Music and Woodwork
I began playing the pipes in 1984, when pipemaking and to some degree piping itself, seemed to be a dark art. With a second hand practise set and a copy of the Armagh Pipers Club book I worked at trying to emulate what I heard on records. A year later I found myself travelling to London, to Camden Town Irish Centre, where Billy Browne was to set me on the true path.
Amongst other things, Billy advised me to order a chanter from a maker called Dave Williams, buy a copy of “The Piper’s Rock” and to attend the Willie Clancy Summer School. I ordered a half set (regulators were added over the years) and made summer pilgrimages to Miltown through the late 80s and early 90s. I have lived for the last 20 years in Manchester, regularly playing in sessions and continually trying to improve my piping. I am involved in organising the North West Uilleann Pipers. We meet every month, run Tionols, teach piping, lend out practise sets and generally support local pipers.
About a year after the untimely death of Dave Williams in 2004, I made the decision to have a serious attempt at pipe making and subsequently bought a lathe. I had previously been shown the basics of long boring, reaming, tool making and general pipe making by Peter Hunter. Whilst living in Leeds I had been surprised to find there was an internationally acclaimed pipe maker 20 minutes away. Peter, as well as being an outstanding craftsman was very generous with his skills, knowledge and time.
I combined previous knowledge and skills with the large amount of material that had become available on the web. I also studied (Benade, Nederveen, Sean Reid Soc, David Quinn CD-ROM) and spoke/emailed with pipe makers. Any interesting sets of pipes that came my way were studied and measured. My own Williams full set was of course the first instrument I measured and continues to be a strong influence on my work.
After moving to Leeds in 1988 I enrolled on a course in guitar construction. A year later the teacher, Martin Banks, offered me a job and I then worked for several years making mandolins, bouzoukis and guitars at Oakwood Instruments.
Shortly after moving to Manchester in 1996 I was asked if I would be interested in passing on my skills. This led to 10 years teaching guitar making at The Manchester College. Over that period as well as teaching I wrote and managed HNC, HND and level 2 courses in Guitar and Fretted Instrument Construction.
After it was decided that the courses did not fit the college ethos, we were closed down to make way for subjects which were deemed to have greater relevance to local students (hair and beauty). I continued teaching part time in the music department (Music and Culture) and during the rest of the week I restarted my business making and repairing instruments. In 2014 I went back to being a full time musical instrument maker.