Losing a good friend

May 26, 2013

Today I lost a good friend. Chris Twomey passed away today. He had been ill for some time. I first met Chris Twomey, the doyen of the Autoharp, in Cork in 1966, when I was transferred to the Southern Capital by the Lyons Tea Company. I sang a few Woody Guthrie/Bill Monroe/Hank Williams songs during the interval at a Jim O'Donnell Folk Group Concert, and Chris was in the audience. He introduced himself, and we became instant, and firm, life-long friends. Forty-Seven years in all. We began playing Music together, with Chris playing his 'DAM-GUD' Guitar, an ancient instrument he had restored himself, and along with Gary Cronin, we did our first Gig in the Group Theatre, opposite the Beamish Brewery, and we called ourselves The Kinfolk. Shortly after that, we teamed up with Jim O'Donnell and his group, and became Paddy's Goatskin and String Band. That conglomerate performed Folk songs from just about every Tradition, and Jim encouraged Chris and I to feature our American Songs and tunes in what would have been the interval at each gig. Our repertoire was largely drawn from the songs of the Carter Family and the New Lost City Ramblers. After being joined by my Brother, Colm, we named our group the Lee Valley String Band, in honour of Chris's home place in Monard, right smack in the middle of the Lee Valley. We played two guitars and a Mandolin, with one guitar capoed-up to replicate the high-strung sound of Mother Maybelle Carter's Autoharp. One day, while perusing the Music Shops of Cork,[ there were several, back then ] I spotted an old Autoharp in a place on Oliver Plunkett Street, which, on enquiry, was priced at the princely sum of 6 Pounds. I made the purchase and presented Chris with the instrument. About three weeks later he turned up for rehearsal and played the newly acquired instrument as though he'd owned one for years. Chris never looked back, and became a true Master of the Autoharp, as well as being no mean player of the Guitar, Concertina and Dulcimer, and a unique Singer too. Chris, you will be missed by all your pals and fans in the Music. I just hope that Bill Monroe and Hank Williams have recruited you into their Heavenly Band. Your Friend, Niall.

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