Armagh pipe-maker William Kennedy awarded coveted blue plaque

One of the few surviving sets of William Kennedy pipes

PIPERS from Sardinia, France and Scotland have celebrated the unveiling of a blue plaque to master pipemaker William Kennedy.

The master pipemaker, who was born near Tandragee, Co Armagh in 1768, learned a different instrument - the fiddle - after losing his sight at the age of four from smallpox.

Aged 13, he was sent to Armagh to learn to fiddle, as music was then a customary occupation for blind people.

He lodged with a furniture-maker while studying where he became skilled in woodworking and clockmaking before developing into a specialist in repairing and making uilleann pipes, the most complex of the many forms of bagpipe found across Europe.

Kennedy completed over 30 sets in the eight years from 1792 to 1800, when he returned to Tandragee.

At his home and workshop there, now part of the Montagu Arms, he introduced substantial technical improvements to the instrument.

The plaque was unveiled b yesterday by Lord Mayor Julie Flaherty and was followed by a reception including music from Armagh Pipers Club and guest pipers from Sardinia, France and Scotland who are taking part in the 25th William Kennedy Piping Festival.

The Ulster History Circle (UHC) plaque is at the Montagu Arms in Church Street, Tandragee.

UHC chairman Chris Spurr saod it is "delighted to commemorate this musician and master craftsman in this special year, the 250th anniversary of his birth".

"2018 also sees the 25th edition of the longest-running international piping festival in the world; a festival named in his honour, and which every November fills Armagh with pipe-based music from many countries.

"The festival has been supported from its inception by the local council, and we are grateful to Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council for funding both the plaque and today's celebration of the life and legacy of William Kennedy."

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