with joy in the early morning, waiting for daylight to break so he could be out in the garden. Mary said to me: “As long as he could feel the fresh air on his face and the smell of freshly cut grass, his day was complete”. He would spend hours in the front garden especially, more often talking to passers-by.

One of the legacies he leaves for us is to take time to speak to people even if you don’t know them. Some of the last people who spoke to him on the morning he died had never met him before but his warm friendly personality had made such an impression on them that they took time to get in touch with us to let us know. We thank them for that as it gives us great reassurance that he was happy in his last conversations.

He also loved walking and the last thing we know he did was to go for a brisk walk down in Reddish Vale Country Park. Dad was very health conscious and liked to look good. He used to say to me: “I don’t want to be like those old fellas with their bellies hanging out”. His idea of a good blow out was a glass of wine and an Aldi curry with mum in the house. They used to pretend that they were at a restaurant.
We are sad that he has gone but he lived a full life and died in a place that he loved, amongst the nature of Reddish Vale Country Park.

We would like to thank everyone who has provided us so much support in these difficult few weeks; Aunty Julia, family, friends, parishioners of St Josephs, Fr. Phillip and Fr. Moss, neighbours and the police, fire and ambulance services who brought his remains back to us, the musicians who provided such beautiful balm for our grief, Ange Durcan, Ríoghnach Connolly, Ellis Davies, Fi Brown and Paul Daly.

As they would say in his mother tongue:
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam
May he rest in peace.

Michael Walsh. 4th May 2017.

©Michael Walsh

Upcoming Concerts: Boyle, Gubbins & Walsh. Gosforth & Sheffield

So I decided to take it a little easier this year. The shoulder is healing well, I’m concentrating on transcribing my PhD fieldwork and I’m enjoying playing again. I hadn’t planned to do any gigs this year but a couple of opportunities arose and I couldn’t resist.

Boyle, Gubbins & Walsh

On 17th March 2017 Boyle, Gubbins and Walsh will have their first outing at Gosforth Civic Theatre, on the outskirts of Newcastle. The night will be a mixture of old school Traditional Irish Tunes and Songs and a hint of Asturias . There’ll be a sing-a-round and session afterwards. Entrance is £5. We are delighted to support Liberdade, the community development organisation developing the theatre, in putting the venue on the map. The charity provide opportunities for adults with learning disabilities. The Theatre is fast developing a reputation for great food, craft beers and fine coffee, all essentials in my life.

I’ve managed to pull together my dream team for Gosforth:

Ciarán Boyle: Ciarán is recognised as a true master of the bodhrán and singer in the Irish tradition. Ciarán was brought brought up in Rotherham in a house full of music and travelling musicians. He learned a great deal from his dad, the late Tommy Boyle, who had a great knowledge and passion for Irish music and song.By the time he was thirteen Ciarán had already won the All Britain and All Ireland bodhrán titles. He is best known for his time in bands – Napper, Le Faux and Boyle and Last Night’s Fun. Ciarán is a stunning musician and singer, a sensitive interpreter of Ireland’s traditional music , and an engaging performer with a ready wit.
Helen Gubbins hails from County Limerick. Steeped in tradition she brings to the evening old school Irish trad tunes on the Paolo Soprani and tinwhistles as well sean-nós songs that will break your heart. Has toured and recorded in in Europe and the US. Helen is a Doctoral candidate at the University of Sheffield Department of Music.
Michael Walsh: Born and raised in Manchester, I am an exponent of Sligo style flute music. In 2016 I was a finalist in the prestigious Seán Ó Riada Gold Medal Competition and have performed across Europe and in The United States with Trad Irish Groups, Céilí Bands and Theatre Productions as well as being featured on the Soundtrack to ‘The Irish Empire’ TV Series. I am slowly recording a solo album under the careful eye of Michael McGoldrick and completing a PhD in Asturian Folk Music at the University of Sheffield.
The three musicians share a passion for old school Irish traditional music. Ciarán and I had been attempting to perform together for a number of years and when Helen joined me in The Music Department at the University of Sheffield, I seized the opportunity to pull my ideal trad trio together.
To book tickets: http://boylegubbinswalsh.brownpapertickets.com/
University of Sheffield Lunch Time Concerts: Helen Gubbins and I will be playing at The Firth Hall, University of Sheffield PhD Concert on May 8th 2017. We’ll be bringing a flavour of Ireland and Asturias a programme featuring the cream of PhD Music students at the University of Sheffield. I think we may be the only one’s on the bill without a record deal! It’s free. Come say hello and let a few ‘hups’ out.
http://concerts.sheffield.ac.uk/whats-on/
I look forward to seeing you all.
Mike.

 

Getting Back to Playing: Unfreezing my Shoulder.

In May 2016 I was preparing for a PhD fieldwork visit to Asturias. 2016 had been a hectic year. Taking part in the Ó Riada Gold Medal in Cork, starting my flute album, getting my Spanish up to speed and keeping two children healthy and happy. I was rushing up and down the stairs one morning and I slipped and jarred my shoulder. With family in tow, I rushed off to Avilés, then on to Lorient Interceltic Festival, Whitby Folk Week and back to Sheffield for the start of the school year.

October arrived and the excruciating pain I’d felt all summer began to dim. By this point I had very little movement in my left shoulder, to the extent that couldn’t put my hand in my pocket (no jokes about me being tight with money please). My doctor sent to me a physio and he immediately diagnosed it as frozen shoulder. My choices were either let it heal by itself, which could take a couple of years, or operate. I chose to have an operation. Playing music and looking after my children had become impossible. I had also underestimated the mental strain of the condition.

I was lucky to get a quick referral to a surgeon and an operation within weeks. In November I had my operation.

Frozen Shoulder Face

Frozen Shoulder Face

If you’re squeamish scroll to the music at the end, if not…..

The surgeon carries out Arthroscopic Capsule Release. It’s a lot like a very small kebab shaver you might see when you’re getting your post-beer nutrition. Using a keyhole procedure, Mr Shehani shaved away the layer of scar tissue that was was locking my shoulder joint. I found out later that he’d removed some bone too. Thankfully this was done under a general anaesthetic. I woke an hour or so later in a codeine induced haze with my father-in-law looking at me with an admiring gaze (See photo below). Thank you Bob Dalrymple. The poor man said he saw more of me than he ever would have liked to and needed a stiff drink to recover.

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After some ferocious surgical sock waving I grabbed Bob’s attention and we headed home. Pre-op, I was told that depending on what they found during the operation I would have a sling on for a day or six weeks. Thankfully there wasn’t too much long term damage and I had the sling off after one day. The scarring was minimal. I have a large floral tattoo on my left shoulder I had done when I left my ‘proper’ job eight years ago to always remind me to do work that inspires me. The little surgical nicks look like little thorns.  Six weeks of physio followed and I was given the all clear to get on with the slow process of getting back to normal.

It’s the end of January 2017 now and my daily physio is paying dividends. I’ve got much of my movement back and I’m just starting to play for longer periods of time.

There are a number of possible causes for Frozen Shoulder. It can be genetic, that applies to me. It can be related to bad posture, my posture in general is good. A big factor can be stress. The last advice my surgeon gave me was to slow down and relax. He noted that I was always rushing to get somewhere.

So the challenge this year is to slow down. Maybe I was trying too hard in 2016. The time away from playing music and research has given me chance to put things into perspective. I’m going to go slowly with my projects and put some off till 2018. I’m really rethinking how I play, concentrating on relaxation. I’m really looking forward to teaching on the BMus degree for a couple hours per week and starting to think more than do for my PhD. The time out has also reminded me of how precious my time with my son and daughter is. My son will be at school in a year or so. So for now more time with the children and maybe a little less time on the music.

I managed to play a tune for the Whitby Folk Week #Tunesday last month. Not my greatest performance and I was still in a considerable amount of discomfort. I’m putting it here and keeping it on Youtube as marker of my progress.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Turnpike Gate Reel for Whitby Folk Week #Tunesday

After a summer of fun researching and playing music in Asturias, Lorient and across England my tumble down the stairs in May finally caught up with me. I have a frozen shoulder which I will hopefully have fixed shortly but makes flute playing difficult. So I picked up the Tinwhistle at the last minute to make sure there was a #Tunesday tune for Whitby Folk Week. Here you go, The Turnpike Gate taken from the playing of the great Roger Sherlock on the album ‘Memories of Sligo’.

Speaking of albums, my recording is on hold until I get my shoulder fixed and working again. A good opportunity to get my head down for some serious PhD work, making sense of my work so far. Let me know what you think of the recording below.

Whitby Folk Week 2016…. Folkin’ brilliant.

I’ve had a great time at Whitby Folk Week so far. The inaugural #Tunesday #Toesday #Troubaday concert was a great success. A big thanks in particular to my #Tunesday contributors, Bryony Griffiths & Will Hampson, John Garner, Clare Trevitt & Brian Gilmer and my trusty Bodhrán partner Ciarán Boyle. We’ve also had fantastic sessions in the Granby Hotel with Irish and English tunes melding beautifully.

My daughter has been carving out her own Whitby experience, attending the daily craft activities, she calls it ‘Folk School’, hanging out with her folky mates. As she told us earlier this summer during our Asturian adventure she is more fiesta than siesta.

My wife has been working hard teaching Rapper & Highland Dance and dancing with Gaorsach Rapper and Step. Congrats to Suzanne Fivey, Gaorsach box wizard for winning The Speed The Plough Competition. Lightening fast and precise.

It was great to be back leading the first of two workshops on Traditional Irish Music on the Flute at Whitby Folk Week. On Tuesday we had a good mixture of levels of experience. We worked on posture, relaxation, tone, learning by ear and began to learn the Jig ‘Paddy’s Return’. We had a go at lilting the tune to help with learning, some serious lilters were discovered on Tuesday!

Here’s two versions of ‘Paddy’s Return’. Thank you to all who came and I’ll be posting some short videos on some of the topics we covered for those unable to come to the second workshop on Friday 24th August 2016, 11.30 a.m. at the Rifle Club, Whitby. If you have any further questions, would like a Skype session or another workshop please get in touch. Details are on my ‘Traddad For Hire’ page.

I’m also leading a session at the Middle Earth Pub on Thursday 25th August at 5 pm. It would be great to see some lovely people there. It’ll be largely Irish but I’m hoping that some of the brilliant English tunesmiths I’ve played will come along too. I might throw in a couple of Asturian tunes as well.

Paddy’s Return, basic version.

Paddy’s Return, fancy version.

 

#Tunesday comes to life at Whitby Folk Week 2016.

Over the past 12 months I’ve been working with friends from Whitby Folk Week to bring you monthly recordings of tunes from England, France, Ireland and Asturian. I have been so luck to get to play with some fine musicians from across Europe. I’ve learned new tunes and recording skills (still a work in progress) and hopefully raised the profile of the festival.

The initiative has taken flight and proved hugely popular. So along with the Tuesday dancers from #Toesday and singers from #Troubaday, Whitby Folk Week is presenting the #Tunesday/Toesday/Troubaday Concert on Monday 22nd August 2016 at 5 pm at the wonderful Coliseum.

It will be a real feast of sparkly folk.

Check www.whitbyfolk.co.uk for further details.

IRISH FLUTE WORKSHOPS & SESSIONS!

Come and play a tune with me at the following Whitby Folk Week Events:

Tuesday 23rd August 2016: Traditional Irish Flute workshop 1. Rifle Club. @ 11:30
Thursday 25th August 2016: Trad Irish Session @ Middle Earth. 17:00 to 19:00.
Friday 26th August: Traditional Irish Flute Workshop 2. Rifle Club @ 11:30.

Here’s the final #Tunesday recordings from July and August I recorded in Asturias, Northern Spain.

Thank you to all who participated over the past year.

JULY 2016:

AUGUST 2016:

Asturian FieldWork Podcast

Today i’m just back from 6 weeks in Asturias, recording and interviewing musicians, concert organisers, journalists and cultural activists for my PhD in Ethnomusicology. I have a mountain of material to work with and have been overwhelmed by the generosity I was met with. When I catch my breath I’ll write about some of my experiences but here’s an interview I did with musician and blogger Alberto Ablanedo. Alberto is best known for his work with the Asturian Group Tejedor.

This is the first English language podcast for ‘2 Degrees of Separation’. The Castilian versions have included a wonderful variety of talented professional musicians from the world of Asturian music. I hope you enjoy it.

‘Dr. Dalrymple’s Fancy’…From Sligo to Asturias, A Musical Voyage Along The Atlantic Arc. New Album Update from Michael Walsh.

I had a productive few evenings in the studio with Michael McGoldrick recording my new Wooden Flute Album; ‘Dr. Dalrymple’s Fancy’, From Sligo to Asturias, A Musical Voyage Along the Atlantic Arc.  It had been a good while since I’d recorded and Michael was great at settling me in and encouraging me to the enjoy the process. We decided to use click tracks for the guide tracks. This took some getting used to but they are useful when it comes to mixing and recording other musicians who will contribute their talents at a later date. Confirmed guests include David Kosky (The Mystery Inch) on Guitar, Ciarán Boyle (Last Night’s Fun, Skyhook) on Bodhrán and Michael McGoldrick.

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I’ve got six guide tracks recorded and some lovely musicians lined up. I’ve been in Asturias carrying out fieldwork for my PhD in Ethnomusicology in the last few weeks. I’ve met some fabulous musicians and singers. I’m delighted to have secured the services of an Asturian singer who will melt your heart. I hope to be back in the studio in Manchester when I return to England in August. I’ll update you on guests when they’ve finished their contribution.

 

 

I’m intending to release the album myself but if there is a record label out there interested in working with me, do get in touch at mpwalsh1@sheffield.ac.uk

Here’s the first track recorded straight to vinyl with www.latherevival.com. Thanks to Amanda Lewis (Fiddle) and Paul Daly (Flute) for their contribution.

 

Irish Flute Workshops with Michael Walsh Whitby Folk Week.

I’m delighted to be asked to run two Irish Flute workshops at Whitby Folk Week this year, 20th to 26th August 2016. You can also join me in a session and I have an another special surprise to announce shortly. More details to follow shortly.

www.whitbyfolk.co.uk/workshop-leaders/michael-walsh

Album News: Working with the Lathe Revival.

I’ve been playing Traditional Irish Music for 41 years now and in the back of my mind I thought I’d like to make a flute album. A few years ago I decided to make music a central part of my everyday life and see what  might happen.

Last year the great flute player Aoife Granville posted a link to the Ó Riada Gold Medal competition in Cork and suggested I entered (There’s details about the competition on another post on here). Although I didn’t win, the weekend in Cork, playing with other finalists and musicians and attended workshops on working professionally as Traditional Musician, gave me great inspiration. It’s leap year this year so on that extra day of this year I took a leap and told people that I was going to make my first solo album.

By coincidence I had a message from Michael McGoldrick about teaching the child of a friend of his. The conversation turned to my project and Michael offered to record the album at his studio in Manchester. So far guide tracks have been recorded and I am working with a number of musicians on arrangements.

I’m juggling this with being a stay at home dad (I am very lucky to be doing this), teaching privately and at the University of Sheffield Music Department as well working on my PhD on Asturian Flute playing.

The first track is complete, recorded up in Newcastle with the wonderful Lathe Revival. The video below is a taster of the track and explains how it came about. I hope you enjoy it. The full video will be released shortly. Let me know what you think and what it evokes for you.

Cheers,

Mike.