Irish Dancing and Music in Connemara

In no part of Ireland is the national love for dancing more decidedly manifested than in Connemara; the meetings for the purpose of indulging in this favourite pastime occur upon every occasion where business or pleasure draws a number of the peasantry to any particular neighbourhood. Fairs, markets, patrons, races, and hurling-matches, are invariably accompanied by dances in the cabins near the spot, or in canvas tents erected for the occasion. The music is usually supplied to the dancers by an old fiddler, or a blind piper, who receives a donation of a halfpenny or a penny from each couple as they stand up to "welt the flure," to the music of "The Hare in Corner," or some other equally favourite jig.

A good piper has always been regarded as a person of no trifling importance in the district where he resides, or rather, where he moves, for he is perpetually shifting his quarters from one place of merriment to another. Some of the pipers of the last century acquired considerable popularity amongst the higher classes of society, and were much sought after, on account of their exquisite skill as musicians. O'Keefe in his "Recollections" relates a characteristic story of the pride of the famous Munster piper, Macdonnel, who, he says, lived in great style, keeping servants, grooms, hunters, &c. "One day that I and a very large party dined with Mr. Thomas Grant, of Cork, Macdonnel was sent for to play for the company during dinner; a table and chair was placed for him on the landing, outside the room, a bottle of claret and a glass on the table, and a servant waiting behind the chair designed for him, the door left wide open. He made his appearance, took a rapid survey of the preparation for him, filled his glass, stepped to the dining-room door, looked full into the room, and said, 'Mr. Grant, your health and company!' drank it off, threw half-a-crown on his table, saying to the servant—'There, my lad, is two shillings for my bottle of wine, and keep the sixpence for yourself!' He ran out of the house, mounted on his hunter, and galloped off, followed by his groom."