Ó SÉ, Pádraig (
          c.1881–1960)

Tá cuntas gairid ar an bpíobaire cáiliúil seo ag Breandán Breathnach in Éigse Cheol Tíre 4, 1985. Deir Breathnach: ‘Gildas was an excellent player: it was delightful to hear him play slow airs. He was a native speaker of Irish and could sing songs in Irish ar an sean-nós’. Thug Bráithre de La Salle cuntas ar a shaol san ord do scríbhneoirí an chuntais seo; aistriúchán ón bhFraincis atá ann agus is léir air nár tuigeadh gur bhain tábhacht lena phíobaireacht. I bhFormaoil, Cathair Saidhbhín, Co. Chiarraí, a rugadh é. Is cosúil go raibh tamall caite aige ag saothrú a choda sula ndeachaigh sé isteach san Ord i mBaile an Chaisleáin, Co. Laoise, nuair a bhí sé 19 bliain d’aois. Deireadh sé nach raibh aige ach fíorbheagán Béarla ag an am. Oileadh ina mhúinteoir é i gColáiste Oiliúna de La Salle i bPort Láirge. Bhí sé bliain ag múineadh i scoil na mBráithre i nDún Mánmhaí, Co. Chorcaí, ar dtús agus i scoileanna éagsúla ar fud na tíre ansin: cathair Phort Láirge; cathair Chill Chainnigh; An Brú i Luimneach; Cill Mhic Bhúith, Co. Chill Chainnigh. Ach is sa tuaisceart is mó a chaith sé a shaol múinteoireachta. Bhí sé sa Chéide, Co. Ard Mhacha, ó 1922 go 1927. Bhí sé i nDún Phádraig go ceann naoi mbliana agus idir 1936 agus 1947 i mBéal Feirste, é ina phríomhoide ar feadh tréimhsí. Nuair a d’éirigh sé as an múinteoireacht chaith sé deich mbliana ina rúnaí i scoil de La Salle i gCaisleán an Bharraigh. Bhí ag teip ar a shláinte agus cuireadh é go teach an oird i mBaile an Chaisleáin, Co. Laoise, agus d’éag sé 12 Feabhra 1960.

Ba le linn dó a bheith i gCill Chainnigh a chuir sé spéis sna píoba ar dtús in aois a 28 bliain dó. Fuair sé a chéad cheacht ó phíobaire aitheanta, Peter Carrigan i gClárach. Nuair a aistríodh é go dtí An Brú, Co. Luimnigh, is ea a chuir sé aithne ar an bpíobaire cáiliúil, James Burke. ‘Gildas cycled every week to Kilfrush, where Burke was a gentleman’s gentleman in the local big house, and stopped only when Burke declared he had nothing more to teach him. This apparently occurred in 1916’ (Breathnach). Fuair sé ‘Fraher’s Jig’ ón mBúrcach agus ba é a thug do Willy Clancy é. Tugtar ‘Brother Gildas’ nó ‘Port an Bhráthar’ ar fhonn a d’fhoghlaim sé ó Tom Rowsome, uncail le Leo Rowsome. Bhí aithne aige ar Mhicí Cumbá Ó Súilleabháin, píobaire agus cainteoir dúchais ó Chathair Dónaill, Ciarraí, a bhuaigh duaiseanna ag an Oireachtas sna blianta tosaigh agus a d’éag i dTeach na mBocht i gCathair Saidhbhín i 1916.

Thugadh sé cuairt ar an bpíobaire aitheanta Preispitéireach William Clarke i mBéal Átha Beithe, Co. Mhuineacháin. Deir Harry Bradshaw san alt ‘The Ballybay Piper’ (in iris ar an idirlíon, Music Traditions 9, Fómhar 1991): ‘These visits were remembered by Willie’s son Rev. Bill Clarke. “Brother Gildas, a delightful man, used to come and visit us. The evenings would end up in a piping session part of which I would be allowed to listen to. . . . I remember he spoke with a lovely Southern accent, a most beautiful brogue, and this used to fascinate us children”. Brother Gildas was a well known figure in the piping world at that time and is remembered for a large collection of Egan chanters which he gathered over the years. He played “on a beautiful set with a sixteen and a half inch chanter”. The spectacle of a de La Salle Brother staying in a strong Presbyterian house in North Monaghan in the mid 1920’s must have raised eyebrows at the time . . .’. Déanann Breathnach an cur síos seo ar a stíl seanma: ‘Two remarkable features of his dance music may be mentioned: he would dwell on some long note in a tune and then resume the proper tempo in a light, tripping fashion, very pleasant to listen to but wholly unsuited to dancing. Instead of rolling a note he would trill it, striking the chanter three or four times with the appropriate fingers.’ Deirtear i gcuntas Bhráithre de La Salle: ‘When playing he closed his eyes and he seemed to go into a trance and to be completely absorbed in the music. Woe betide anybody who laughed or continued to talk while he was playing. He would suddenly stop and say unambigously “You do not appreciate good music, you uncultured fellow”. In his latter years he put aside the pipes and took to making blackthorn walking sticks. He became skilful at this work and there was great demand for his products.’

Diarmuid Breathnach

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