Paddy Cronin (1925-2014) was originally from Ré Buí (Reaboy) near Gneeveguilla and a student of Pádraig O’Keeffe. He is best known for his fiddling, but played the flute as well. He came from a musical family–his brother younger Johnny would become a celebrated fiddler himself. Their mother Hannie (née Nagle), originally from Gortdarrig, far to the south, was a concertina player and singer, and both parents encouraged their children in taking up the music. Con McCarthy was also a frequent visitor to the household and an early influence on Paddy. A fiddle was procured for his use, and soon it was decided to send for O’Keeffe to train him. In later life, Paddy recalled their first encounter, when Pádraig came around to the Glountane School and called in through the window, “Send out young Cronin!” He soon impressed O’Keeffe as an eager and talented student, and it wasn’t long before young Cronin was brought out to local house dances (“biddy dances, snap apple nights, thresher dances and the like,” in Paddy’s recollection) to play with his teacher and his fellow students Denis Murphy and Johnny O’Leary.
In 1948 Seamus Ennis was collecting music in Sliabh Luachra and he recorded Paddy in a farmer’s house near Ballyvourney playing a pair of slides which were later played on Radio Eireann. Soon after, realizing he could no longer support himself in the struggling Irish economy, Paddy emigrated to the U.S. in 1949. He would spend about 40 years in the Sligo-dominated Boston music scene. In his formative years in Kerry he and his friend Denis Murphy had studied intensely the recordings of Coleman and Morrison, but now he was immersed in that tradition. His mature style developed to incorporate both the Sliabh Luachra and Sligo influences. He also seems to have absorbed some aesthetic aspects of the playing of musicians from Nova Scotia. While living in Boston he recorded a number of influential 78s, and then a pair of LPs. He became well respected for his high standard of playing, for his deep knowledge of the music, and for his distinct and well-crafted tune settings. He eventually returned to live in Killarney where he enjoyed a place of honor at every session and musical event until his death in 2014.
Learned from: Pádraig O’Keeffe, Con McCarthy
An episode of RTE’s The Rolling Wave on the subject of Paddy Cronin:
A fairly hilarious yet informative lecture on Paddy Cronin given by Nicky McAuliffe with an introduction by his friend Donal O’Connor, with numerous interjections and digressions from the man himself, as well as a number of clips of his early recordings. (audio only)
Excerpted from the above lecture, Paddy plays a setting of the O’Carolan composition Colonel Irwin. (audio only)
Paddy plays his own reel (audio only)
In his own words: Paddy Cronin – My Life and Music