Denis “Din” Tarrant (1871-1957) was fiddle player (who made his living as a travelling carpenter) from Ballydesmond and a contemporary of Pádraig O’Keeffe and Tom Billy Murphy. It seems he got his music from Taidhgín an Asail (who was also Tom Billy’s teacher), but he may have had a few tunes directly from the great Corney Drew as well. He was Denis Doody’s maternal grandfather and namesake, and Denis used to say that one of his earliest memories was hearing Din and Pádraig playing together in the Tarrant home late into the night. Johnny O’Leary remembers Din, Pádraig, and Tom Billy playing together at Jack Keeffe’s Bar in Knocknagree.
Din Tarrant spent some time in London where he had a lasting influence. He was reported to have played at a number of Gaelic League events between 1898 and 1901. It’s quite possible he was responsible for introducing a number of Cork/Kerry polkas which became a part of the old London dancehall repertoire. Two nephews, Richie and Paddy Tarrant, were stalwarts of the vibrant London Irish scene in the 60s.
It’s a shame that Tarrant was never sought out by the tune collectors and radio broadcasters that brought fame to Pádraig O’Keeffe. No doubt his music had its own unique qualities that would have been illuminating were they to have been recorded. Sliabh Luachra scholar Paddy Jones believes strongly that Din Tarrant’s influence on the development of the Sliabh Luachra style has been greatly underestimated. Unlike his famous friends he was not a teacher, but was much sought after for playing for house dances and other events. He apparently specialized in polkas, and a number of tunes still bear his name for having been particular favorites.