Review Archive

‘The McCartneys of Pennyburn 1865-1912’ – Brendan McAuley – a rare privilege

(March 20, 2015)

The opportunity to delve deeply into family history is a privilege not accorded to everyone, the ability to translate that history into a living testament of music and song is something altogether wonderful. the mccartneys of pennyburn 1865 album coverBrendan McAuley has with ‘The McCartney's of Pennyburn’ created an album suffused with enchanting music inspired by experiences and incidents from the lives of his ancestors, turning their story into a musical treatise that brings their world into sharp focus.

In his own words: “Patrick McCartney (1804 to 1874) was my great, great grandfather. This year will mark150 years ago since he bought the lease for the 66 acre Pennyburn estate in Derry at an auction for £1505 in 1865 just after the ruins of the windmill were demolished." The original Pennyburn windmill was a Jacobite stronghold in the Battle of The Three Kings during the Siege of Derry 1804-1873. Patrick McCartneyrebuilt the remaining flourmills, restoring both the community and the business. 

Inspired by events from 1865 until 1912, when John McCartney died and Brendan’s grandmother Catherine McCartney left for England, the 11-track album and its accompanying comprehensive booklet details the McCartney’s history, and through McAuley’s sensitive interpretation leads the listener through paths of their lives. ‘The McCartney's of Pennyburn’ is more than a musical history it is a magical testimony, which for a brief moment in time, enables the wider world to share. 'The Last McCartney of Pennyburn' opens with the haunting Uilleann pipes, moving into the vibrant 'The Phaeton Carriage', echoing the rhythm of hooves and wheels, before the moving lyrics of 'The Men of Arranmore' tell of men risking their lives to save others.

With dignified and ominous tones, tracks like 'The Pennyburn Windmill/ The Thre Kings' and 'John Takes on The Railway' relive tempestuous times and hard-fought conflicts, while the ever-optimistic sorrow of 'When My Love and I Parted' longs for better days. 'After The Rally' blends two traditional tunes into an impression of dancing and celebration, and 'Cassie's Farewell to Parnell' softly recalls Charles Parnell (nationalist politician, founder and leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party) having a fondness for hearing McAuley’s grandmother play the piano.

‘The McCartneys of Pennyburn 1865-1912’ is one man’s testament to his heritage, it is also stunning album and a momentous piece of social history. Brendan McAuley handles Uilleann pipes, vocals, flutes, whistles, Anglo concertina, tenor banjo, guitar, bouzouki, mandolin, keyboards, bodhran, spoons and percussion. Discover more here:

Reviewer: Tim Carroll

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