The Fints and the Armstrong – Irish Bands Who Crossed the Divide

Piping Press recently published an album cover of a recording made by the famous Fintan Lalor Pipe Band from Dublin when under the direction of P/M Tim Keogh. We asked if PP readers could help us identify the personnel in the historic photograph. Grateful thanks to senior pipe band adjudicator P/M Harry Stevenson and to Mrs Anne Mordaunt for responding to our request…..

By P/M Harry Stevenson,
RSPBA Adjudicator

I have obtained the names of the Fints’ members [Fintan Lalor Pipe Band] as they appear on the record sleeve. My thanks are due to Mrs Anne Mordaunt for supplying these, and the list is attached.

Top row: Paddy Leech, Willie Ward, Jimmy Hennessy, Mick O’Connor, Padraigh O’Brien
Middle Row: Colm O’Brien, Sean Keogh, Joe Cox, Mick Moore, Jack Bradshaw, Liam Keogh,
Bottom Row: P/M Tim Keogh, Mick O’Brien, Andy Gibson, Joe Duffy, Drum Sgt. Larry Ward, Tommy Moore.

The LP cover

There was a great friendship between Fintan Lalor and the Robert Armstrong Memorial Pipe Bands, even though the bands came from different backgrounds and cultures. Fintan Lalor had its origins in the Irish Citizens’ Army [see below], whilst the Armstrong started off in the Church Lads Brigade.

The Armstrong with Harry Stevenson far left at the front

When the All-Ireland PIpe Band Championship was held at the Balmoral Showgrounds in Belfast, both bands would come back to the Armstrong band hall for some food and drinks, and when in Dublin again we would meet up afterwards for drinks.

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Of the members pictured those whom I knew well were P/M  Tim Keogh, a really top piper, a frequent All-Ireland Solo Champion and also an accomplished violinist and a gifted composer. Some years back the Irish Pipe Band Association published a book of Tim’s tunes – really good music.

P/M Keogh’s book of tunes

Tom Moore was the Pipe Sergeant, again a good player and also a skilled uilleann pipe player. In my juvenile days I played against Mickey Moore who I think now lives in England, and in my junior grade Colm O’Brien and Jimmy Hennessy were fearsome competitors.

The Fintan Lalor pipe band in 1938

Tim’s two brothers, Sean and Liam, both played in the band and are pictured. Sean also played drums and his son Johnny and daughters Anne and Nuala for some years were the snare line for the Narraghmore band from Co. Kildare. Anne is married to Ciaran Mordaunt the RSPBA drumming and ensemble adjudicator.

The Drum Major Andy Gibson owned a hotel in Marlborough Street in Dublin and this is where we stayed over the weekend of the All-Irelands. I must mention Paddy Solan. I remember my dad telling me that Paddy was a great piper. My dad heard him play Iain Mhor from Logan’s Book 7.  Also the Pipe Sergeant back then was a Scotsman, Ewan MacDonald, again a fine player. His playing of Mrs John MacColl impressed my dad. Tim’s fine 6/8 march The One and Only is dedicated to P/M Paddy Solan:

P/M Keogh’s tune for P/M Paddy Solan

From ‘The Fintan Lalor Pipe Band – the Sound of Irish Labour’: The Fintan Lalor Pipe Band was born late in 1912 thanks in no small part to the efforts of Bob de Coeur, a union activist with the ITGWU [Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union], and chairman of its No. 16 Branch, which was based at 77 Aungier Street, a premises shared with young radicals from Na Fianna Éireann, the separatist Boy Scouts. RM Fox, a labour activist ……wrote of interviewing one veteran: ‘He told me how one morning…he saw Bob de Coeur gazing into the window of a second hand shop where a set of pipes was displayed for sale. Bob had an eager light in his eye. ‘I’m going to buy them,’ he said, nodding at the musical instrument. ‘We must have a Union band!’

Bob de Couer with the first FL band

RM Fox maintained that [Jim] Larkin [founder of the ITGWU] induced the Union purse-string holders to advance a £25 loan to allow de Coeur to start the band and a notice was placed in Larkin’s newspaper, The Irish Worker, appealing for players. The first piping instructor of this new band was a Scot, William M. Mackenzie, who the FLPB history notes was ‘a good player and teacher, who had recently begun making bagpipes in Bolton Street’……

Advert for MacKenzie’s pipes made in Dublin

The naming of this new band, The Fintan Lalor Pipe Band, was enormously significant. In [Fintan] Lalor, radicals found someone who fused the social and the national questions of Ireland.  He was one of the Young Irelanders of the 1840s – though decades on his political philosophy was still influential….Fintan Lalor proclaimed that ‘the entire ownership of Ireland, moral and material, up to the sun and down to the centre, is vested of right in the people of Ireland’.

Early O’Tooles

The band was not entirely unique – it was unique in that it was aligned to labour, but there were other pipe bands with separatist credentials, including the Saint Laurence O’Toole Band. [Sean] O’Casey [the playwright] was a member and Secretary of this band, which emerged from the activities of Gaelic Leaguers. This band frequently participated in the annual excursion to Bodenstown for example, to visit the grave of Theobald Wolfe Tone. As Christopher Murray has noted ‘it was bound up with the Irish language and with IRB [Irish Republican Brotherhood] interests’. O’Casey designed the uniform of ‘green kilt, flowing crimson shawl, brooches at breast and knee, and jaunty balmoral cap’.

• Read the full Fintan Lalor article here.

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