Recollections of Paul Davies

 

 

Paul Davies (a.k.a. Davis) was a London dealer in old flutes and concertinas, and a larger-than-life character by any standard. While few people might spend more than a few hours with their instrument dealer, the combined effect of many thousands of such interactions with Paul has, I suspect, had great impact on the world of Irish music.   Paul died in January 2001.  It seems to me that his role in the flowering of Irish flute and concertina playing deserves some commemoration, so I invite people with some memory of Paul to contribute that memory to this page.  Get in touch!


We start with this announcement on the Musical Traditions website...

Paul Davies dies

Irish traditional music and its musicians are saddened by the death of Paul Davies , a great musician and for many years supplier of fine flutes and concertinas to some of the Ireland's best traditional musicians.  He passed away on Thursday 18/1/01 around 10pm, in the city of York, following a massive heart attack.

Paul was a master of several instruments especially the flute, concertina and the harmonica.  His playing of slow airs was very highly regarded.  This was all lost in 1996 when a stroke meant he could no longer play the flute, his favourite instrument.

As a repairer and restorer he had no equal - he was a true master of the art.  Many an old instrument was brought back to use through his artistry.

His remains will be cremated on Tuesday 30/1/01 in York Crematorium.  He was 60 years of age and is survived by his wife, Turid and son, Magnus.  He had many friends in Irish music and was a great supporter of young musicians.

Irish traditional music and its players were lucky to have had such a good friend.

Alan O'Leary - 27.1.01


So, what do we know of Paul?

I only knew Paul for a few months in 1974, but I've pressed Paul's family for a few more details.

Paul was born in Stockton on Tees, 6th of November, 1940.  Before doing flute restorations he did a number of things for a living, including gardening in Germany, lifeguarding in Jersey (he was an excellent swimmer), and building work of various kinds in the UK.  Nobody seems sure about what got him into playing Irish flute and concertina, but it was probably in the time he spent living in London, going to pubs that were popular with the London Irish, and hearing the music that way.

As a result of his love of Irish music, he lived in the west of Ireland for around 15 years on and off, and during this time became aware of the shortage of instruments in Ireland, so began to buy them in England, and supply them to Irish players.

Paul met Turid, his wife to be, in Trondheim, Norway, in 1979. He was busking at the time, having done this all over Europe before and after coming to Norway.  They had one son, Magnus.  Paul continued working with antique flutes, concertinas and some other instruments throughout his life.  He passed away in 2001 aged 60, in York where the family had lived since 1991.


Paul's flute playing

Magnus kindly supplied me with a copy of the CD Paul had recorded with the Armagh Piper's Club - Brian Vallelly, pipes and whistle, Eithne Vallely, fiddle, Niall Vallely, bodhran and Pat Daly, harp.  Titled 'Song of the Chanter', Paul plays flute, concertina and harmonica, including a few solo pieces.  Here's one of those which illustrates well his stunning flute tone, and his mastery of Irish slow airs on the flute.  The air is Caoineadh na dTri Maire, or The Lament of the Three Marys.  The three Marys are Mary mother of Jesus, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene, all said to have stood at the foot of the cross. The song is also known in Sean Nůs form.

Paul won the All-Ireland, either the year we were there (1974) or a year before or after, in the slow airs played on flute category.  He also won the harmonica category in that competition during the same period, another instrument he played very well.  I seem to remember he might have come runner-up on the concertina, the top spot being awarded to a well-known priest from New York.

If anyone can provide any more sure information about Paul's achievements in the All-Ireland, I'd be grateful.


And what did he look like?

Left - Paul, very much as I remember him. The picture was taken in 1979 in Trondheim by the local press.  Interestingly, he's playing a small hole flute with an unlined head and a D foot, not the kind of flute he'd play normally.  Perhaps chosen for portability.

Right - Paul busking somewhere in Norway in 1981. There was a major strike taking place at the time, which explains the "No strike here" sign.  It appears to be the same flute at his feet. 


Acknowledgements

My thanks to Turid and Magnus for background information on Paul, and for giving their permission for this page.

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Terry McGee's Recollections of Paul

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