The Boss Murphy Musical Legacy:
Edited by Colette Moloney
Churchtown Village Renewal Trust; paperback; 166 pages; 2003
Nowadays, the northern part of County Cork is not a region well-known for traditional music, but the tunes and dances once flourished in the area around Churchtown. However, even by the 1930s, as older tunes and tune-types disappeared from the local repertoire, John “Boss” Murphy, a fiddler and farmer, decided to compile as many as he had previously written down or could recall from memory.
He completed his task in 1935, amassing more than three hundred tunes and, after his death in 1955, the manuscript was handed down to his son, Jack, and was some time later lent to Colette Moloney, who at that time was studying music at University College Cork.
Thanks to support from the Irish Arts Council and Cork County Council, Boss’s collection has been published, complete with brief chapters on his life and musical entertainment in the area. The tune collection itself is fascinating, most particularly, because of its emphasis on rarer dance-forms. These include a couple of galops and an array of quadrilles. Additionally, there are many tunes which even the most knowledgeable traditional musician may never have encountered. Fascinating too is the realization that some of these tunes can only be played on the fiddle by employing the second or third position, somewhat challenging the widely held belief that position-playing is anathematic to Ireland’s traditional musicians.
However, other than comments on the notation process, there are no notes on the tunes themselves – even a very basic reference to, for example, whether a tune appears in other collections or is known elsewhere by another name would have been helpful – and some forty tunes remain untitled, some of which, such as the schottisches might be nameable by an expert in Donegal highlands. Nevertheless, this is a thoroughly valuable collection and one well deserving of any traditional musician’s attention.
This review by Geoff Wallis was written for fRoots magazine – www.frootsmag.com/.
The book is priced at €20 and if you experience difficulty in finding it, try visiting www.churchtown.net. Alternatively, it will almost certainly be stocked by The Living Tradition in Cork - www.thelivingtradition.com