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Subject: a visit with ken mcleod
From: "martin" <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 8 Dec 2000 07:44:39 +0000
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dear listees,

i had the pleasure this evening of paying a visit to uilleann piping 
elder ken mcleod.  i am about to restore an old set of pipes and i 
needed some assistance to identify the set. ken lives within 10 miles 
of my own home and it is a visit i now feel that i should have paid 
him some time ago.

i have known of ken for a long time now.   to me he had been a senior 
figure in npu who has love for old sets, a deep admiration for the 
old makers but somebody who also has a distinct dislike of modern day 
pipes , especially concert pitch and somebody who was none too shy to 
make scathing remarks about modern day makers and their shortcomings. 
perhaps on reflection it is not suprising that i had not made the 
trip to kens before. 

that, hitherto, had been my opinion of ken mcleod, no more and no 
less.  however, witihin 5 minutes of talking to ken in person it was 
obvious that i had to radically rethink any ideas i may have had 
about this man.

ken led me to a room at the back of his home and showed me a table 
on which i began to lay out the various pieces of this old set.  i 
could not mistake the obvious delight in his eyes as he immdeiately 
began to examine the pipes.  as there were no obvious stamps or 
markings to idicate the identity of the maker ken opened up a 
cupboard that contained an overwhelming treasure trove of pipes and 
began to bring out pipes by various makers such as kenna, egan and 
coyne so that they could be compared to my own set.

as ken brought each of the sets out of his cupboard he talked quite 
matter-of-fact about each of the makers when and where they worked, 
who they were apprenticed to or who worked under them, their style of 
pipemaking and their individual characteristics in their sets.  as 
ken compared his sets to mine it would continually  trigger ideas and 
he would produce more sets for comparison highlighting the 
phenomenonal feats of engineering of past masters, or indeed 
their very simple yet very effective ideas.

ken went to a four drawer filing cabinet that was packed with 
detailed engineering drawings of pipes, measurements of cutting 
tools, historical information and continued to produce information on 
piping artefacts so that we could establish the name of this maker  
all the time talking quite candidly of old makers.

needless to say i found myself in awe of this man.  the enormity 
and importance of the work that he has undertaken cannot be 
underestimated.  it is in no small way that the enthusiasim of ken 
and his diligience and that of others like him, have enabled the 
survival of the uilleann pipes.  

during our search ken talked about the pursuit of excellence that was 
obvious in the old makers sets, and at times i felt myself quite 
battered and bruised.  this, however, was not kens intention, as he 
talked to me in a very friendly way without preaching or lecturing.  
i could not begin to estimate the many ways i found this visit 
invaulable.  simply by chatting, he helped reaffirm my own thoughts 
on tuning and indeed on the very fundamentals of pipemaking, why 
wood and cane works and why plastic does not, for example.

anybody who is fortuneate enough to find themselves in ken mcleods 
company should be ware of their good fortune as he and his kind for 
me is the very embodiment of irelands oral traditions.

by the way, the set i had sought kens advice on is a willie rowsome c 
set.

m.p


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