William Kennedy plaque unveiling

A chilly day for those gathered to honour master piper maker and player, William Kennedy, at the Montagu Arms Hotel, Tandragee, the site of his former home and workshop. Luckily the rain stayed away, and despite traffic diversions, guests from the Armagh Pipers Festival arrived just in time to take part in the celebrations.

The guests were welcomed by Myrtle Hill on behalf of the Ulster History Circle, who commented that this plaque No.237, was the first to pay tribute to such distinctive creative and musicals skills. Renowned local artist and musician, Brian Vallely spoke of Kennedy’s achievements before introducing the first of several guest pipers who performed during the event.

William Kennedy was born near Tandragee, Co. Armagh in 1768. He lost his sight at the age of four after a bout of small pox, and at the age of 13 was sent to Armagh to learn the fiddle – music then being a customary occupation for blind people. He lodged with a furniture-maker, and while continuing his musical studies, acquired considerable skills in woodworking and clock- making. This developed into a specialisation in repairing and making uilleann pipes, the bellows-driven instrument that is the most complex of the many forms of bagpipe found across Europe. Kennedy had completed over 30 sets in the eight years from 1792 to 1800, the year in which he moved back to Tandragee.

The plaque, which had been funded by Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Council, was unveiled by Lord Mayor Julie Flaherty and was followed by a reception in the hotel, during which guests were treated to music from pipers from Sardinia, France and Scotland. The occasion marked not only 250th years since Kennedy’s birth, but also the 25th anniversary of the William Kennedy piping festival.


Photographs from plaque unveiling event – left to right

  1. Eamonn Curran, Chair of Armagh Pipers Club playing uilleann pipes at the opening ceremony.
  2. Brian Vallely, Director of Armagh Pipers Club.
  3. Lord Mayor of  Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Council Julie Flaherty, and Brian Vallely, unveil the Blue Plaque to William Kennedy.
  4. L.R. Eamonn Curran with uilleann Pipes; Dr Myrtle Hill, Ulster History Circle; Brian Valley and Finlay MacDonald with Highland Pipes (lecturer at the Royal Scottish Conservatoire); Sitting – Lord Mayor, Julie Flaherty and Luigi Lai, Sardinia – Launeddas Player (Ancient Pipes of Sardinia).
  5. L.R. Alan Boyd; Anthony Lundy; Dr. Myrtle Hill and Mairead Ferguson, Ulster History Circle; and Curatorial Services Officer, Sean Barden, Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Council.