Garryhill Flageolet Band
taken from Daily Newspaper in the 1950’s)
little girls and boys standing against the gable wall of a bleak
schoolhouse on a high windy hill in County Carlow. The wind whips
the strains of ‘O’Donnell Abu’ away from their whistles and sends
the music streaming out across the plain.
the Garryhill Flageolet Band, the only whistle band in the country
and there’s not a whistler in it over fourteen years of age, though
there’s plenty of them closer to nine.
The Whistlers Of Garryhill (Garryhill Flageolet Band)
In the picture stands the only adult connected with the band. She is
Mrs. Ryan, Assistant Teacher at Garryhill and wife of the Principal,
and it was she who started the band six years ago.
Carlow is piping behind her and all Ireland listens and whistles
when the Children broadcast from Radio Éireann.
they’ll be seeing the lights of Dublin again for their sixth
Ryan got the idea when an inspector once came to her school and
inquired “Do the children play any musical instrument at all – even
a tin whistle?”
tin whistle?…” “And why not a tin whistle,” says Mrs. Ryan to
herself “seeing that there’s no hope of us producing a brass band or
a piper’s band or a string orchestra?
whistles it was.
inspector only known it was no trouble at all to Mrs. Ryan because,
down home in Kilanerin, Wexford, when she was Cecilia Kealy, the
entire Kealy family played the flageolet and had a family band. The
musical Kealys played so many instruments and so well that a son is
now Captain Kealy, conductor of the No. 2 Army Band in Cork.
would Garryhill take to having their children taught the tin
whistle? (Flageolet, says Mrs. Ryan is the proper name and it’s not
tin either it’s bronze)
Garryhill and surrounding parts jumped at it. Fond of music and
musical in themselves they backed the whistling kids. Said one
mother: “I’d rather have the child good at the whistle than at any
other lesson in the school.”
whistle up the money. There were the instruments to buy, 16
flageolets and a side drum, and you can’t send the children out in
miscellaneous clothes. They must have a uniform.
people, without even a local hall to help them, got up concerts and
they held them in the Ball Alley, in the open air under the evening
sky and collected the cash that way.
Mrs. Ryan had bought the material, the mothers made the uniforms,
each for her own child, and at local sports and concerts, where they
are much in demand, the band steps out in green cap and blazer,
cream skirt or trousers, carrying a green and gold banner
embroidered “Foireann Cheoil, Garrdhachoille.” Two of the Ryan
children are in the Band.
children grow up and leave school and alas, only too often – go away
from home, but they carry their whistles with them to play now in
distant places and to strange ears, for a whistle in your pocket is
a great consolation against trouble and loneliness, as every
there are always more coming on, more young fingers for Mrs. Ryan to
train. Eighty on the school roll and the other 64 dying to get on