He has performed for Colonel Muammar Gadafy as well as many other heads of state across the world. He has travelled the globe with Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Eireann sharing his traditional Irish music skills with the millions of enthusiastic listeners who have come to hear him play. And now, Killashee native Peter Carberry has been honoured by Pióbairí Uilleann for his contribution to traditional Irish music over the past 60 or so years. The award recognises Peter’s extraordinary talent on the Uileann Pipes.
As well as being a highly respected piper, the 87 year old is also a renowned tin whistle player has also travelled the length and breadth of Ireland over the past 65 years playing traditional airs to delighted fans everywhere. Peter Carberry also played minor football for Longford in the 1940s and was “always a traditionalist at heart”. When he wasn’t playing football or music, he would ferry his young sons to football matches all over the country.
The recognition that Peter received from Pióbairí Uilleann is timely as even today he is sharing his musical talents with a new generation, teaching his two year old great grandson Oisín Ó Maoileoin, the bodhran.
“My father’s first instrument was a tin whistle,” Peter Carberry’s son Peadar told the Leader, explaining that on a Wren Day many moons ago Peter was “out begging the wren” with his brother Kevin, when an old lady handed him a Clarke’s tin whistle “and told him, play that”.
By that evening, the talented Peter was able to play the instrument and it soon became clear that he possessed that great gift of playing music ‘by air”.
“When my father was 12 years old, his father brought him to the opening of Pearse Park in Longford,” added Peadar. “That was 1937 and Johnny Doran - a renowned travelling piper - was playing the pipes outside the park. At that moment my father decided he was going to get himself a set of pipes and so after he sold a calf that his father had given him for £16, and got another £9 from somewhere else, he bought his first set of pipes from a Mrs Farrell. The pipes were made by a Jim McCron who was an uncle of Jimmy Dolan, a piper from Longford at the time.”
In 1946 Peter married his wife Patricia. At the time he was playing music regularly and would set out on his bike with the pipes on board, night after night, travelling from house to house playing traditional Irish music. “He would be with his brother Kevin and their cousin Vinny Carberry who was a dancer,” explained Peadar. “There were some great sessions in houses back then”.
“My father was a real traditionalist and one night he was held up at one of these house sessions and my mother told him that the music had to come second! There was always music in our house growing up and when the Americans came home they would come over to our house especially to hear the music. There would be sessions galore and men like Jimmy Donlon, Pcora O’Farrell, Jimmy Hanley, who incidentally was an uncle of Séan Keane (The Chieftans) and my uncle Kevin would play music all night long.” The famous Dr Noel Browne was also a regular visitor to the Carberry house in Derryhawn during the ‘50s and ‘60s. With the arrival of cars, it became a lot easier for musicians to move their instruments around. Around 1951 Peter Carberry and Séan Ryan from Offaly got together and produced a record. The record was based on traditional Irish airs and was relatively successful for its time.
“The GAA, the Irish language and Irish song and dance are my father’s loves in life,” said Peadar, adding that Peter also played with various Irish bands down through the years and in more recent times travelled with the world phenomenon Riverdance as one of its chief pipers. “There is only one continent that my father has never been to and that is Australia. He travelled the world with Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Eireann and has been to America, North America, South America, Europe as well as England, Scotland and Wales. He also travelled with President Mary Robinson as part of a group of musicians when she was visiting Portugal.”
Peter Carberry worked in Bord na Mona for 46 years and reared six children with wife Patricia, including Máiréad, Kitty, Patricia, Noel, Peadar and Brendan. The dancing tradition of his grand-uncle Michael was passed onto Noel, Kitty and Patricia and the piping to Noel ( a member of the renowned band Rig the Jig) and two of Peter’s grandchildren. In his honour at the recently held Pióbairí Uilleann event, Peter was presented with a specially commissioned book of pictures documenting his musical life by Gerry O’Sullivan an Irish American whose pipe playing was hugely influenced by the talents of Peter Carberry. Peter Carberry is also a Patron of Pióbairí Uilleann.