Renowned Sliabh Luachra fiddler, Paddy Jones from Castleisland via Knocknagoshel in County Kerry, died peacefully on Saturday May 30 at the Bon Secours Hospital in Tralee.
Born into a musical household – the family of his mother, Catherine, were reputed to be fine singers – Paddy embarked on his own musical journey – both figuratively and literally at the age of 10 when he undertook the six-mile walk to the Glountaine home of the fiddling giant, Pádraig O’Keeffe. The education of young Master Jones at the hands of old master O’Keeffe continued for three years. However, the apprentice finally gave up on his mentor after another journey ended in disappointment because his teacher had again failed to return home after another excursion. Despite this musical parting of the ways, Paddy continued to be very fond of his first teacher, helping to look after O’Keeffe in his final days.
With such a headstart from O’Keeffe, Paddy Jones continued to pursue his fiddle studies with Pat and Willie O’Connell in Cordal while at the same time learning staff notation in school – which enabled him to develop his repertoire extensively. Among the other older players he was exposed to at this time was Jack O’Connell who not only continued to ground him in the musical heritage of Sliabh Luachra but also encouraged his appreciation of music from a variety of other sources in Ireland and beyond.
Paddy’s musical travels took him around Europe and even as far as Thailand with the Kerry School of Music. Much sought after as a teacher, Paddy played a crucial role in the continuing transmission of the Sliabh Luachra tradition to younger players as well as lecturing on the history and development of the music. His lifelong contribution to the culture of Sliabh Luachra was formally recognised at the Patrick O’Keeffe festival in Castleisland in 2016.
Paddy’s expertise as a teacher is celebrated in the book, Paddy on the Hardwood: A Journey in Irish Hoops, by Rus Bradburd. Rus, who lives in Las Cruces, New Mexico, recounts his experience as a basketball coach in Tralee, where he sought out fiddle lessons in his leisure time. with Paddy Jones – who became a firm friend.
Paddy was recorded playing as a soloist and in ensembles on a number of occasions – with many videos posted on YouTube. Paddy also appears in a series of six illustrated conversations with Eoin O’Sullivan – which is also available on YouTube. He also appeared on the album, Fair Dawning, by Tim O’ Shea and Friends.
In a tribute issued following Paddy’s death, the Patrick O’Keeffe Festival declared:
As well as being a renowned fiddle player, Paddy was one of the most insightful men you could meet. Paddy was a gentle soul who had time for everyone. He was hugely encouraging to younger musicians and indeed taught fiddle to many youngsters in the area. In 2016 Paddy was honoured with the Patrick O’Keeffe Traditional Music Festival ‘Dedication to Sliabh Luachra’ award. There was probably never a more worthy recipient. Paddy learned from Patrick himself and devoted a large part of his life to the Music of Sliabh Luachra. Paddy was a huge supporter of the Patrick O’Keeffe Traditional Music Festival, a staple of the fiddle recital his performances always came from the heart. He would bring the audience to a standstill with the feeling he put into the music, his air playing in particular sparkled at these events.
Paddy is survived by his partner Rose, his children, Deirdre, Reuben and Sarah, and their mother Teresa.