Warpipers of sweet Drumcrow and old Killann
How I long for sweet old songs
That were sung in each abode,
Or the pipers tune by the ligh of the moon
As they marched down the old bye road,
Or to pitch and toss at old Cloggy
When the sun is sinking low,
Ah! Life was gay in those olden days
Around lovely sweet Drumcrow
Here Come the Drumcrows -
Clear the Way
never know whats going to come around the corner,
especially, if you are just three years old as I was on
that sunny day in May, 1937 as I sat on the edge of the
pavement outside Barney Reillys shop in Gowna. I was
completely absorbed in examining discarded coloured sweet
wrappings trapped on the grating at the edge of the pavement.
The picture of the small dog on an empty Kerry Blue cigarette
packet particularly fascinated me. My mind was so engrossed
that I was unaware of people walking past and disappearing
round Ned Bradys corner,- opposite the signposts for
Arva, and Ballinagh, and congregating along the street where
Ellen Clearys sweet shop and Whites provision
and drapery shops were situated. Suddenly, I was startled
by three loud bangs from that direction.
Alarmed, I looked around; was it thunder? The street was
deserted; I was a diminutive solitary figure in an empty
street; the silence was eerie. I stood up ready to bolt
for home when suddenly a big drum beat and loud music filled
the air, the volume increasing; at that precise moment around
Ned Bradys corner marched a Pipers Band followed by
the whole village. I bolted for home across the street,
in the door and up the stairs to hide somewhere; my mother
was at the bedroom window peeping through the lace curtains;
I asked, Who are they; why are they all dressed up
like that? Theyre the Drumcrows;
she replied and added, Theyre the Drumcrow Warpipers
We watched them march past; a whole parish of them, walking
tall, proud and erect, like a phalanx of ancient Celts,
clad in immaculate green tunics, tartan kilts and swinging
blue shawls shoulder fastened by colourful Tara broaches,
their silver buckled marching feet synchronised to the beat
of Sean O Neills March banged out by their big
drummer; our whole world was filled with the fighting swagger
of marching war pipe music as the Drumcrow Warpipers Band
Drumcrow is just a small townland in the parish of Kilmore
on the outer perimeter area of Cornafean and convenient
to the town of Ballinagh, also in the parish of Kilmore.
Several parishes border each other here -the bottom
of the town is in the parish of Ballintemple and out the
Cavan road a short distance is Crosserlough parish.
a) The Collar of Gold, found by Tom Sheridan, Drumcrow,
following note dated 21st October, 1935, written by National
School pupil, Jimmy Scott, Clinloskin, Cornafean, is filed
in the Folklore Commission Library.
There was a collar of gold found in Newtown bog about
the year 1870. It was found by Tom Sheridan of Dromcrow
who gave it to James Christy as it was in his bog he found
it. It is now in the Museum in Dublin. I saw it last year.
It is narrow piece of gold and a clip to fasten it at the
back. Newtown bog is a half a mile from Crossdoney and two
miles from Ballinagh. There are about two acres in it.
Feis Breffni Winners Sunday, 4th June, 1939.
Anglo Celt reported as follows-
The Drumcrow Warpipers Band was awarded 86% and recommended
for first prize. Mr. McGinley said he noticed a marked improvement
in the playing, with nice balance between pipers and drummers;
good tuning and beautiful round note, much fuller and more
pleasing than last year; Great life and freedom in the rhythm
of the dance tunes and chanter work splendid. He added that
the Band deserved congratulations on their performance (Applause).
In solo playing William Cassidy, Drumcrow was placed first
with 85marks and H. Maguire, Corlismore second with 84marks.
Fund Raising ConcertAnglo Celt advert. March1946
The Drumcrow Pipers Band.
The above presents the Ulster Gaelic Players
In My Wild Irish Rose in Cornafean Hall
On Sunday night 14/4/46.
A star spangled Variety Programme will support the Play.
Patrons assured of a night of nights.
Old Roads: Cavan Folklore commission Library-
The following comment was written on 27th June, 1938 by
National School pupil, Eliza Collins-
Drumcrow road is known as the old road. It is leading
to Drumcarbin House; it also leads to Drumcarbin N. S. It
is said to be over eighty years old. The roads are still
Former member of the band, Sean Masterson, Annagh, Cornafean,
still hale and hearty, recently told me that the roads are
still there- narrow and tarred; the school was sold, its
a dwelling house now and the old road went to Drumcarbin
and the crossroads at the end where the Band practiced was
in the parish of Ballintemple.
Sean continuing in anecdotal language, outlined the history
of the Band- That must have been the Bands original
colours you saw in 1937; at that time the uniform comprised
a green tunic, deep brown/saffron kilt and blue shawl pinned
on by Tara broaches, green boat shaped cap with blue streamers.
Subsequently, we had black tunics trimmed with white, blue
shawls and Glengarryton caps.
The shoe buckles in latter years, were made and chromed
by a Johnny Sweetman from Sligo, in the Motor factory in
Birmingham -Johnny was a member of the Birmingham Irish
Band. The cap badge was a circular plate with a harp- an
Irish penny chromed on it. The Band was originally founded
in the 1920s; it was revised in the 1930s by
the schoolmaster; his name was Connaghton.
The band was called Drumcrow maybe because five McGuire
brothers from Drumcrow were leading men in it; their names
were Eddie, Tom, Jimmy, Harry and Bill; Bill died
in his late teens. We had a hard task master, but a brilliant
music teacher in Ballinagh man, Charlie Fitzpatrick, an
army man as you can guess, and not very polite at times.
He took it over in the 1930s. When parading, he was
the Sergeant Major; hed walk in front, dressed to
kill, good suit and studded walking stick. He set the music;
he also set the music for The Birmingham Irish Band; the
McGuires started it when they went over. When we were practicing,
if some fellow was playing the practice chanter wrong hed
say you are blowing f**king bubbles. My first
day playing was in Cavan, at the Diocesan Boy Scouts rally
parading the Scouts to the Cathedral; Harry McGuire had
gone to England; Charlie Fitzpatrick missed him in Ballinagh
and said, what about this Masterson guyform
a circle and lets play a selection- give him a chance. When
we were finished, with a good crowd standing around, he
said, Good! You had very good playing but stand up
to attention with your heals together; you had a spraddle
on you like an auld woman. I never or wont ever
In regard to our repertoire of tunes, we always led off
with Sean ONeills march, followed by Irish Mans
Toast; other favourites were Men of the West, Paddy OFlaherty,
Mc Clouds Reel, the Three Little Drummers, the Highlanders
March, The 79s Farewell, and The Baron Rocks of Aden.
In regard to funds, there was always a Concert in Ballinagh
Hall on the first Sunday night in lent. Ballintemple troupe
always did a new play on the occasion. We went round on
bikes selling tickets at one shilling and two shillings
and many houses wouldnt have it till later. The Band
kept people together. There was great comradeship, great
local support. But as time went on and the economy began
to slide, fellows emigrated and it became difficult to keep
going; there was lack of recruits and of course we were
getting older.Our last day out was at opening of the
Cornafean G.A.A. Park.
The ORahilly Warpipers Killann Band
I was passing Tom Grays Shop on Shercocks main
street in the summer of 1947 when I spotted the blue and
red hand written poster prominently displayed in the window.
It informed the public that the O Rahilly Warpipers
Killann Band, founded in 1917 was reforming and would march
into Shercock on the following Sunday at 3pm. The band would
play in the town, after which collections would be made
for funds to outfit the band; all contributions would be
very much appreciated. Highlights of the Bands past
achievements were noted.
I questioned my father about the band; Daddy! I didnt
know that at one time there was a pipers band in Killann;
when was that? He was pensive for a while before he
replied. The band was there for a good while up to
ten years ago, Id say - up to 1938; they were very
good; John Keenan was the mainstay- he plays now and again
on the radio, and Hugh O Reilly was the Big Drummer,
he was a champion drummer- you know Hugh; he brings the
Creamery cans on the big shifter to Bailieboro Creamery
every day; youd see him leading the horse and shifter
full of creamery cans turning down the Bailieboro road at
You mean the man who comes up the Maudabawn road and
walks alongside the big cart through Shercock and around
Hoeys corner every day- the man with the cap and wellingtons
with the tops turned down?
Yes he replied, the very man.
And he was a champion drummer? I asked in astonishment.
Yes he was and no doubt still iswith a bit of
practice, he added.
On the following Sunday, I sat on the window sill of Hoeys
shop waiting for the band to arrive. Young lads were congregating
there. I was expecting a marvellous spectacle; still vivid
in my mind were pictures of the Drumcrow pipers clad in
colourful uniforms turning Ned Bradys corner and marching
down Gowna main street nine years previously.
Someone shouted, Here they come. I heard three
bangs on the big drum followed by the swinging lilting swirl
of the warpipes. I jumped off the window sill and pushed
forward for a better view. Up the main street they came,
followers left and right of them. I peered hard trying to
distinguish members of the band from their followers. As
they passed I became aware of the cause of my problemonly
one member, big John Keenan was fully dressed in kilts,
tunic and shawl; the rest wore their ordinary clothes, some
shabby looking. Champion drummer, Hugh O Reilly, flanked
by two pikemen marched proudly in the centre banging out
the beat on his big drum. They marched tall, with Banners
flowing free, playing their old proud music with great rhythm
and verve; they had pride in the sanctuaries of their hearts
and souls, and were completely oblivious to their mob appearance
as were their supporters and onlookers.
Years later, recalling the scene, I decided that pride ,
spirit and proud music was all they had; Cavan were doing
well on the Football field; it helped to keep everyone going
in hard times. Christ! At that time, we, the people of rural
Ireland, had hit rock bottom.
Killann Townland: Killann is a large parish in the dioceses
of Kilmore and incorporates the towns of Bailieboro and
Shercock; the townland of Killann is situated midway between
both towns and always had a vibrant and independently minded
community with its own band and dramatic society and A.O.H
community hall, (accidentally burned down in recent years)
which was a great landmark for travellers.
a). Former Band member Michael OReilly, Annahern,
Shercock, kettle drummer in the reformed band, recently
recalled some of the Bands historical highlights.
Michaels brother, Hugh, was the big Drummer and won
several prizes in drumming competitions. Michael has in
his possession a framed photograph of the Band taken in
1930 in Breffni Park when the Band led the parade of teams
prior to the match between Cavan and Sligo. The photograph
was picked up in New York and given to me seven years ago
said Michael before continuing--
The O Rahilly Warpipers Killann Band was founded
in 1917 and dedicated to the O Rahilly. The uniform
comprised saffron kilt, green tunic and green sash. On parade
they carried two shields portraying, St. Patrick and St.
Bridget. The main flag had a depiction of Myles OReilly
(Myles the Slasher) defending the bridge of Finea on one
side and Penal Days emblazoned on the other side. Also,
pikes were carried by two young men, one each side of the
big drummer. The Sergeant Major was Peter Reilly who walked
in front and carried the staff with the big flag. Renowned
piper, Big Michael Keenan, trained the band. Members were
scattered over a wide area.
I often heard the older members of the Band tell of the
old R.I.C visiting houses where they suspected the instruments
were stored. The Band always paraded with the original banners.
The Band carried the original name until 1943 when we bought
a new banner depicting Oliver Plunkett and changed the name
of the Band. We continued until 1948 or 1949 but due to
emigration and lack of funds, the Band ceased to function,
despite repeated attempts to get it off the ground. We worked
hard at fund raising- collections, torch light processions
b). A 1946 advertisement in The Anglo Celt reads as follows---
Oliver Plunket Pipers Killann Band
Ceili in Parochial Hall Bailieboro
On Sunday Night.
c) Memorable Engagements:
1. June 1918, the band played in Ballyduff, near Virginia,
at the famous General Election speech by Fr. Flanagan (Roscommon
priest) for Sinn Fein Candidate, Sean Young, East Cavan;
the speech was suppressed as he was critical of everything
2. 29th May, 1920 at the funeral of Michael Shorten who
was shot by the Black and Tans and to whom a monument is
erected at Crossdoney.
3. July, 1929 in Phoenix Park at the Centenary Celebrations
of Catholic Emancipation.
4 .1949-Eoghan Roe O Neill Memorial Celebrations in
Cavans old Franciscan Abbey; a hugh crowd attended,
the biggest seen in Cavan up to then.
5. Torchlight Procession, 1945. The following report is
from The Anglo Celt, November10, 1945.-
On Wednesday night of last week the torchlight procession
organised by Killann Oliver Plunket Pipers Band, in memory
of the Manchester Martyrs and all who died for Ireland,
took place from Cornalara Cross, the Band striking up The
Dawning of the Day, as the large procession, composed
of various shades of political thought , started off to
the church. As befitted the occasion, the National Flag
replaced the Standard usually carried by the band, and the
Guard of Honour was two pikemen, changed at intervals along
the route. A large crowd awaited the arrival of the procession
at the church, where prayers were said for the repose of
the souls for those who had made the supreme sacrifice and
for the deceased friends and relatives of all present. The
band then gave selections, after which Faith of our
Fathers and the National Anthem were played on the
pipes by Michael O Cianain. A word of praise is due
to Mr. John Dermott, Chief Marshal of the parade and an
untiring worker of the band. The procession was most successful
and very picturesque.
The Bandat a meeting of the band the next night the
people of the district were complemented on turning out
for the procession in such large numbers. Thanks were noted
to Mr. P.Smith, T.D., and Senator D. McCabe for their generous
subscriptions of £1 each. House to house collectors
had their task made easy by the enthusiasm of subscribers.
The Shercock collection is still proceeding and is as good
as anywhere else, there being only two refusals. Messrs.
D. McCullough, Dublin was thanked for his promptness, which
made the procession possible. Band practices two nights
Great to recall the past said Michael O
But recollections must have a present and future perspective;
hopefully, Michaels and Sean Mastersons recollections
will encourage the youth of Drumcrow and Killann to Fall
in and Strike up the Band.