103 – O Farrell’s Collection of National Irish Music for the Union Pipes by P O’Farrell

An update by Geoff Hore 2008-2015.  The writing in black font is from A Bibliography of Bagpipe Music. The update comments are in blue font.


A modern reprint of this book has been located and the details are appended below. A good deal of research by Cannon, Patrick Sky and others has been carried out to determine more about O Farrell but we know very little about him. In fact we don’t even know his first name.

1     1804


title; pp 1-16, tutor; pp 17-53tunes (69).

  • British Library, London.  Library binding. 6.6 x 9.8″. The title page is inscribed: P. O Farrell. On the back of the title page is a pencilled note, ‘unknown provenance, AHK 5/49”. (A. Hyatt King).
  • National Library of Ireland, Dublin.
  • Euing Library, Glasgow University.
  • Bodleian Library, Oxford.
  • Paris (Bibliotheque du Conservatoire).
  • National Library of Ireland, Dublin.  Unbound copy,

The entry in the Stationers’ Hall Registers is dated July 5 1804. The publisher John Gow was at 31 Carnaby Street, London, only from c. 1803 to 1815. (Humphries & Smith).

The text of the tutor, without tunes, is reproduced in F. O Neill, Irish Folk Music, a Fascinating Hobby (Chicago, 1910) and in W. H. Grattan Flood, The Story of the Bagpipe (London, 1911). In 1912 Francis O Neill wrote to Seamus O Casaide, ‘I paid £5 to have it transcribed from the copy in Trinity College Library. The music engraver in Chicago made one slight error – Sample in place of Example. Now is it not a curious coincidence that the same identical error occurs in Grattan Flood’s book ….’

Actually there must have been some confusion as to the location of the copy which O Neill used, as there is certainly no copy of the book in Trinity College Library at present, nor was Mr. O Casaide able to find one when he made enquiries in 1912. (National Library of Ireland MSS 8116-8 and 8118).


In The Irish Book-Lover, Vol. XVII (March-April, 1929, p 37 and May-June, 1929, p 61), O Casaide stated that O Farrell was a native of Clonmel, resident in London. He played the Irish pipes during the performance of Oscar and Malvina at Covent Garden Theatre. O Casaide searched the 1821 Census records of Clonmel for any record of him, but without success. Although Grattan Flood gave O Farrell’s christian name as Patrick, the authority for this is not known. But the inscription in the British Museum copy, with initial letter P, appears to be old and was not apparently written in the by Library authorities.

The above scanned image taken from edition II. 

2      1995


p i, title; pp ii-v, In Search of O’Farrell’; p vi, Bibliography; p vii, untitled preface; p [viii], blank; p [ix], reproduction of original title page; p [x], blank; pp [xi-xii], index; pp 1-53, as in I.

  • Geoff Hore’s Collection.

Patrick Sky states that he spent over 200 hours reconstructing this book. He was working from a photocopy of a battered original and ensured all blemishes were removed. The result is that we now have a facsimile of edition 1 in very good condition. 


  • Rev 00. (15 October 2008)
  • Rev 01. (22 November 2008).  Adds scanned image of edition 1 and details of edition 2.
  • Rev 02. (2 March 2015).  Format changed for bibliography.altpibroch.com.

© Geoff Hore 2015